Many people think recovery from addiction begins with a stint in rehab. Or that recovery commences when the addict hits “rock bottom.” Or even that abstinence from one’s drug of choice is the key to recovering a healthy life. But many “12-Steppers” (members of 12-step support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, etc.) will attest that true recovery comes from being part of a healthy COMMUNITY.
THE HEALING BENEFITS OF COMMUNITY
Choosing sobriety is the first “entrance pass” into recovery, but most recovering addicts maintain that it’s the work done within, and for, one’s sober community that bolsters recovery and provides a firm foundation from which the addict can move forward confidently into a healthier way of being in the world.
The community of a 12-step group provides:
1. Accountability. Surrounding ourselves with people with the same challenges provides a mirroring process, allowing our cohort to hold us accountable for doing “the next right thing” and to encourage us to stay honest and humble.
2. Healthy socializing. Try as they might, addicts cannot continue to hang out with friends who use and still maintain sobriety. A sober community offers opportunities to connect with others with similar values, at events void of drugs and alcohol.
3. Service. A key component to recovery is giving back to one’s community. Whether that means making coffee before a meeting, taking a phone call from a struggling friend, or driving a fellow group member to an event, serving others is a consistent reminder that the world isn’t “all about us.” We discover that being a part of a community, having others rely on us, builds self-esteem and fights isolation.
4. Reinforcement from people who “get it.” Addicts often feel unique and misunderstood. Surrounding ourselves with other addicts who understand the fears, shame and lost opportunities endemic to life in addiction is a solace most addicts deeply appreciate.
5. Reminders. Our sober community, through other addicts sharing their stories, provides unceasing reminders of how easily we can fall back into bad habits, as well as offering a road map for how others have maintained success.
6. Spirituality. Some people’s experiences of organized religion have created shame or guilt for the individual, which blocks true healing. A sober community offers a place to learn and practice one’s own unique spirituality, in an environment of support and unconditional acceptance.