“There’s strength in numbers.” – English idiom
When a person comes into addiction treatment or recovery—whether you’re in a substance abuse treatment program, a professionals health program, a 12 Steps fellowship, whatever—once the alcohol and/or drugs have been stopped (through “one day at a time” abstinence), emotions and feelings may arise that we’ve never before faced or coped with successfully.
Since feelings can be powerful behavior motivators and we’re certainly not wanting to relapse and go back to our old self-destructive ways, it’s important to note we don’t have to “act out” on feelings, just because they arise—especially any associated with past impulses to drink or use. Indeed, it will be good to acknowledge that our feelings can’t hurt us, unless we act on them. Instead, when we experience a feeling or emotion that is overwhelming or we can’t handle, we turn to the power of the group for help with it.
Let’s take a look at how we can use the group of recovering people around us to maximize that power and turn it to our advantage.
By sharing our feelings with someone in our recovery network, we begin to unburden ourselves from some of the weight or confusion associated with these emotions. Quite often the person with whom we’re sharing can identify with us, having gone through those or similar feelings in the past themselves. They may very well have some “experience, strength and hope” to share about what worked for them and how they got through the challenging emotions without relapsing. And even if not, their simple act of listening and demonstrated care for you can help you see your way forward, bolstered by their support.
One 12 Steps fellowship’s literature states it this way: “Our sorrows are lessened by sharing the bad… (and) our joys are multiplied by sharing the good.”
Along these lines, it’ll be wise for us, as part of our establishing an increasingly strong “routine of recovery” and the ability to weather the storms our emotions can sometimes bring up, to develop a solid network of fellow recovering alcoholics or addicts. Because then, whenever we find it’s necessary, we can marshal their support to help us address these “new” feelings as they arise. There’s another old recovery saying worthy of remembering: “An alcoholic/addict alone is in bad company.”
Fortunately, we don’t have to do anything in recovery on our own. In addiction treatment, especially, there are many supportive resources we can use to help us address any struggles we might face when challenging emotions come forward. However, since no one can read our minds, we have to practice asking for help whenever necessary. And in order to smooth the road to receiving help, we’ll benefit by “letting our hair down” and establishing and deepening our recovery connections with others in treatment who we sense are practicing good programs of recovery, treatment staff and counselors, where appropriate, and those outside of treatment who are living lives based firmly in the principles of recovery (e.g., 12 Steps sponsors, fellow recovering alcoholics and addicts in meetings, etc.).
The bottom line is this: There is a powerful resource available to you–the group of fellow recovering alcoholics or addicts you encounter (and treatment staff and counselors, where appropriate)—who can offer plenty of support, care and perspective to help you address, head-on, any emotions you encounter in your new life in recovery. Use the group as your ally and watch as your gratitude for it grows!