Connection: The Opposite of Addiction and the Key to Recovery

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September is National Recovery Month, a time to increase awareness around addiction, promote understanding of the disease, and celebrate those in recovery. The theme for 2019 is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger.” This theme emphasizes the importance of sharing resources and building support networks with other sober people. After all, forming connections with people in recovery can provide emotional support, purpose, and meaningful friendships.

Humans have a natural desire to bond. However, if someone has endured trauma, suffers from a mental illness, or has experienced stigma due to their addiction, they may begin to bond with substances that provide them with relief. This type of bonding is unhealthy and it can be detrimental to mental and emotional health. On the other hand, people who are happy and healthy tend to bond with other human beings. This theory, introduced by Johann Hari’s TED talk, suggests the idea that the opposite of addiction is actually connection.

Extending Love Rather than Stigma

Often times, people with addiction are met with stigma. Stigma comes from a lack of understanding and a surplus of preconceived ideas. These suffering individuals may be met with questions like, “why can’t you just stop?”

“If she really loved her kids she would just quit.”

“It’s not like you’re the junkie on the street corner, you come from a good family.”

Claims such as these drive stigma rather than love and support. Stigma can make people who suffer from addiction feel guilt or shame, which can prevent them from reaching out for help. Instead, it is important that these individuals are viewed as people, too. After all, addiction doesn’t discriminate. It can affect all walks of life – rich and poor, religious or not, addiction can place its deadly grips on anyone.

Remembering that addiction is an illness and that recovery is attainable is important when it comes to destigmatizing addiction. Rather than passing judgment on these people, the public can become educated on what addiction really is – an innate need for love and deep emotional bonds with something.

As people can begin to show empathy towards those who are affected, more people who are suffering will feel comfortable asking for help. In turn, resources can spread, and communities can begin supporting recovery rather than condemning addiction.

Connection Breeds Recovery

What if all people needed to recover was connection? This is an idea that has been promoted by many treatment centers and 12-step fellowships for decades. More often than not, both treatment centers and 12-step programs revolve around forming connections and developing a support network of people who will support individuals throughout their recovery. These groups can be other people in recovery, mental health specialists, family members, or friends. The most important qualities that these support networks have are that of a safe, reliable, and supportive environment.

The most common type of support group seen in recovery is one built up of others in recovery. Many times, the first time this type of support is offered to people in recovery is through group therapy or outpatient treatment. These people know exactly what it is like to suffer from addiction and what is needed to sustain lasting recovery. They have been there themselves and can fully understand the emotions, feelings, thought processes, and struggles of one another. This unique, common ground of shared experiences is what ties people in recovery together to form safe, supportive communities.

Although developing these connections may be difficult at first, it is paramount in recovery. For people who have experienced stigma and have felt the fear of having their voice heard, being completely understood and loved by another person in recovery establishes trust and support – two essential aspects of healthy living that many people with addiction are missing.

Developing these bonds is at the root of healing. When a support group is available to provide support to those wishing to recover, they are helping lift the burden of the emotions and pain that those suffering carry. Support groups love those who are suffering until they can love themselves. This process forms a type of emotional resilience that, eventually, turns into self-love.

As a result of these connections, people are given a purpose – to help the next sick and suffering addict to recover from the hopeless state of addiction. In the end, connection is all it takes to make a beginning in recovery. People are brought together due to shared experiences, trust forms, stories are shared, and the healing begins. It takes time, willingness, and effort, but making connections and recovering from addiction is possible.