I had the good fortune of participating in a gathering of AA members this past weekend at the annual Foothill Roundup. It was a privilege to hear Karl M. and Bob F., two men I greatly admire, share their experience, strength and hope. I socialized with some folks that I don’t see on a regular basis, but hold very close to my heart. I was reminded of some of the tough times I have gone through, and how the friendships I have developed in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous carried me through.
“Without friends,” Aristotle said, “no one would want to live, even if he had all other goods.” It is not simply your mental health which benefits from a broad network of friends, but your physical well being. There is a biological pay off to having a strong social circle. Friends can boost your defenses against disease, help you heal, lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol and help you live a happier life in old age.
According to the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, social relationships or the relative lack of, constitute a major health risk, rivaling the effects of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and obesity. So how do friends become life savers in the literal sense? Basically they strengthen your immune system. Positive, strong relationships help us handle stress by reducing the production of the hormone cortisol, which has a negative effect on your mood and your body’s natural defenses. When a friend accompanies you to a doctor’s appointment, you’re likely to experience lower blood pressure and a lower heart rate. One researcher estimated that a good laugh produces an increase in heart rate that is equivalent to 10 minutes on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike.
We are so fortunate in AA to have access to some of the greatest people and strongest friendships one can ever find. As a group, we laugh at our pasts instead or reliving a tale of woe and suffering. And all because we have a disease called alcoholism and a solution, called Alcoholics Anonymous.
Almost two years ago, my younger brother died, my mother passed away, I lost my job and with it, my health insurance. When disasters happen, they seem to come by the truckload. At times like these, people either go under of get stronger. My program and my faith were tested regularly. At times things seemed so dark, I wondered if God really heard my prayers. My friends in AA were like angels; God with skin. They buoyed me up and reminded me that I would be taken care of. I am so grateful for the friendships I have because of this program.Share post