Being in group support is a two-way street.
On one hand, people enter recovery groups to find help and inspiration, or perhaps more motivation to staying sober – or hope, that staying sober in the long-term is possible.
On the other hand, your stories and struggles offer that very same consolation and reassurance to others on the path – and someday, you may find yourself being that one example of sobriety that many others in the group look forward to.
The Power of Sharing
Even if you’re simply starting out, your fresh tales of what it was like to be an addict – and your early moments of treatment and recovery – can help remind others of what it was like to be stuck in that destructive cycle, a place they never want to revisit.
Everyone benefits from a story. It can be engaging, interesting, and in a space like a support group, it can create a feeling of relatability that most addicts won’t find when looking for their loved ones for support.
You can motivate others with your tale, just like how hearing someone pass on their former drug of choice in a vulnerable moment can fire you up and make you look forward to the day when you’re no longer controlled by a substance.
Anyone can overcome their addiction. That’s not a patronizing statement, meant to belittle the fight against addiction – it’s a message of hope. Addiction is powerful and misunderstood, but beatable and treatable.
Doing so requires an understanding of how addiction hijacks a person’s mental process, and how common and effective treatments can help a person slowly but surely build up a life free from the chains of substance abuse or addictive behavior. It’s also important to realize that addicts aren’t walking stereotypes or people to be judged and vilified – they’re normal people.
Many people free themselves from addiction alone, even without therapy, but only after realizing how much damage they’ve caused. You don’t have to deal with your addiction alone or let things get too far before you address the issue.
Why Addiction Is So Powerful
There’s something endlessly difficult about admitting to addiction. That something is guilt. Any addict carries it with them.
In some cases, it’s the very reason their addiction began – in other cases, it manifested as part of becoming an addict.
To most people, there’s this perception that addiction is still a choice. There’s the thought that it’s still something you have control over, so naturally, being an addict is seen as a moral weakness – a lack of virtue, a sign of a rotten soul.
Therein lies the biggest obstacle to overcoming the oppressive power of an addiction – instead of branching out and seeking help, most people are too scared to admit that they’re addicted, or worse yet, think they deserve their fate. It spins an aggressive cycle, trapping people in the prison of addiction and throwing away the only key due to stigma, and shame.
The truth is that addiction is physical, in a sense. It’s a brain disease – a neurological affliction.
The Vicious Cycle of Self-Defeat
It’s not news that the stigma against addiction has been and continues to be a relevant issue – so much so that if circumstances happen to send a person spiraling down the path of addiction, the shame of being so “weak” comes all on its own, without so much as a whimper of judgment from others.
Many addicts, in other words, unwillingly impose an emotional hell upon themselves, and they do everything to repress those emotions, even going so far as to delve deeper into the rabbit hole.
The Importance of Seeking Help
Getting help is the key to beating addiction.
The idea of admitting an addiction, relinquishing the denial that protects many from the shame of being an addict, and finally coming to terms with addiction in a way that isn’t self-defeating or fatalistic is hard.
Saying “it’s not your fault” isn’t an exercise in alleviating responsibility – it’s about alleviating undue guilt. From there, every addict has the responsibility to seek help, and use that help to get sober – but it starts by accepting that their very addiction isn’t something they have to be ashamed of and that blaming themselves for it gets them nowhere.
While it’s a bit facetious to claim that there are distinct, common steps in every individual’s own path to recovery, there are a few common goals, including:
- Accepting addiction.
- Seeking help, or rehabilitation.
- Building a support network.
- Focusing on successes.
The first step in any path to recovery is always the same: own up to the addiction, and understand its nature. We have to come to terms with what addiction is and how it plays a role in our lives before we can move to excise it.
From there, it’s important to seek help.
Understanding Your Options
As a brain disease, addiction impairs your ability to think clearly – therapy, while not essential, is a powerful tool towards recovery. Support groups, both in the form of family and friends and other recovering addicts, have shown to greatly increase the chances of recovery.
In some cases, rehab is the only option, especially when the dangers of withdrawal are present. But the importance here lies in rehab quality.
And while being in an isolated, safe environment conducive to recovery is a great way to wean off the most powerful effects of physical addiction, the real world is full of triggers and opportunities for relapse – requiring more than acute, immediate treatment, no matter how effective.
Finally, studies have shown extensively that relapse happens half the time when dealing with addiction. With that information at hand, it’s clear that the correct approach isn’t to reproach relapse – the correct approach lies in picking up where things dropped off, focusing on getting back into treatment, back into recovery, and away from another potential relapse.
That’s where the long-term effect of a strong social circle of supporting recovering addicts really comes in to shine.
Replacing One Cycle for Another
The vicious cycle of addiction can be hard to break out of – but the cycle of sharing can supplant it. Instead of being overwhelmed by addiction, you can motivate yourself to remain sober and get back into sobriety with the stories others have to tell and tell your own stories to help others stay on track, or get back on track.
There are some things that are outside our control. In many cases, becoming addicted is something that happens through a perfect storm of extraneous circumstances – factors like emotional trauma, genetics, social status and peer pressure can all play a large role.
There’s no point in blaming yourself for being unable to quit your drug of choice – and in fact, that blame will only drive you deeper into your destructive habit. But by opening to others and letting others in, you can find a way to be at peace with yourself, and even rise above the addiction.