The first question that you need to ask yourself in regards to community support is: “Do you really need a community in order to recover from drug or alcohol addiction?”
In other words, you may be wondering if it is possible to just recover on your own, without the help of a recovery community? Is that possible?
In my experience there are two kinds of people in the world: The kind that can walk away from drugs and alcohol without any problems, and the kind that need a great deal of help in order to rebuild a new life for themselves in recovery.
You are either one or the other. Either you can walk away from your drug of choice and beat addiction all by yourself and be successful, or you need a lot of help.
Before you can make any progress, you need to decide which kind of person you are.
I tested this for a long time before I finally admitted that I was not the kind of person who could just magically beat their addiction without any additional help.
In time, I came to define drug addiction and alcoholism this way: If you can just walk away without any help, then you were not a “real” addict or alcoholic in the first place. Go live your life, enjoy yourself, and be clean and sober. That’s great for you, we applaud you, no hard feelings. As they say in AA, “our hats are off to you.”
But the rest of us tried that. We wanted to desperately avoid going to rehab, to AA meetings every day, to see a therapist or counselor. We tried over and over again to beat our addiction by ourselves, without outside help.
They have a saying: “You cannot save your face and your butt at the same time.” Meaning that, every alcoholic first tries to save face by figuring out how to beat their addiction or control it by themselves, without asking for help.
Eventually they realize that if they want to save their butt, they have to sacrifice their face to do. They must get humble and ask for help. That is really what defines addiction itself: The fact that you can’t beat it by yourself. If you could, we would not label it as an addiction in the first place.
That said, the people who decide that they need to ask for help, the people who decide that they need to get humble and become vulnerable to this process of recovery, those are the people who ultimately need a recovery community in order to thrive and transform themselves.
You can’t do it alone. If you are a real alcoholic or drug addict, you will admit to yourself at some point that you cannot do it alone. You need help.
There are a few different communities that might help you in your recovery journey. Let’s start with the most obvious: AA or NA.
These 12 step programs have meetings all over the world, and they are essentially free for the newcomer who just wanders in and declares “I am an alcoholic.” That is really the only requirement for membership, that you have a desire to stop drinking. And at that point you are generally welcomed into a community of other recovering alcoholics who meet on a regular basis to help each other stay sober.
This is the most obvious and probably also one of the more direct ways to get into a recovery community.
Now you may have arguments against these programs, and maybe you have a specific reason why you should not be a part of AA or NA, but I would urge you to put those excuses to the side in the interest of saving your own life. I can come up with lots of excuses as to why I should not go to meetings or be a part of AA. But ultimately I surrendered to all of that nonsense, went to hundreds of meetings, and today I am clean and sober and living a better life in recovery. Put your petty excuses to the side and give them a chance. AA and NA are not perfect, but the truth is that there is no perfect solution for recovery. And for the most part, the people at the meetings genuinely want to help you as best they can. So you might give them a chance.
Second of all would be alternative recovery programs that are either spin offs from the 12 step program, or they are essentially some form of group therapy or meeting. These programs all have a little bit different spin on them, and they may have various missions or ideals about them, but essentially the core of the approach is similar to AA: One addict helping another to remain sober. In the end it is all fairly similar when you back up and look at the big picture.
It may be the case that you are absolutely terrified of groups. If that is the case then I would still urge you to see a therapist who can address this anxiety with you, and also help you to find a solution in terms of addiction. Even if you are just meeting with a single therapist each week, that is a community of 2, and it is certainly better than trying to take on your addiction all alone.
Third would be the possibility of religious communities, a solution that definitely works for some people but not for others. If you have a strong religious background then perhaps you would do well to find a Christian based recovery program, or Christian based group meetings, both of which exist and are fairly widespread. Celebrate Recovery is one such group that attempts to provide meetings that are religious based for people who may be struggling with addiction.
And finally, you may find community in long term recovery that is not really connected directly with recovery at all, such as a community of people that exercise and work out together. While they cannot help you directly with things like urges or triggers to relapse, such a community can still be a vital form of support in terms of your holistic health and taking care of yourself in various ways. Maybe you join a meditation group, a yoga class, or a painting class. Again, while not directly related to addiction or recovery, having this sort of social connection with others can still be a vital part of your recovery process, and can also be a huge part of relapse prevention.
For example, I finally got into shape when a family member urged me to start jogging with them. This led to a lifetime of fitness and working out that has had a massive impact on my recovery. Not only did it help in terms of fighting off triggers and cravings to exercise on a regular basis, but I also believe that jogging has directly prevented relapse in at least one case.
And my point is that this can be part of a community, you could sign up for a race and join a training group. That is community. Again, not directly related to addiction, but certainly related to your path in addiction recovery–that of trying to become a healthier and better person.
If you are like the rest of us, you can’t do it alone. You need people in order to help you to recover. So find the community that works for you, and dive into a better life in recovery. Good luck!