A common misconception that’s quite possibly the most detrimental to our recovery is that once we give up drinking or using drugs (or any other compulsive behavior), there’s no work to do. If you’re someone who struggles to put down the booze or drugs yourself, however, consider how many times you’ve actually tried to do it on your own. Perhaps you’ve been successful for a few days, maybe even a few weeks (or longer), but ultimately without some type of program or support system in place, you almost invariably will pick up again. This is all based on presumption here, of course – we’re behind the computer screen talking to a bunch of people we haven’t met yet, and everyone’s recovery is different. But in our experience, most individuals who truly struggle with addiction aren’t capable of staying clean entirely on their own. This statement isn’t meant to disempower anyone, by the way. It’s simply meant to bring attention to the profound importance of connection and support when it comes to our recovery.
If you, personally, have managed to give up drinking or using for any length of time, whether that be on your own or through a recovery program (rehab, twelve steps, etc.), this is a massive accomplishment in and of itself. It’s not easy. That being said, it’s also not a one-and-done deal. One stint through rehab or a handful of AA meetings are a great start, but in order to stay clean over the long haul, most of us require some accountability and connection with others who understand us. It’s also beneficial to have some recovery tools in place that we can take advantage of if and when we’re ever having a dark day or feeling like we might slip.
Recovery means changing our behavior and our beliefs. Sobriety, on the other hand, is simply about changing our drinking and using habits (or any other habits that we might be struggling with). Drug and alcohol use (or other compulsive behaviors) are generally just symptoms of much deeper issues, and in order for a die-hard addict to truly stay clean, he or she is likely going to need to take a much deeper look at the root cause. This takes time, and usually requires a daily reprieve. Over the long-term, however, the extra hour or so that we take out of our day to focus on our recovery makes a world of difference when it comes to our overall well-being (and, of course, our recovery).
Addiction is a disease of loneliness and isolation. At its core, we’ve found this to be true. Our own thinking is generally the thinking that’s going to sabotage us, convincing us that we don’t have a “dis-ease” (we got the house, the car, the guy, the girl, so why continue with a recovery program?). This thinking, however, is responsible for relapse after relapse. The vast majority of the time someone in this situation “goes out”, they’re almost never just having the occasional glass of wine with dinner. It starts with one drink (or a pill, or a prostitute), and ends up in a blackout, or jail, or worse. Even if the end result isn’t quite this extreme, the feelings associated with a relapse are almost always dark. Staying connected to a recovery program means that we can open up about our destructive thinking and give the group the opportunity to counter it. Most of the time, a five minute share can completely help us to reroute and avoid a relapse. Without program, however, we’re left with our own reasoning which, once again, has proven to be completely self-sabotaging.
Recovery programs (AA, NA, SLAA, SMART Recovery) give us a place to connect. To quote Johann Hari, as we often do, “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection.” As addicts, we tend to struggle with connecting with others in healthy ways, but this is also what keeps us in isolation and in that perpetual loop of self-soothing via destructive behavior. Recovery programs give us a place to connect with others who share in our struggles. Our stories may be slightly different, but at our core, we generally find that we can relate with other addicts. Even if you struggle with the term “addict”, that’s okay. Whatever it is that brought you to your knees in the first place and made you want to give up whatever it is that you’ve given up, is very likely something that others in recovery will identify with. We could easily go on about the basic human need for trust, connection, and attachment, but this is an aside (and another post). The bottom line is that for most of us, recovery isn’t something we can do alone, nor do we really want to. Life is so much more fun with friends and people who “get us” anyway, and recovering addicts have a tendency to be very colorful, dynamic, inspiring and creative individuals. It feels good to have a tribe, and the cool thing about recovery programs is they give you an instant network, often across the globe as well, particularly if you like to travel. These people can easily become friends for life, and folks that you can call on, day or night, if you need an ear (or a shoulder to cry on, or if you feel like you might pick up and use again).
The bottom line and the point we’re trying to drive home here isn’t that you NEED to do anything to maintain your sobriety. But our experience has been that people have the most success when they have at least some type of long term recovery program in place, and at the end of the day, they’re just a lot happier. White knuckling it (i.e., going at it alone) is often a miserable way to go, but having a crew to share your recovery with, along with a great set of tools to maintain your sobriety, is more than likely going to keep you on the straight and narrow. It will almost undoubtedly enhance your life in some unexpected, big and wonderful ways, too.
Kembali Recovery Center can Help
If you or someone you love is struggling to get or stay clean, Kembali Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to learn more about our Residential Treatment Program and our Recovery and Beyond Program. Remember, you never have to do this alone.