Even if you’re not a Western movie fan, you’re probably familiar with strong, independent movie icons like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or Jeff Bridges. Their characters spark the desire to think for yourself and live alone, on your own terms. While Americans revere independence, solitude serves as a bad model for those in recovery. Striking out on your own can send you down the road to relapse.
When you’re in recovery, you need a supportive community to surround, challenge, encourage and bolster you. Sobriety takes a village. Your own tribe. A personal clan of recovering people, sober friends, and professionals to keep you pointed in the right direction. And there’s no shame in this need for others—since humans have been wired for close connection since birth.
The Need for Connection
According to scientist Matthew Lieberman, we’re wired to connect with other people. In his book, Social (Penguin Random House, 2014), Lieberman explains his scientific findings on our innate need for sociability. In an interview with Scientific American, he said, “Across many studies of mammals, from the smallest rodents all the way to us humans, the data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed.”
Lieberman believes the Western world buys into the myth that independence from others is an admirable strength when it’s actually detrimental. “In the West, we like to think of ourselves as relatively immune to sway of those around us while we each pursue our personal destiny. But I think this is a story we like to tell ourselves rather than what really happens.”
If you are susceptible to the influence of others, then it’s crucial to surround yourself with people who support your sobriety. Not just for months or years, but for a lifetime.
Keeping Up with Your Support
It’s not just a good idea to stay connected to a sobriety community. It’s essential. The more you engage with sober people and programs, the less likely you are to relapse. If you choose to “go it alone,” you’re aiming for a setback. For the best possible outcome, adopt and maintain these choices.
- Form a community. Whether you’re new to sobriety or relatively seasoned, you need trustworthy people to form your sober community. Members of your tribe may include a regular recovery group, therapists specializing in addiction, a personal sobriety sponsor, a spiritual advisor, recovering friends or non-addicted friends. You need loving input to continue down the path of recovery. Choose people whom you sync with—since they are more likely to understand your goals and struggles. You don’t need lots of people; just effective ones.
- Practice relational regularity. Once you form a community, be regular about spending time with its members. Create a dependable rhythm for meeting with individuals or groups. Anne Lewis, a licensed addiction counselor with Indiana University Health, says repeated times with your community increase your chance for steady sobriety. “With more repetition,” she says, “you’re much more likely to have success long term.” In other words, spend time with these people again and again.
- Create accountability. Choose someone who will keep you accountable for engaging with your sobriety friends. Report in to this person, and listen when he or she warns you. Of course, your accountability person will also applaud you for perseverance and small successes.
- Share when you fall.Instead of hiding when you slip or relapse, tell your support team and depend on it for getting back on track. Relapse can be part of recovery, but isolating only makes it worse. So run, don’t walk, to the support you need.
Overall, repetition is key to your recovery success. As you connect and reconnect with your sober supporters, you will build accountability habits that can weather the test of time and the temptation to relapse.
Find Your Tribe at Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers
When you or a loved one cannot come to grips with a drug or alcohol habit, Lakeside-Milam’s Western Washington Recovery Centers offer residential, outpatient and extended care treatment for adults of all ages. With a recovery continuum designed for every stage of chemical dependency, we are the Pacific Northwest’s addiction treatment leader.
Start today: Choose to get well. The path to joy and healing begins when you confront the disease of addiction. Our experienced team members will help you verify insurance, begin the admissions process or request help for a family member when you call 800.231.4303.
- “Why We Are Wired to Connect.” Gareth Cook. scientificamerican.com. October 22, 2013. https:www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-are-wired-to-connect.
- “Why Do Alcoholics and Addicts Relapse So Often?” Ruben Casteneda. U.S. News and World Report.April 24, 2017. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2017-04-24/why-do-alcoholics-and-addicts-relapse-so-often.