“Nothing truly valuable can be achieved except by the unselfish cooperation of many individuals.” – Albert Einstein
While talking with a friend in recovery yesterday, he mentioned how important it was to him early on—when he first got into treatment for substance abuse—to let go of his intense grip on “self-sufficiency,” a character trait upon which he’d prided himself.
I asked him, “why? What are you referring to?”
He said, “Because back then, I was clueless about how important it is for people in recovery to reach out and connect with others, trust others, ask others for help, share what’s going on inside of me with others, and also to help others and be there for others when they need someone to listen to them or acknowledge them.”
Whoa! He’d certainly said a mouthful, but when I reflected on what he’d expressed, I agreed with him wholeheartedly… about all of it!
Because my 22-plus years of experience getting and staying “clean & sober” has borne out my friend’s words: It’s crystal clear to me: We in recovery need others! And I mean a sufficiently wide variety of others. Whether it be those who assist us when we’re early on in our seeking recovery, or those who guide us and lend us insight and inspiration as we continue building a foundation for going forward into a new life, or those in recovery with whom we develop lifelong friendships — people like us who seek daily maintenance in our desire to live free from substance abuse need a “we” program to follow, not an “I” program, separated and isolated from others.
I myself have found and watched countless men and women—all of us having once been consumed and virtually destroyed by addiction—find a pathway forward to healing, renewal and an addiction-free life by turning to and incorporating on a daily basis a recovery program that includes others — people who’ll support us, guide us, teach us, acknowledge us, share their ‘experience, strength and hope’ with us, remind us of the principles of recovery when we’re getting “squirrely,” and celebrate us for our positive steps forward and successes in establishing new habits of thought, word and deed.
And who are these “others” my friend and I were talking about?
The first line of people with whom many of us interact, addiction treatment centers staff their organization with those who, very often, have “been in the trenches” themselves and can therefore identify with those of us walking through their doors, be it for the first time or “one more time.” (Hopefully, the last!) Their consistent presence for those who’re going through treatment for substance abuse disorders provide supportive services and (frequently) a level of understanding that can be a comfort in challenging times.
Therapists and counselors
These are the people who, through their years of education and training (and often experience, if they too are in recovery themselves) help us to understand the nature of addiction and learn coping strategies to address the many dimensions of addiction: from cravings and recognizing triggers to preventative measures for avoiding relapse. In addition, they provide therapeutic counseling to help us heal and to repair relationships that have been negatively affected by our addiction.
Our recovery network
Those who have sought recovery and are presently “working a program” we respect are invaluable resources for us to turn to, since they can identify with what we’re going through, from their own experience, and can therefore share with us their insights about how they handled any given situation we’re facing, including what worked for them and what didn’t. They also, oftentimes, are our foremost cheerleaders and supporters, because through the ongoing development of a bond with them, they’ve gotten to know us and we’ve gotten to know them.
Our 12 Steps sponsor
This is the person who we’ve chosen to help us as we practice applying the 12 Steps in our daily lives. In our sponsor, we find both an example to inspire us to maintain our own recovery through using the spiritual principles embedded in the 12 Steps, as well as a guide to assist us in the development of our own personal approach to utilizing the 12 Steps for our healing and growth.
In conclusion, there are many people who make up the “we” who help us “get sober/clean and stay sober/clean”… all of whom are vitally important people to those of us seeking a new life in recovery. So, if we want that new life of freedom from active addiction, one day at a time, we’ll be sure to value this “mantra” deeply in our minds, hearts and souls: We need “we” to recover!