Birds of a Feather Flock Together – By: Zach Neuser

“Birds of a feather flock together”, a quaint phrase that still rings in my ears to this day. Many years ago, to my frustration, my dad used to tell me this repeatedly when I was out running the streets. I would rebuttal him, always saying that he didn’t understand, but much to my consternation, his words were prophetic of the life that I had coming. In the end, he was right, I became what I surrounded myself with.

To my surprise, when I entered the recovery community, I heard a similar phrase, “winners stick with winners”. My first sponsor told me this consistently, urging me to “hang out with people that have what you want”. During this time, my sponsor was urging me to refrain from spending too much time with the people I had sobered up with and instead spend time with people who had multiple years of sobriety and were actively working the program. Again, I had an adverse reaction to this suggestion, believing that I knew best. Although I internally rebutted my sponsor, I did what he suggested and hung out with people that had long-term sobriety and built relationships with them. I’m grateful for the willingness that desperation instilled in me; I learned many valuable lessons out of this experience.

The greatest lesson I learned is that birds of a feather do flock together and if I wanted to become a new bird, I needed a new flock. My norm at the time was to surround myself with people who would co-sign my sickness, so I could further rationalize my poor behavior and feel justified. Hanging out with other new people who hadn’t grown healthy yet enabled me to reinforce my unhealthy behavior. If I wanted to change, I needed to be willing to seek advice from people who were healthy and willing to keep me accountable for my actions, thus helping me to grow healthier and more spiritual myself. Hanging around these people who were working the program gave me front row seats to see how to react to life in a healthy and spiritual manner.

The unfortunate truth was that a lot of the people I entered recovery with did not stay. By surrounding myself with people early on who were in the middle of recovery I was able to build deep, meaningful, and healthy relationships with people who modeled spiritual growth for me and who were staying sober themselves. I began to act like my flock. Instead of being isolated on the outskirts of the program, remaining sick, and waiting for the boat to tip enough for me to fall out, I was securely fastened in the middle of the boat enjoying the ride.

Today, I tell people what I was told in early recovery, “winners stick with winners”. I deeply believe in this and in the power of health and accountability in relationships, especially in early recovery. This, for me, was a defining factor of my sobriety and of the speed of my spiritual growth. By surrounding myself with the best recovery had to offer, I in turn learned how to act, think, and grow as someone in long-term recovery. I guess my dad was right after all.

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