Recovery is scary; there is no doubt about that! It takes time, perseverance and lots of work to stay clean and sober, especially in the first couple of months (and maybe even years) and there are moments when relapse seems like the easy option. But with almost 2,500 days of sobriety behind me I can honestly say that it is worth the battles, the moments of self-doubt and the sheer determination it takes. And there are people who want to help us stay sober! This might be your local mutual-help group, your therapist or counsellor, your sober companion or your recovery coach and more importantly your loved ones. No matter who it is, there are options available to everyone who chooses the road to recovery. Social media has an incredible network of people in various stages of recovery, groups that are advocating a myriad of recovery options and recovery professionals that are there to hold our hands through the dark times and share in our successes during the good times.
So often in the past people thought that recovery could only begin once a person had reached “rock bottom”, but I personally believe that this isn’t the case. Anyone who feels that they are struggling with addiction or just moving towards it, can reach out and use the internet which has become an invaluable source of information and education. This may be as simple as taking on online test if one is concerned about their substance use, becoming a member of an online support group or doing a Skype session with a recovery professional. It’s not a one-size fits all fix anymore when it comes to confronting our substance abuse and making the decision to enter recovery. For some people it may start with detox and an in-patient in a treatment centre, for others it might be court-mandated and for others it may just be a case of “enough is enough”! Whatever the reasons are for people choosing to start their recovery journey, the options are becoming more varied than they have ever been.
As I study and learn more about substance abuse, it is becoming clearer to me that just because one approach doesn’t “fit” doesn’t mean that a person should give up and go back to the source of their pain and misery in active addiction. I can speak from experience when I say that I spent a little time in a treatment centre and was all good and well when I was within a protected environment, attending group and individual therapy and education sessions on a daily basis, but the hard work really started when I left and had to make recovery work in the real world! Sadly, it didn’t for me! I tried, I honestly did, but at the time in my city the only options were therapy sessions I couldn’t afford and AA which just didn’t resonate with me. I relapsed and spent another four years battling with substance abuse.
One of the resources that helped me through my first year [in my third attempt] at recovery was an online support group. It wasn’t a 12-step program and that was a revelation to me. I didn’t have to give myself over to a “Higher Power” and I was the person in control of my recovery choices. I am taking absolutely nothing away from 12-step programs, they just don’t work for everyone and that is my point here. Just because you don’t want to attend a group meeting, where you work steps and share your addiction in an open forum, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other alternatives. There are other mutual-help groups that are not based on 12-steps, there are online support groups and discussion forums and there is an ever-increasing workforce involved in the area of substance abuse treatment and recovery. But the most important thing is that if you do go through a treatment program, you need to find what works for you after that.
Don’t give up if one of the options doesn’t excite or drive you into the next phase of your recovery! Get on the internet and find a way that does…and there will be one. Whether that means typing your fingers to the bone in online chat groups from the comfort of your living room, or finding a recovery coach that will help you create a recovery plan, keep looking until you find a method that works for you. For some it means doing work with a therapist to understand what took them from use to dependence and laying these past issues to rest. Because if you expend the same amount of time and energy on your recovery as you did on your addiction the results will be unprecedented. I have read so many stories recently of people who are opening up and are no longer ashamed to share their stories without the curtain of anonymity to protect them. I believe it is time to shake the shame, guilt and stigma of substance abuse and do everything that we can to create awareness, educate, assist and overcome this disease that ruins too many lives across all sectors of the world population.
So reach out, ask questions, find your way forward and make the internet and social media an intrinsic part of your recovery. Of course these are just suggestions, things that have worked for me, but I find daily strength in blogs, tweets, posts and articles that I read that I believe make me stronger, wiser and more passionate about my own and others’ recovery journeys. We are part of a community of people that care deeply about each other and long-term recovery and for that I am exceedingly grateful.