Social Sobriety and the Importance of Connection in Recovery.
Listen to the audio version of this article here: https://www.mindfultimes.co/podcast-1/episode/3aa8b72d/social-sobriety-and-the-importance-of-connection-in-recovery
The reason I started this blog and the Mindful Times community is because when I was trying to get sober I was having a hard time explaining myself and being understood. According to psychologists, love and belonging are two of our most basic needs as a species. I felt like I was suffocating, I felt like a prisoner to alcohol and I felt alone at the bottom of the pit that is addiction. I had my loved ones offering me "support" but that support only came from the level of perception and understanding that they had of addiction. The solution was always "okay, well I guess you can't drink anymore" or "you have to quit drinking or else you'll lose _______" (insert: relationship, job, family etc). Seems so simple, when in reality there is so much more to getting sober. Plus, I didn't just want to "get sober". Without going through full recovery, getting sober just sounded like purgatory. I wanted to figure out why I felt the need to abuse drugs and alcohol in the first place. I wanted to figure out how I could be sober and not obsess about alcohol and feel jealousy and resentment towards others who didn't have this problem.
On the outside, I looked like a young twenty-something year old who always wanted to party and have a good time. I was the girl buying rounds of shots, pressuring people into getting drunk at noon and dancing on tables. I was the girl who was the life of the party for a moment but inevitably "couldn't hold my liquor" which would end in some type of fight, physical violence, verbal attack, blackout or physical sickness (such as vomiting in grandmas bathroom at Easter Sunday brunch).
On the inside I was really just a twenty-something year old who wasn't processing her trauma in healthy ways, wasn't happy in her relationships, had anger issues from childhood, felt unloved from past relationships, didn't feel appreciated at her job, was paranoid that "all people are bad" because of her constant sleazy environment working in bars and nightclubs and was desperately seeking help, love and understanding and was unsure of where or how to find it. I was acting out and lashing out for attention. For help.
When I finally got sober and started sharing about my experience publicly, I started to realize that I wasn't the only one. I didn't go the whole full blown AA route where you are constantly surrounded by people who are going through a similar struggle. I honestly didn't know what to expect when telling my story but all I knew was that I wasn't going to be silent about it.
By speaking out, I suddenly had a tribe of individuals who got me. Who understood me. I was no longer alone on this journey.
As I started to meet and speak with more people, listen to more podcasts and read more books on sobriety, I started to have a better understanding of the underlying causes of addiction. I was blessed to be able to just stop one day cold turkey, but I wasn't able to do so until I changed my environment. I ended a 3 year toxic relationship, quit my job, stopped hanging out with my drinking friends, moved into a new place where I wasn't constantly surrounded by alcohol and acknowledged the fact that my unresolved trauma and emotional wounds were at the core of my substance abuse.
I knew that if I changed my environment that I would easily be able to get sober. I say "easily" from a sobriety standpoint of physically being able to abstain from alcohol. For me, that wasn't the hard part this time around. The hard part came when I entered into "recovery" and began the journey of healing my wounds instead of patching them up.
My husband and I talk about literally everything. He has been one of the biggest components in my recovery and just my overall growth as a human. We dissect our behaviors and try to get to the root cause of everything. Since we started dating, nearly every day has felt like a therapy session because we absolutely do not live our lives on the surface. We go deep. I love this about him and about us. However, he has never drank alcohol. This means that he has a hard time understanding substance abuse, addiction and recovery. Because let's be honest, it's extremely difficult to understand the hold and control that alcohol can have over our lives, even as everything is completely falling apart around us, unless you've been there yourself. Bless his heart, he does his best to understand, but I know that it's not up to him to know or to be able to solve everything.
That is the beauty that I have found in the sobriety community. I know that I am connected to people on various social platforms, Facebook groups, in actual real life and that I can go to a meeting nearly any time if I needed to. I think a lot of us stay stuck in our addictions way longer than we actually have to for the simple fact that we feel alone. We feel that we will be judged. We feel like the people around us just don't understand and it makes us feel hopeless and isolated so then we just continue drinking because - what do we got to lose?
There is nothing "wrong" with us. We just got to a point where our life had become out of alignment and unfortunately, out of our control. Maybe we got sucked into a toxic relationship, maybe we experienced some type of trauma that we drink to forget... Maybe it's much, much worse and we just drink to numb the pain of our past. Maybe it's not so extreme and we just drink because we believe it helps us relax or makes us more fun to be around but are now dependent on the substance. Regardless, we use alcohol as a coping mechanism when in reality there is a much more effective and healthy way to deal with these emotions and that is through connection and community.
Literally anything you have ever experienced, no matter how unimaginable, somebody out there in the world had been there to. If we don't open up our hearts, allow ourselves to become vulnerable and share our stories, then we may miss out on the extreme healing power of connecting with others.
So, what can you do?
FIND YOUR TRIBE!
1. Attend AA
If you've never attended an AA meeting, I do recommend it. Although I didn't really go the 12-step AA route, I have attended a handful of them and I do see the extreme effectiveness AA has for treating addiction. 1. Because they offer the tools (or steps) to heal the underlying causes of addiction and 2. they offer COMMUNITY. Surprisingly, the further I get into my sobriety, the more I find myself considering the possibility of getting involved in AA for these reasons.
2. Find an online community
When I was first trying to get sober and first starting trauma therapy I struggled A TON. I had a hard time finding a therapist that I clicked with and who was also covered under my insurance. Therapy can get expensive. VERY expensive. At the time I worked a 9-5 job and when I finally found a therapist that worked for me, I found it extremely difficult finding the time to see her on a regular basis when her availability was limited to the hours that I needed to be at work. I felt so guilty missing work. The other struggle I had with therapy was having to sometimes wait weeks to get in to see my therapist. I couldn't predict my moods and I didn't know when certain things would come up and sometimes I just needed somebody to vent to, who would understand what I was feeling or validate my pain. This is when I really could have used the support of an online community. When I say "online community" I am referring to various Facebook support groups or other online forums. There are SO many you guys. I am a part of at least 10 of them myself and have also created the "Mindful Times - Sobriety Group". These groups are almost always private and require you to answer a series of questions to join, making it so that everybody within the group can relate in some way. It's a safe space to talk about sobriety.
3. Find connection to a higher power.
If the idea of a "higher power" completely shuts you down, please hear me out. A Higher Power can come in so many forms such as energy, music, connecting with nature, your higher self, the universe, spirit guides, angels, humanity, love, looking up at the stars and so much more. The belief in a higher power doesn't come in only one box, you can interpret this in whatever way resonates with you best. What makes you feel connected? What makes you feel bliss and love? What makes you feel something higher than yourself?
4. Find what works best for you.
We are starting to see more and more tools available to us in our recovery. I've seen mediation meetings and other activities like yoga etc that are being provided specifically to people in recovery. How amazing is that!
We are growing as a community. We are becoming more aware and conscious of our addictions and realizing that the way to heal them is through true and authentic connection with others.
I am SO proud of us.
** If you are sober, or curious about sobriety, we would love for you to join our Facebook group - Mindful Times Facebook Community for support, encouragement, accountability and questions.
Private Sobriety Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/511982812958932/