Growing up I never really learned to care about others. I was programmed by fearful parents, teachers and society to place acquiring and achieving way ahead of connecting with others. I was taught many things to help me get "ahead" and be "secure" in the world, but I was never taught how to connect with others, how to care, how to be a friend among friends. Maybe normal people learn this naturally. I never did.

They taught me how to compete, not how to connect. If I wanted all the good things in life, I had to be smarter, faster, better than you. I could not ask you for help. I could show no weakness. I could rely on no one else. Certainly no higher power was going to help me. I became self sufficient.

This idea of self sufficiency nearly killed me. Toward the end, it had me sitting alone in my darkened apartment day after day drinking wine, smoking pot and watching endless hours of stupid television. I was in extreme isolation, but I remember thinking that this was a good way to live. This thought, that it was a good thing that there was no one else in my life, is one of the saddest I can recollect.

I was graced with a moment of clarity that eventually led me to Alcoholics Anonymous. It was there I learned how to connect with and care for other alcoholics. In the beginning my motive was definitely self-serving. I did it to not drink -- to stay alive. Slowly, I became "a part of" instead of "apart from." It took some time, but finally I came in from the cold and allowed myself to be warmed from the fire that burns in our fellowship.

Today I have a spiritual love for all alcoholics. It’s easy to connect with you because we walked through alcoholic hell together. We shared the same pain, confusion and frustration. We are shipmates in the lifeboat leaving behind the wreckage of our old lives and being awakened together into a new life. I don’t like all of you, but I love you all.

I find it difficult to connect with non-alcoholics. Maybe there is no need to, but I am getting the feeling that I should begin to take what I've learned outside the rooms to the other parts of my life and begin to connect -- rather than compete -- with all others who God puts in my path.