I’ve worked with people in recovery for more than 25 years, most of whom were recovering from alcohol and substance use disorder, but also eating disorders, codependency, relationships, and many other addictions.
I also know from personal experience that recovery isn’t easy. It can be one of the most difficult, and worthwhile, challenges we take on, transforming our lives from isolated and meaningless to hopeful and purposeful.
As National Recovery Month begins, here’s a reminder that the best thing we can do when we’re in recovery is to find community and connection. It doesn’t matter what compulsion you’re recovering from, the key to success almost always lies in our ability to connect with others, especially those who understand the struggle.
The enemy of recovery is isolation.
We are social creatures by nature.
Throughout our lives, we depend on other people. Even as “independent” adults, we still rely on relationships to support and sustain us. Our families and friendships, social networks, livelihood, physical health, and education all depend on our connection with other people.
Yet when we’re in pain, instead of reaching out for help when we need it most, we withdraw and isolate ourselves because of shame and stigma. Because addiction makes us feel vulnerable, alone, and ashamed, it keeps us separated and afraid to reach out for the help we know we need.
Often we feel we are the only one experiencing the pain and discomfort of addiction, and this vicious cycle of judgment, shame, and isolation keeps us stuck in a downward spiral that is hard to escape, even when we desperately want to change our lives.
Finally, as mentioned in the rooms of AA, “[w]e perceive that only through utter defeat are we able to take our first steps towards liberation and strength”, and with the support of professionals and a community that understands what we’re going through.
When we finally have the support of others who we know will strengthen and encourage us, and who have gone through the same experience, we find the comfort of knowing we’re not alone in our struggle and the confidence we need for the journey forward.
The ally of recovery is community and connection.
While the image of an “independent spirit” and “go it alone” attitude is often celebrated in our culture, the true secret to success in recovery is connection.
We’re hard-wired for it as humans, and it’s critical to our behavioral, emotional and physical health that we feel like we’re understood and we belong.
For example, the people who love us - our family, friends, and significant others - may not understand how it feels to try to live without alcohol or substances. Being able to connect on an emotional and spiritual level with someone who does, whether it’s a neighbor, peer, fellow 12-stepper, or therapist, motivates and inspires us to begin and continue in recovery.
Connecting with someone who genuinely understands what we’re going through because they’ve been through it themselves and have come out on the other side gives us hope and the belief we can create the life we want.
This National Recovery Month, we want to recognize and celebrate all those who are in recovery, whether for three months or thirty years. You are part of the community and connection essential for a successful recovery journey. You are proof that treatment works and recovery is possible.
And if you’re someone looking for treatment to begin or continue your recovery, please reach out to us. We have multiple clinicians who are trained and specialize in various types of addiction and recovery, and who can connect you with others going through the same struggle.
You don’t need to face recovery alone.
Written by Gordon Gooding, LCSW , Director & Founder of Gooding Wellness LCSW PC