There’s a daunting new world for most people who are addicted and seeking recovery. The adventure of that journey always starts with needing a roadmap to find a way to their destination of life-long recovery.
How to negotiate this road depends on a feature of the addiction lifestyle itself that can help guide newly recovering people: The journey is all about connections. It helps to make connections; it’s safe to say that most alcoholics and drug addicts did not manufacture or produce their own drugs of choice. Most people who have become addicted to chemicals like alcohol and other drugs got
their supply through some “connection,” who was holding their drug and offered it for sale. Even if it is a cannabis grower, who started from someone who gave or sold them the seeds, or an alcoholic, who used a bartender to sell alcohol to them, they had to have a connection. Most likely, a person had more than one connection to the drug source, just to play it safe, so they were never left high-and-dry.
The fact of the matter is, no person who has become addicted started out to become that way. They most often knew literally nothing about the alcohol or drug they were exposed to—typically at a young age. They had to learn, from some connection, how to procure and even use the drugs they took. Becoming an addict or alcoholic is a learned behavior, in addition to a physiological disease, and people learned from their connection. The parallel in recovery is amazingly strong. Most people who are actively addicted to alcohol or other drugs have a very poor sense of what it takes to find recovery from that addiction. While rumors may persist among fellow active users about what it takes to be in recovery, this is, in fact, the blind literally leading the blind. Very few active users know or understand the recovery process. Despite the chance they may have been abstinent at one point, they need to learn about how to maintain abstinence and move into the world of life-long recovery.
In order to make this move to recovery, alcoholics and addicts need new connections. They literally need to have someone they can go to “procure” their sobriety. In language off the street, where they needed to find someone they could “cop their drug” from, these people now need someone from the recovering community they can “cop some recovery” from. In recovery, like in active addiction, people in recovery frequently need more than one person they can go to for that sobriety fix.
In Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) there is a built-in system of providing newcomers with a new connection. It’s called the sponsorship system. Here, just like
in the active addiction world, there is someone a newly-recovering person can go to, to procure some recovery. Usually, this sponsor is someone who is “holding” the same type of recovery that the
newcomer wants—higher-level spirituality, serenity, peace of mind, hard-core instruction in maintaining abstinence, or detailed instruction on how to behave. The sponsor is also the connecting link to a world of recovery made up of other people in recovery; meetings where people go to congregate and learn about recovery, and read literature that can fortify their commitment.
There are other people, outside of AA, that newly recovering people can also use as; priests, ministers, rabbis, or imams often serve as connections to recovery by providing religious and spiritual refuge for a recovering person. Churches, temples, and mosques often provide a social setting where people who are offering recovery congregate. The newcomer can associate with people there to form new relationships and enjoy fellowship.
Regardless of the source, a newly recovering person usually needs to realize that they know very little about the recovery process at the start of their journey. However, here are people in the world who do. Just like in the days of their active use, when they sought out expert help to use alcohol or other drugs, the person in early recovery needs to reach out to experts for the ways and means to remain clean and sober. There is little chance that a newly recovering person can invent a system that works any better than the one already widely used by healthy “connections” to maintain that recovery.
Roger P. Watts, Ph.D., is a non-clinically licensed academic and research psychologist, a Licensed Social Worker, a Master of Addictions Counselor, a Licensed Alcohol & Drug Counselor, and a Certified Criminal Justice Specialist. He is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology at Augsburg College.
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