While there are endless ways to get sober, there seems to be one key component that connects all methods of recovery: community. Whether you’re hoping to quit alcohol by joining a local mutual aid meeting or by participating in an online treatment program such as Tempest, finding success, safety, and a sense of belonging all start with building community.
Fortunately, as more and more people are getting sober and sharing their journeys online, building community with other people in recovery can go beyond a church basement these days. In other words, if you’re questioning your relationship with alcohol and thinking about quitting drinking, it really is a great time to start that journey. As human beings, we all need the community to thrive. The same is true in recovery.
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A Shared Understanding
No matter how supportive your friends and family might be, they will never fully understand what you’re experiencing unless they’ve worked through their own experience with alcohol use disorder. This is part of the reason why Megan Wilcox became a Certified Holistic Health Coach and started Sobahsistahs Recovery Coaching, which helps women who are re-evaluating their life with alcohol and have decided that alcohol isn’t working for them anymore.
“Within my own family and friend network, nobody really understood what I was going through, even though I was trying to talk to people about it,” Wilcox said. “Meeting people and connecting, it just changed everything and opened a whole new world to me.”
Jen Hirst had a similar experience, so she created livingzeroproof, which provides individual and group coaching for women with a strong desire to stop drinking.
“You need someone that’s going to cheer you on and tell you it’s okay, you’re not alone, you can do this—that’s the key,” Hirst said. “You really need to connect with other people who understand.”
And the research backs this up. In a 2017 study that looked at online participation in a recovery community, the authors found that members participating in virtual recovery communities could develop recovery capital—that is, the resources to sustain recovery—through positive online interactions.
Another important reason to seek out sober friends? They’ll understand why you want to participate in activities that don’t revolve around alcohol. Our society is set up in a way that revolves around alcohol. We’re conditioned to participate in everything from mimosa-heavy lunches to cocktail-laden happy hours, so figuring out what to do that doesn’t center around alcohol takes some time. Community can help with the learning curve and give you a group of people with which to participate in such events.
However, your activities don’t need to revolve around recovery, said Molly Ruggere, founder of Counterculture Club. The global alcohol-free community offers group and private coaching, monthly membership, and events for individuals who want to build relationships with like-minded friends and counter the mainstream idea that we need alcohol to have fun, fulfilling lives.
“In Counterculture Club, we barely talk about alcohol or our drinking war stories, but rather we focus on everything you can gain from an alcohol-free life,” Ruggere said. “We host workshops to help people get curious about what they enjoy, try new activities, and grow in all facets of their life. We offer a variety of events from educational online workshops and book clubs to hikes to alcohol-free happy hours. All of them have an element of playfulness and/or education and are designed to benefit mental or physical wellness.”
In addition to being surrounded by like-minded individuals, it can just feel really good to help others. A 2009 study of people in long-term recovery found that individuals have higher success rates in recovery if they engage in supporting other people. The researchers found that helping others in recovery specifically correlated with people experiencing increased self-esteem, as well as a greater purpose in life.
When speaking of a recovery community, Hirst recalled a famous quote from Johann Hari, who said, “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety—it’s connection.” Basically, if you are recovering in a community, other people can help you, and in turn, you may be able to help others someday.
“We get better in numbers and you cannot do this alone,” Hirst said. “I tried to get it under control on my own and I couldn’t do it.”
The good news? There are so many different ways to get sober, and there are new methods growing by the day.
“We are so lucky to be getting sober at this day and age because we have so many options,” Wilcox said. “People ten years ago, especially women, didn’t have the options we have now.”
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Community gives us the space to question alcohol and recovery amid peers who are doing the same. We have the opportunity to learn and grow from people who have been sober for a while. In inclusive groups, we get to hear a variety of experiences and perspectives, which can inform our own journeys. And the science is there: being a part of a sober community leads to greater success in our personal recovery goals.