It’s not uncommon to be intimidated or even frightened at the thought of attending a support group. Opening up in a room full of strangers takes courage. The value of connecting with other people cannot be understated, and you might be surprised who you can learn from along the way. Sharing experiences and being a member of a community is a valuable recovery tool.

Trying to find reasons to avoid listening to people should be an Olympic sport at The PEER Center. We hear all the time from our associates that they are misunderstood, no one can relate to them, and there is no reason to attend “that support group” because they have “nothing in common” with the other participants.

Gabe and Juliet Are Very Different

My name is Gabe Howard and I am the Director of Development and Marketing at The PEER Center. I work for Juliet Dorris-Williams, the Executive Director. If you take a look at the picture accompanying this article, you’ll see that it doesn’t take much to come to the conclusion that we are very different.

We Are Too Different to Learn From Each OtherStarting with the obvious, we are different races and genders. I am a tall, redheaded, white man and Juliet is a short, African-American woman. I am younger than Juliet, as well. Even upon visual inspection we are incredibly different.

Frankly, those are the least of our differences. Juliet is very educated, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I tried to drop out of high school until my granny stepped in to stop me. Juliet is a parent; I am not. I am not at all religious and she is very spiritual – so much so that she attended seminary and is an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church. While Juliet is very quiet and introverted, I am boisterous and very extroverted.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Juliet is not a fan of 90s alternative rock and I have never heard of many of the gospel singers on her playlist. So, what does a quiet, well-educated, spiritual, African-American woman have in common with a loud, informally educated, not-at-all spiritual, white man?


Juliet and Gabe Are Not so Different

Turns out, Juliet and Gabe are not so different. We are both realists. We both care very much about the people we serve. And, while I certainly overthink things more than she does, she hasn’t escaped the middle-of-the–night, grandiose, racing thoughts.

We don’t back down and we both fight our own inner turmoil. We both have had traumatic incidents in our pasts and both can be filled with self-doubt. We both strive to be moderate in a world filled with extremes.

Her life experience has given me a different perspective on my own, and that has been incredibly helpful in my own recovery. Had I decided I had nothing to learn from her, I would have missed out on a great many positive things. What we have in common is considerably more valuable than our differences.

Being “so different” gives us the opportunity to learn from one another. In our work life, I do the talking, she keeps me focused and accountable, and we both work toward the same goals in our own ways. Our differences didn’t prevent us from learning from and supporting one another. Indeed, they are what allow us to do so.

Visit our webpage at to see a list of our support and educational groups.