The hardest challenge I faced when I entered early sobriety was figuring out where I fit in. You may think I’m joking, but for me, something that fundamental was so difficult to decode and understand. I was caught between two lifestyles; being a party girl, and trying to remain social, but without the drugs and alcohol. I honestly didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere, making the isolation I felt exponentially more real and raw.
“I was willing to do anything not to feel the way I was feeling.”
I dove into the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, as that’s what I was told would work. I went to meetings because I was so desperate and the truth was, there weren’t any other solutions offered to me. I was willing to do anything not to feel the way I was feeling. My depression and anxiety rose quickly, the more clean time I gained. I felt like I was drowning in the morose of my newly felt emotions. I contemplated if it was even going to be possible to live life without chasing these feelings away.
“Damn it, I better figure out how to do this sober gig quickly!”
I used to go to meetings and wondered if I actually did belong in the rooms. Was I like these other people; an addict, possibly even an alcoholic? Was this what the rest of my life was going to look like, surrendering to basement churches a few times a week for the rest of my life?
Holy SH*T, this is not the club I want to belong to!
Now, there was this vague knowing that I possibly had a substance issue, but I also convinced myself I was just a party girl who likes to have a good time. In fact, I was quite defensive if you didn’t like to party, as this to me was a qualifying factor for our friendship. It was in this milieu that I felt I had a connection. But of course, it was as artificial as the common denominator we shared around our using; to ultimately disconnect from ourselves.
I fell into the trap of always comparing myself to others who were worse off than me with their drinking. Constantly cataloguing information, looking for validation biases to prove to myself that I was not like them. I convinced myself that I was not like any of these people in any form….whatsoever.
“The rooms offered me an explanation for my personal struggles and I felt like I belonged.”
I often wondered as to how I even ended up here. I could not fathom the fact, that the people in meetings could be a possible social outlet for me… and hey, perhaps I may even actually like them. I was just doing what I was told, because I was desperate, hopeless, and I wanted to get well.
But, the rooms were the first place where I could relate to the struggles of the people I met, as I listened to their stories. It was here that I thought just maybe these people and I have more in common than I had originally thought. The rooms offered me an explanation for my personal struggles and I felt like I belonged. It was a place where I was not misunderstood or judged for my past, and we were united in our pain and hopelessness, with a desire to build a better life.
I held an ingrained belief that I was terminally unique. In time though, I found out that we are more alike than we are different. It was from this place of humility that I began to connect to our similarities rather than our differences. I could see you without the lenses of judgment and righteousness.
Over time, I worked the steps, which has been the foundation of my personal growth and development. The 12 steps gave me the ability to cultivate an open mind, and become teachable. It is from this place that I learned that the people in the rooms of recovery and I, have more in common than I could ever imagine. I’d never understood that completely until I allowed myself to meet my tribe.
”the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”
As Johann Hari, states in his ground-breaking book, The Scream…..”the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.” Childhood trauma sets the stage for addiction by interrupting the healthy neural development, leaving the victim feeling that the world is not a safe place for them. “People who use drugs compulsively, do so to avoid the pain of past trauma and to replace the absence of connection in their life.” This is the only way they know how to feel alive. We are people who have been traumatized.
Finally, someone who understands me!
Today, most of my friends are in recovery, and have endured and overcome tremendous adversity. These are people from all walks of life, who stand proud, authentic and raw with all their imperfections and beauty. They are courageous and willing to risk showing their vulnerabilities.
They are friends who are there no matter what time of day and night. We stand united in our addiction, pain, and our commitment to help another suffering alcoholic and/addict, paving the way for an easier path for the ones who follow behind. They are interested in real and meaningful causes and are committed to their own version of personal excellence.
They have a deep desire to do more than exist, which is what pulls them back to the rooms for meetings, and connection, on a regular basis. And I am there because because they are my tribe. We love each other. We rely on each other. We hold each other accountable on so many levels other than just staying sober, but most importantly we laugh and have fun with each other!
The euphoria that comes from being with my tribe is beyond anything any chemical could have done for me in my past life. Open your eyes to the possibilities of finding your tribe. Have you found your tribe yet?