Pillar 1: Connect with a Recovery Community.
Despite years of discussion and research, there is still no quick and complete answer to the question of what is the best way to treat an addiction.
Psychiatric hypotheses have been incomplete, and critics have questioned the low long-term success rates of mutual help organizations like the twelve-step faith-based fellowships. However, these organizations have helped millions of people find shelter from addiction, and they remain the most popular and accessible long-term solutions for addictive disorders. Mutual help groups have strengthened our understanding of the importance of connection in recovery, making them a successful option for those seeking recovery from addiction.
Regular support from people who have been through similar experiences is crucial for recovering from drug addiction, as research has shown. Substance use disorders largely result from disconnection from humanity, which progresses gradually and insidiously. As we drift further away from connection with other human beings, we fall deeper into the dark mire of substance use. Removing alcohol or other drugs painfully exposes the extent of this disconnection, even if we fail to recognize it as a cause.
In the mid-1930s, a group of individuals struggling with alcohol addiction discovered the power of peer support and helping others
in similar situations. They recognized that those with drug addiction often have a defiant personality and low self-worth, making it difficult for them to accept advice or support from those they cannot relate to.
When someone who has faced similar struggles offers support, however, it can have a transformative effect. This realization formed the basis of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and Crystal Meth Anonymous, which are widely considered the most effective programs for addiction recovery. Helping others in recovery is the primary goal of these organizations.
Peer support is particularly crucial in the early stages of recovery when mood swings and emotional turmoil can be overwhelming. Personal efforts alone are often insufficient to navigate this challenging period, and talking with others who have been through similar experiences can be a lifeline.
However, many individuals struggling with addiction do not find these programs on their own due to stubbornness or other factors. Formal treatment regimens now typically include exposure to these organizations and emphasize the importance of joining a group immediately after completing care.
The strength of these groups lies in the ability to share experiences and connect with others who understand our struggles. This sense of community reduces tension and the risk of relapse. Although 12-step programs are the most widespread, other options such as Christian Recovery, Women for Recovery, SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, Dharma Recovery, and LifeRing are also available. There are also online communities for those who prefer alternative options.
A Changing Drug Landscape
It’s important to note that the substances commonly misused or abused today differ from those that were commonly abused twenty or thirty years ago. Therefore, the approach to reversing the long-term damage caused by substance abuse is not the same.
In twelve step groups, older members may promote a message (often sternly) that substance addiction is “all one big disease” and what works for one individual will work for another if they follow instructions. This message can lead to bitter feelings when someone relapses and returns to their substance of choice. The individual may believe it is their moral weakness that caused the relapse, which exacerbates the already burdensome feelings of intense guilt and shame experienced by active drug users.
“The opposite of addiction is connection.”
Surround yourself with people who want what’s best for you.
When you enter recovery, it’s common to believe that everyone you know wants you to get better and live a purposeful life. However, addiction’s family and social dynamics are complex and often involve pathological behavior. It would be inaccurate to suggest otherwise.
Poor health, both physical and mental, is often associated with negative attitudes such as resentment, jealousy, hostility, self-pity, fear, and anxiety. That’s why treatment facilities are cautious about releasing patients back into their previous environment. Even if we aren’t living with or among people with addictive tendencies, a household that fosters such negative attitudes can make recovery incredibly difficult. The clinical basis of the age-old truism that “you are defined by the company you keep” is evident in these circumstances.
You may believe that some members of your family could benefit from a life of recovery. Instead of trying to convince them of your new way of life, let your example speak for itself.
Creating a brand new friend group is a common occurrence for people in recovery. It’s important to learn or re-learn the meaning of friendship and how to be a supportive friend. Friendships should be mutually uplifting connections. If a person or group of people regularly brings us down, it is necessary to reconsider if these individuals are deserving of the title ‘friend’.
Professionals in the field widely accept the term “family illness,” which loved ones can also understand by examining their own role in the clinical picture. The energy and attitudes we emit can be likened to an invisible element that permeates the air we breathe. Therefore, just as we take in hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen from the air, the energy we emit also becomes part of the life force that permeates our bodies.
Some people seem to be surrounded by toxic energy, and conflict seems to follow them wherever they go. These individuals often destroy close relationships without realizing their pattern. Even if they become aware of their behavior, they will rationalize and justify their actions and blame others. The neuroses at play here are beyond the scope of this section, but identifying these individuals is essential.
Many people recovering from addiction were once in relationships with or were themselves individuals who emit toxic energy. It takes discipline and courage to identify and distance ourselves from these relationships, which can significantly impact our recovery prognosis.
So, how can we determine if someone is supportive or destructive of our recovery?
A good test is to ask yourself if you routinely feel worse after speaking to or being around this person. If the answer is yes, we recommend intentionally putting some distance between yourself and them.
Bringing it all together.
We believe that addiction stems from loneliness. Almost every individual struggling with addiction admits to having felt deeply lonely throughout much of their lives.
Although it would be ideal if the feeling vanished once addiction ends, the reality is that addiction is often a form of self-treatment for loneliness. Consequently, we anticipate that the sense of loneliness may even intensify initially.
To combat this issue, the only known solution is to connect with people who have had similar experiences. Joining a community of peers is an enriching experience that you wouldn’t want to miss.
Explore different communities
Our recommendation is to attend meetings or virtual gatherings hosted by various groups. Checking them out will help you discover what you enjoy!
Pick one that makes you feel comfortable
To increase your chances of success in a group, look for one that creates a sense of safety. Feeling secure is the most crucial aspect of a successful therapeutic group. Once you find a group that makes you feel safe, dive right in and get started!
Seek outside help when needed
It’s important to understand that these groups typically consist of non-professionals who provide mutual support. They are regular people, just like you. If you encounter any medical or psychological concerns, it’s crucial to seek outside assistance instead of relying solely on the group’s suggestions.