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Stronger Together

Susanne Johnson
| February 17, 2017

Who wants to fight a challenge alone when it can be done with other helping people? Some people quickly announce, “I’ve got this!” or “I don’t need help!” The fact is– any burden that you can share with others will lighten your load and make success more possible. Don’t play a solo game of tug-of-war when the incredible bodybuilder named ‘Addiction’ is on the other side. You can’t win this unfair battle alone. Addiction will always pull you back onto his grounds. Reach out for help instead, and find people that grab the rope with you and help you to stay your course and remain on the recovery side of life.

There are many words that describe a sense of togetherness. The terms “with each other”, “in conjunction”, “jointly”, “in cooperation”, “in collaboration”, “in partnership”, “in league”, “side-by-side”, and “shoulder-to-shoulder” all describe what it is all about in recovery. We can’t do it alone; we need other people beside us. It doesn’t mean that the other person is doing the work for you; it doesn’t mean that other people boss you around. We walk shoulder-to-shoulder and grab that rope in unity, pulling against addiction, into a better life. Togetherness means that we walk in solidarity together as a team. Who is on your team?

It is crucial, vital, and necessary to have a support team on your side in the early days of recovery. In some cases, family serves as a support team. But not every person is so lucky to have been born into a clean, sober, and supportive family. Your support team doesn’t need to be family, and your family isn’t always your biological family. You are not stuck with the family that you received at birth; you can build your own custom support team around you. Now, it would be easy if you could choose your team members as easily as ordering from a catalog, but the truth is, that it’s not as difficult in real life as you might think.

“Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.” – Sonia Gandhi

During times of drinking or drugging, suffering from eating disorders, or a gambling addiction, you might have had just one major interest in life. Addiction’s strongest thought is, “How can I obtain my next fix?”

Addiction’s social contacts revolve around the goal of the next fix, and as everyone can easily see, you can’t recruit a sobriety support network from those who helped you get messed up all those years. Even if those past friends are also trying to turn the wheel around, it’s time to temporarily cut all those ties and find new people to spend time with. Although a lifelong friend who is also trying to get sober might be a good motivator, the opposite often occurs and both keep dragging each other down again. Old friends need to be replaced, as hard as it sounds, at least for the duration of a few years. If your old sandbox friend crosses your path after some years of sobriety, you may connect and be able to better handle any temptations that may arise. But in the beginning, each person needs to find his own way out.

So, how do you build your support system? Even if you feel shy or you are not very socially active, you can still obtain a support network. First of all, start with your family. Be honest and transparent about your situation and your need for support in your recovery.

Talk to immediate family first and then include extended family. You might be surprised to find a distant relative who understands and is eager to support. Search for people that you can talk to openly anytime, that might give you the ride to the meeting you need, or that just have that sober home you can use as a refuge when things get rough.

“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

If you are lucky and you attend treatment of any kind, you will make a ton of new friends there. You will be amazed how easy it becomes to suddenly relate to others who understand your experiences. Other people may experience different addictions, or they may be a different age or gender, but the problems are the same. It is often a true relief to find those people that understand your experience. You may truly enjoy not hiding your emotions anymore and talking freely and openly about your struggle to overcome addiction. Unfortunately, your treatment facility might be in a totally different state and some of these friendships are only temporary, but they are still meaningful.

If you are at home, you may want to enter any form of outpatient therapy for a while. It gives you the tools to maintain your new sobriety, and also provides a circle of people that will help you in your journey. Furthermore, outside of outpatient therapy, you may make your closest friendships in 12-step fellowships. It doesn’t really matter if you deeply believe in and follow the 12 steps, or if you just attend a group to enjoy some fellowship with like-minded people. A support fellowship is the place to make friends for your near future. Those are the people that act as the safety net under your budding sobriety, the ones you can call in the middle of the night if your cravings hit, and the ones that pat you on the back if you reach a milestone.

Recovery is a process. Recovery takes time. Recovery is easier when you embrace a support network and let others help you to hold your course. Include new friends and family into your recovery and don’t be afraid to ask for it. We at Heroes in Recovery are always here for you if you need a helping hand. Please reach out!

We do recover!

Susanne Johnson

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