"The Opposite of Addiction is Connection" - Johann Hari
I've been addicted to a variety of different substances, some healthy, like writing or music, others incredibly unhealthy, like booze & drugs & toxic relationships. The hardest thing I've ever had to quit was the idea that I was going to be free just by choice, without doing the work, without doing any work, just by making a decision – that I was done-zo.
You hear me? I’m done. Take this from me. And let me be free.
I've made the decision to stop abusing drugs & alcohol a hundred or so times - perhaps, even a thousand times. I could always, always quit for a bit. But, I could never stay stopped. That's the obsession for you.
I remember, prior to the first time I ever entered treatment, having a dream that rehab was going to save me and all I had to do was spend 3O days away, and the problem would be gone forever. I truly believed this. Maybe I got this idea from the media or television or all the movies about addiction that I inhaled like cotton candy.
Recovery was going to be easy.
I had no idea what sobriety entailed. What recovery was really like. I could write poems about addiction all damn day. I could pick up the greatest addiction memoir and eat it away in one night. I could talk on online communities about best supplements to quit, and how to detox, and what to do, in case of an emergency. It was easy to tell my friends that I would quit, as they watched my eyes roll back in my head, during episodes of The Bachelor. I could flush everything down the toilet, and swear it was done. I could do these things. I could lie.
The truth, is that I wanted to quit. And I wanted the want to quit.
I had all those things. The desire. The heart. The burden. The torn relationships. The loss of self. The loneliness. They existed. They burnt my flesh, because they were so real.
But I never had the ability to follow through.
Like I said before, I thought rehab was a one-stop-shop. Check me in. Take my coat. Shuffle through my belongings. Search for booze or pills or sharp objects. Sign me up for some classes. Let me sleep and heal and be comforted. Check me out. Sure, I’ll go to sober living. You want me to go to a women’s only sober living? I don’t think so. You want me to go a sober living in North Hollywood? Hell no. I am Brentwood all the way. I’m not sharing a room. I’ll have my own room, please and thank you.
I was a privileged brat when I got out of treatment. And I was a privileged brat through every treatment I ever went to. Maybe because I thought it was un-fair for me to get addicted. This wasn’t my life. Maybe because I blamed it on the doctors, and the car accident, and the prescriptions that should never have been written in my name. Maybe because I blamed it on mom and dad and culture and success and money and privilege. Or a loss of an engagement, or physical and verbal abuse, or a loss of a job, or a person, or a right, or a God. I blamed the shit out of everyone.
This was not supposed to be my life.
How many times could I tell myself that without changing anything?
I didn’t stay stopped because of a rock-bottom. I’ve had too many rock-bottoms to count. I didn’t stay stopped over attempted suicide, or a doctor telling me I was going to die. Or the homelessness and the insanity. I didn’t stay stopped out of circumstance.
I stayed stopped because I put one foot in front of the other. I stopped thinking I deserved the whole world, and instead, started thinking about what the world deserved. I did the fucking work.
I was planning on listing all the ways I quit. And stayed stopped. But, it was getting long. And length can be detrimental to help. So, I am keeping it simple.
My best tool.
The tool that carried my ass, and led me to a life of freedom, was and is, CONNECTION & TRIBE.
It’s the absolute biggest and best reason I finally stopped. I formed connections. And made them real. And I existed in a community of people who were fighting the same battle and doing the fucking work. Do the work.
There’s this dude, Johann Hari, he’s a British journalist and a New York Times best-selling author of Chasing The Scream. He’s studied the underlying reasons for addiction, with science and the like. He says: “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is connection.” And he has some mighty strong research to back it up.
Watch his Ted Talk Here. And read his Huffington Post article on the subject: The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think
I really don’t think I could have stayed sober on my own. I’ve tried it, and it didn’t work for me. Obvs. I went back to drinking & using. I was BORED...
I know that when I had to create all those “trigger” lists in rehab. My number one trigger was always, always boredom. And you know what that means to me? I was bored. But, more than that, I was lonely. Deeply lonely. I didn’t know how to sit with myself, alone. I had not practiced that in years. I needed people around me who were on the same path and the same journey, to talk to. I needed to talk. I needed connection. I needed to feel. So there ya have it? You got to go get you some sober friends. Or friends that support you in this journey.
You’re going to change in sobriety, it’s the truth. You will not be the same person that started at day 1. You will be a warrior. And you’re going to go through a lot of ick and yuck, but you’re also going to experience the magic of a new beginning. I don’t know one person who said the stayed the same in sobriety. NOT ONE.
So, here are some tools.
FIND YOUR TRIBE, AND LOVE THEM HARD.
1. GO TO A MEETING
ICK. The first one. The one people always tell you to do. Well, I’m not telling you to do it for the reason others may. I am telling you to do it, in order to build a tribe and a community and a connection, with another person.
Go to a meeting. It doesn’t have to be a 12 step meeting. Maybe AA is not for you. I hear ya. I get that. How about SMART Recovery or Refuge Recovery or Celebrate Recovery? How about a Buddhist meditation meeting? Or even just a recovery meeting based on some sort of trauma you've survived? It doesn't even have to be sobriety related. There are thousands of different recovery meetings all across the country, and guess what? Google is your friend.
2. MEET-UP GROUPS:
How about a meet-up group? I know a variety of people who have created sober meet-ups, open to any path of recovery, because they just could not find their jam in the 12 steps. If there is not a meet-up group, in your town, start one. I PROMISE you, you are not the only one struggling with an addiction. There are over 200 million of us, across the world, who suffer. You are not alone. Check it out - > www.meetup.com
Do you yoga? Yup, yoga. I cannot tell you how many people I have met who broke their addiction, with yoga as a tool. And even if they’ve never been addicted, yoga peeps are a bit more connected than the whole of us. More accepting, less judgement. Maybe you’ll feel held and less lonely. Maybe you won’t. TRY.
4. ONLINE COMMUNITIES:
I have built a tribe of sober warriors over the internet, as well. But, it didn’t start this way. It started by building a network of in person, real life friends, who I could touch and talk to. Maybe you can start with a sober community, but I highly, highly recommend that you have people IRL who can support you. (And IRL means in real life, in case you didn’t know, now you do!). And by the way, the people in these online communities, often host meet-ups with people in the same area, so you can find an IRL friend through the internet. IT WORKS. If you work it. (Sorry, had to).
5. RECOVERY RETREATS:
Holy shit. There are recovery retreats? Yes, there are. I am going to BALI in September 2017 with the She Recovers group. They host a variety of recovery retreats. There are also yoga retreats, and meditation retreats, and self-care and connectedness retreats, and I’m sure a whole host of others, that I don’t even know about. GTS. (Google that shit).
Here is the list for the She Recovers retreats. At the moment, the 2016 retreats are sold out, but if you sign up for their newsletter, you will be the first to know.
6. COACHING CLASSES/SCHOOLS:
I have participated in Hip Sobriety School twice. It’s been the biggest tool for my overall growth in long-term sobriety, because I am constantly learning new things and challenging myself. I am stepping outside my comfort zone. I am practicing a variety of pathways to recovery through this school and it is bomb and accepting of all. Also, there is a dedicated group of community and connection that exists in this school. I have met some of the most amazing sober warriors through this school and community. Seriously, the biggest and brightest people, ever.
Listen, there are a variety of schools and coaching groups like these, across the internet, and I don’t know all of them. But, I do know, they work. And you can find your people. Trust me. I am proof.
7. PODCAST COMMUNITY GROUPS:
Yup, podcasts. They are one of my tools in my recovery. And the best thing, is that a large majority of them have created private groups to connect. And since they are private, I can’t share the space. But, here is a list of recovery podcasts that are pretty bomb. Maybe they have a group. Check out a great lists of podcasts HERE y’all. It’s from my amazing friend, Kelly Fitzgerald, of The Sober Senorita.
8. SOCIAL MEDIA:
You want to know a cool story? One day, over a year ago, I was searching hashtags on Instagram. I wanted to find my people. Where are they? I don’t know which hashtag it was but I searched on Instagram with the hashtag #sobriety, #sober, #recovery, #soberlife and I found some peeps. The best one I found was Laura McKowen. If you don’t know her, I think you should. At the time, she hosted a blog, and was writing and journaling about her sobriety and evolution. Months later, she started the HOME podcast with Holly Whitaker of Hip Sobriety. Laura led me to so, so much. She led me to Hip Sobriety, to the HOME podcast, to other women, to yoga – to myself. Her words are heaven on a page. That one little Instagram search led me to a life of recovery that involved all modules, accepted everyone, and had no rules, except to support one another on their recovery path.
9. MEDITATION GROUPS
This last one, goes along, with one I mentioned earlier. In Buddhist recovery groups, they often begin with a 20 minute meditation, and then, a reading from their literature. However, there are a variety of meditation groups in my city. Most of the meditation groups I know are not necessarily recovery related, however, there are a lot of people in recovery in these groups. And maybe they aren't in recovery from drug & alcohol abuse, but in recovery for something else. I cannot stress enough how awesome recovery peeps are.
Open your eyes, there are people who need you and you need them.