I remember being absolutely terrified when I got out of rehab. I had been in a safe little bubble with 24-hour access to nurses and counselors, and all of a sudden I was out in the world, and I was 42 days clean. 42 days without a drink or a drug, the longest I had been clean in my adult life that I could remember. I came to the very sudden realisation that I didn’t know how to do life without drugs. I didn’t know how to deal or cope with anything, without drugs. I hadn’t even done my washing before without the help of substances. I felt like a newborn baby, and I had to learn to walk again. Actually, it wasn’t even learning to walk, I had to learn how to crawl!
I didn’t know where to begin, but luckily the people around me did. The rehab provides a day program for patients who have just left, to help them readjust to life after being in the bubble. It was in that space, that I was able to start practicing the skills I had learned.
I spent so much of my life feeling alone, and feeling like no one else would ever understand what I was going through. But by doing that, by not getting honest about my feelings, not reaching out to my loved ones, and by not asking for help, I isolated myself from a world of people just like me. People struggling with the same demons, and most importantly, from the very people who could help me.
I learned that I am only alone if I choose to be, and the moment I left rehab I realised I had that choice to make again, so I chose the opposite. I chose to reach out to others who are also in recovery from addiction. I chose to open up, to make friends, to make connections. I chose to go to self-help groups, to listen to others’ experiences, and realise that a life free from drugs is possible, and that life is also possible for me.
As long as I am willing to take action. Actions that are completely opposite to everything I had ever known. But by taking those actions, by doing the things I was told by others in Recovery, I slowly but surely started to value myself and my well-being. I was taught by people who had been where I had been, that life gets better, and it actually becomes enjoyable.
I can now see and feel that evidence within myself. I learned how to crawl, and I learned how to walk. I am 6 months without a drink or a drug, something that seemed absolutely unfathomable to me. But the impossible became possible, because I was desperate for a fulfilling life, and I was willing to do whatever it took to get me there.
Why Meetings are so Important in Recovery
Meetings or support groups are important to every recovering addict's continued sobriety. There are so many different types of meetings to choose from and a different population who attend, there is sure to be a group of two or three, that suit your needs. There is a myriad of reasons why meetings are important to attend even late into your recovery. I have outlined a few below, but the benefits are innumerable.
Addiction is a disease of loneliness
Not only are loneliness and isolation two of the reasons why people may turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place, but it is also a reason they can relapse during their recovery. An addict’s thinking can be so self-sabotaging that if they stay away from meetings and the sober community they have built, they can begin to think it's ok to just use a little bit or ‘have just one drink’. If things have been going well for them, they can start to believe that they have their addiction under control and a little bit won’t hurt, or that using a substance other than the one that they’re addicted to, will be fine. Once isolated or alone, there is a much higher chance that the disease and diseased thinking will convince them that they are well and will lead to relapse. Attending meetings and sharing these thoughts can elicit feedback that offsets their thoughts and steers them back to their sober path.
Show up for other newcomers
Going to your first meeting can be extremely daunting; you don’t know what you’re supposed to say or where you should sit. It might have taken you three or four attempts before you actually walked through the doors. Having other people there who are all in similar situations and who have all been where you are before, makes the newcomers feel more comfortable. Imagine if you went to your first meeting and there was no one there and the room was dark, you wouldn’t return for another meeting would you? It’s important to be able to pay it forward and be there to help those who are where you once were.
Stress can be a major factor in relapsing. When stress builds and builds and is not vented through discussion, it can feel like there is no other option than to use it again to alleviate the pain. Just talking about your problems to others created a cathartic effect and immediately reduces the negative feelings caused by stress. Of course, you could talk to your family or friends about the stress you are feeling, but not only may you not wish to disclose this to them, but they also may not be well-versed in addiction or recovery and may inadvertently increase the stress you are feeling. Talking to others who understand what you are going through because they have been through it as well, is extremely beneficial and can help reduce stress and alleviate the desire to use again.