The community factor might seem unrelated to addiction recovery, but studies have shown that the people you surround yourself with have a big impact on your mental health, and even your chances of relapse. More than a potential risk, there is also a case to make that the right community is preventative when it comes to dangers like relapsing or struggling with depression due to addiction.
Few treatment modalities make use of a healthy community of recovery purposes. Sober living homes are one such modality, being centered on the concept of living within a clean and harmonic sober community. Understanding why this works, and how it works, can give you further insight into addiction as a disease and as a lifelong challenge.
What’s In A Community?
A community is more than a collection of individuals. It’s a network of people. Much like how a whole is more than the sum of its parts, when people come together and form bonds, they are capable of awakening great things in each other.
Of course, communities can also cause harm, and they can be dangerous. Group mentality is a powerful thing, and it can help you grow as an individual, or twist your values and bring you to do regrettable things. Often, the people you surrounded yourself with played a role in your addiction, introducing or pushing you to using.
In a similar way, immersing yourself in a completely different kind of community can change your outlook on life, on yourself, and your future. It can turn the boat around, help you switch lanes, and overcome previously impossible tasks – including defeating your addiction. There is a reason teams function well together.
A community that lives together is an altogether different and even more influential thing. Spending day in and day out around the same people can have a tremendous effect on you, for better or for worse.
Why Your Surroundings Matter
Fundamentally, humans are social creatures. Much of our self-worth is based on many of our earliest memories and experiences with others, and of our perception and personality towards others. To put it in an abstract sense, we’re inherently shapeless and given form through the mirrors of other people.
In a more concrete sense, it means that we rely on each other to form bonds, share values, resolve conflicts, and co-exist. Without other people, we can’t function properly, and become lonely.
This matters in the context of addiction because how others imprint on us – especially in our formative years as young adults – can leave a lasting impact. One reason why addiction most commonly starts in the teens is because teens are most susceptible to peer pressure, risk-taking, and ill-informed decision-making. Peer pressure works on teens the most because they are the most eager to fit in and belong.
How Sober Living Improves Recovery
It goes beyond people and communities. Your surroundings matter – the conflicts, circumstances, and events around you can shape your mood and behavior. People born into health issues and poverty need strong coping mechanisms to stay sane, and addiction is a very powerful and harmful coping mechanism.
In the same way, your surroundings must play a role in your recovery. Rehab centers and sober living communities are built to be places of peace, reflection, and growth. They focus easing you into a way of thinking that allows you to overcome your addiction and keep away from the things that might cause it to resurface. They strive to promote positivity among patients and tenants, and help people create beneficial and long-lasting bonds with one another. These places are not meant to keep you in isolation, because isolation is not conducive to recovery.
But it only works if you let it. While we’re very adaptable, we do ultimately choose to let things get to us. Your surroundings will have a profound effect on you, but the effect depends on the person and their perspective. For addiction treatments to work, patients need to be fully cooperative and they must strive to stay sober. In the same way, once treatment is over, much of recovery is spent learning to look past the things that once drove your addiction, and instead learning to focus on reasons to stay sober and away from drugs.
The scenery you surround yourself with. The lifestyle you live. The people you interact with. All these things affect your sobriety and play a role in recovery. But you can’t forget that, once the dust settles and you’re on your own, your greatest power is the ability to choose and rely on your own choices.
It’s Still Your Road
Community is a factor in recovery as much as it is a factor in addiction itself. But you’re still your own person, and you still have the power to choose what to do with your life – and how to let things affect you.
One of the issues often outlined by critics of other community-focused treatment plans like AA is that they remove the aspect of responsibility and the power of choice from your arsenal as a person in recovery. Addiction treatment is not meant to make you feel small, but to empower you to take a new hold of your life and adamantly refuse to return to the old one.
Surrounding yourself with empowering, inspiring, and nurturing individuals can help keep you sane and sober during the bad days, and the tough days. But you’re ultimately the captain of your own ship, and recovery is a journey where you have to make each and every choice and own up to it. Sometimes, this can feel debilitating and difficult. At other days, it shines a light on your newfound strength as a sober person, unchained from addiction, and capable of defying old cravings and painful memories.
Until you find a way to be proud of how far you’ve come, and legitimately believe in your ability to progress further and put this chapter of your life to rest, you’re going to find yourself struggling with recovery and addiction. A good community is not meant to make you feel indebted or out-of-control, but rather, it should open your eyes to the things you have accomplished, and the good you have done.