In his TED Talk titled “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong,” author Johann Hari says what has now become an extremely famous and requoted line: “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.” Taking that quote at face value, if the opposite of addiction is connection, that must mean that addiction is disconnection. Addiction is loneliness, addiction is detachment, and addiction is hopelessness. Therefore, addiction can often also be classified as abandonment, rejection, and isolation. Addiction removes all true levels of connection with self and others, where the individual in active addiction only truly has transactional relationship with one thing: substances. While there may be some levels of human contact and interaction, true human relationships are severed and the individual in active addiction’s only remaining relationship is that with their drugs and alcohol.
However, once an individual finds recovery from addiction, they begin to reestablish the importance of connection through relationships. Sobriety, especially early sobriety, is almost entirely defined by their relationships. Sometimes it means creating new relationships, such as with a Higher Power, a group of sober supports in a recovery community, with treatment professionals while in rehab or therapy, while other times it means working to change the dynamics of old relationships, such as with their parents, spouse, children, other family members or old friends. In some cases, relationships must be reexamined and discarded, such as with dysfunctional and unhealthy family members and loved ones or perhaps with old associates who are still in active addiction. Whatever the scenario, recovery is defined by relationships and connections, just as addiction was defined by a lack of relationships and connection.
Here are the 5 most important relationships for someone in recovery from addiction:
Relationship with Self
There is no greater relationship in addiction recovery from addiction than the relationship an individual has with themselves. This relationship involves developing self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-care. Often, this relationship comes after developing the other important relationships, such as those with their recovery community, a sponsor or mentor, a clinical professional like a therapist or counselor, their community at large, and a relationship with something greater, being that God, a Higher Power, or a calling. The relationship with self includes recognizing and addressing underlying issues, setting boundaries, and working on personal growth. It also is a relationship developed out of self-discovery, where a person finds what it truly important to them, what they value, what drives them, and what kind of life they want to live and what kind of person they want to be. Many people in recovery from addiction have a difficult time loving themselves, so through other relationships, they are able to be loved and accept love from others before learning to love themselves. Building a positive and healthy self-relationship forms the foundation for recovery.
Relationship with Something Greater
In the 12-Step rooms, it is vital to develop a relationship with a Higher Power. While this can be off-putting for some people, most realize that this isn’t a religious concept. A Higher Power does not necessarily need to mean God in the traditional or religious sense of the word. However, all people in recovery must develop a relationship to something greater than themselves. This could be a God (of their own understanding), it could be a God based on their chosen religion, or it could be simply a greater understanding of spirituality- that the world does not revolve around them. Something greater could be their community, either their smaller recovery community or the community that they live in daily. Regardless of what that something greater is, finding and connecting with it becomes one of the most vital of relationships in addiction recovery. Finding a relationship with something greater allows the individual in recovery to feel a part of the bigger whole, to learn to give back and be helpful, and to get out of a self-centered and selfish manner of thinking.
Relationship with Family, Friends, and Loved Ones
Recovery often is the catalyst to rebuild relationships with family, friends, and other loved ones. These relationships are often strained or broken during someone’s active addiction. Recovery allows individuals to repair or mend those damaged or broken relationships, and often to rebuild those relationships into something better. Having a strong support network of family and friends is invaluable in recovery from addiction. These people, who often only want to be supportive, can provide emotional support, understanding, encouragement, compassion, and accountability. They can also help create a stable and nurturing environment that promotes sobriety and offers a sense of belonging. A strong, supportive relationship with family and friends can create a community of advocates for the individual, being their biggest asset and championing them in their journey of recovery.
Relationship with Community
Working hand-in-hand with a relationship with something greater than themselves, a relationship with a community is also important in addiction recovery. This certainly means engaging in a supportive recovery community, such as a 12 Step fellowship like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, or another group of recovering people. This includes having relationships within that community, like with a sponsor or a home group. However, other types of community relationships are important as well. For example, many people in recovery find that health and wellness is a large part of their recovery journey. So, they may find beneficial relationships with like-minded people in those types of communities, such as a community of people that engage in fitness or exercise activities like at a gym, CrossFit, riding a Peloton, or taking yoga or meditation classes. Some people find a community in playing sports and join a softball or basketball league or take up golf. Parents in recovery may join parent groups or create a community with parents of other similar aged children. Or this could be the community as a whole, where the person in recovery finds opportunities to volunteer and give back. Whatever the community, it is important that the person in recovery finds connection within it and becomes a part of it.
Relationship with a Professional
Most individuals that are in recovery from addiction begin their journey through some form of addiction treatment, whether with a clinical professional, a detox or inpatient treatment center, an outpatient treatment facility, or a recovery house. Many people go through a continuum of care of treatment in early recovery. If this is the case, there is no doubt that those treatment centers, rehabs, or professionals stressed the vital need for the person in recovery to continue a relationship with a clinical professional. Many times, the person in recovery is dealing with a co-occurring mental health issue, and certainly will need the ongoing support of a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist. Some people in recovery require medication to help them deal with those mental health issues and will need to see a psychiatrist or another prescriber. Recovery is something that can not be done on one’s own, and a relationship with a professional like a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, or sober coach is important to help the individual find sustainable and long-term sobriety. Establishing a therapeutic relationship with a trained clinical professional is often crucial and will help when an individual may find themselves struggling in recovery. Therapists or counselors help individuals explore the underlying causes of addiction, develop coping mechanisms, and learn healthy strategies for managing cravings, triggers, and stress. These professionals provide a safe and non-judgmental space for healing, offer guidance, and assist in developing a personalized recovery plan.
Ensuring a Healthy Addiction Recovery
Each of these relationships plays a vital part in the recovery journey of an individual. Addiction is a complex illness that cannot be overcome alone. Therefore, each relationship listed above creates a unique opportunity for the individual in recovery to create a community and feel connection. And as we know, both connection and community are vital. Without both, a person rarely finds recovery from addiction.
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual-diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (866) 929-4318 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our website at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.