The Role of Community in Addiction Recovery
It’s a common misconception that addiction is a personal issue. Both active addiction and the road to recovery impact the lives of addicts’ loved ones. In the early stages of sobriety, it is difficult to establish a role in someone else’s addiction recovery. Being supportive and available to an individual in recovery is critical to a successful, sustainable recovery. Loved ones who are not in addiction recovery can help by being present, but those who are also in recovery are invaluable in helping to give hope and motivation. The role of the community is key to addiction recovery.
Importance of Community
Remaining abstinent from drugs and alcohol and working towards recovery is not just a personal journey. People who are in your life during your recovery are influential in your transformation. While the desire and drive to stay sober takes personal power and internal strength, individual transformation can also come from community-wide transformation. Recovery from an addiction of any kind is not just an improvement to the user’s quality of life, but also the lives of those around them.
There is also potential that “over time, when hopelessness and learned helplessness become ingrained in community culture and transmitted across generations, the community itself is in need of recovery from alcohol and other drug problems.” This is the beautiful thing about recovery communities; not only does each individual’s life improve, but the quality of life in the surrounding community improves as well, and the concept of community and its power is reestablished.
Overcoming Isolation and Addiction
Many successful recovery stories are attributable to the community’s involvement. One reason for the importance of the community in recovery is that individuals addicted to drugs or alcohol tend to withdraw from others, isolate themselves, and make recovery that much more difficult. This isolation may stem from guilt or shame from their past addictive behaviors or from the desire to distance themselves from people intervening or questioning their addictive behaviors.
Many individuals in recovery may distance themselves from old friends, thinking it will help them stay on track and mitigate temptations that could risk their sobriety. There is a missing piece with this way of coping – having a community to share sobriety successes with, inspire one another, and hold each other accountable. Having a recovery community allows people to no longer feel alone and to have a group for themselves that understands and appreciates them for who they are without judgment.
Having a caring community decreases isolation, and as a result, decreases the risk of depression, resentment, and relapse. When alone with these feelings, it becomes hard to move on and live in active recovery rather than just sitting stagnant in sobriety. Feeling like you are not alone is essential for anyone during a difficult time, but especially necessary for individuals who may carry shame or guilt for their past behaviors. Having a community where all individuals relate to the same lows in life gives people the opportunity to develop genuine relationships, authentic friendships, and take responsibility for the first time in their lives.
A Shared Recovery Experience
Keeping commitments and engaging in community activities allows people to participate in both their own recovery and the recovery of their friends and family. Having a community with which to spend quality sober time gives individuals the opportunity to rediscover their interests and pursue their passions. Community activities help facilitate self-discovery, overall happiness, and well-being.
For many people with addiction issues, feeling alone or unwelcome is a trigger for dependence on drugs or alcohol. Having a sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself, feeling included, needed, and wanted, gives those with addiction the ability to develop healthy coping skills and focus on what makes them feel worthy. Having a community of people who care for one another establishes a feeling of safety and security. With a foundation like this, individuals can begin to trust others, reach out for a helping hand, take constructive criticism, seek advice, and grow together. Staying connected to a community gives an individual the opportunity to live a full life that can be shared with others.
At Boardwalk Recovery Center, our treatment plan instills responsibility and accountability in our clients, preparing them to step out into the world sober and strong. As part of our care plan, we empower our clients to find a Get Well Job. We encourage our clients to engage in 12-Step programs, which serve as their own communities, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). In these community programs, members learn to care for the community and follow the example of those who have had success in their recovery. Sponsors in step programs help assist individuals in their recoveries and further their involvement in the community. By working with others, individuals in recovery can move forward in their recovery and make conscious choices.