Thursday, September 16, 2010

Recovery and Nature - Ants

Ants are gross.  I don't want them in or around my house.  (I am not a big fan of insects in general.)  But, I know that ants work together for the good of the whole colony, which is why I thought of them in relation to 12 step recovery programs.  I did a little research on ants and found out that they are the best example of a "superorganism," meaning there is a division of labor where individuals are not able to survive by themselves for extended periods of time.  I do not think that I would be able to survive without the 12 steps for very long. 

The way in which superoraganisms, like ant colonies, need the individuals for the group to survive and vice versus reminds me of many of the 12 Traditions.  Tradition One states "Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon (the program's) unity."  Tradition Four states "Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or (the program) as a whole."  Tradition Seven states " ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions."  Tradition Eight states "(The program) should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers."  Tradition Twelve states "Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities."  (all italics are mine.)

Furthermore, "ant societies have division of labour, communication between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems."  For example, when a forager ant finds a food source for the colony "it leaves a trail marking the shortest route on its return. Successful trails are followed by more ants, reinforcing better routes and gradually finding the best path."  (

For any of you in the programs, does this sound a bit like sponsorship to you?  Didn't the founders, after finding a spiritual source in a Higher Power, leave a "successful trail" for others to follow via the 12 Steps?  I feel like they did and I am so grateful!


  1. This is a great reflection on community at work. If you do not continue to participate as a part of, you kinda get separated and lost.

    I wonder if ants get angry, frustrated or scared that they really are different and it wont work for them to follow the path?

    Eh, at least I have this amazing and wonderful experience that continues to allow me the understanding that "I must turn in ALL things to the father of light who presides over us all."

    I practice saying that with emphasis on different words in that sentence sometimes just to show how many different ways you can hear one thing.

    Thanks for this continued reflection on nature and that amazing power!

  2. Ants are amazing. And yes, in recovery we apply the traditions to guide relationships with others. I really like those traditions. Powerful when applied to relationships as well as meetings.


Thank you for sharing!