The Power of Recovery Communities
Recovery communities have the power to help you sustain your sobriety. They are that powerful, and this isn’t just our opinion. Research shows that having a strong support system actually leads to lower rates of relapse.
Recovery communities may not be what you think they are. They can provide you with so much connection, love, and support as you journey through recovery.
They allow you to actually enjoy sobriety, gain a sense of connection, and find hope when you’re struggling.
Read on to discover what recovery communities look like today, and the different types of recovery communities you can explore.
What are recovery communities?
According to Goodtherapy.org, recovery communities are “organized and structured support networks that focus on the specific issues and needs that are relevant to the participants.”
In today’s day and age, recovery communities extend so far beyond NA and AA.
If the 12-step fellowship doesn’t resonate with you, there are other options to explore. This way, you can connect with people who are going through exactly what you’re going through.
Recovery communities can take on many forms, and is essentially a community of people who are recovering from addiction. The common thread amongst everyone is to attain and maintain recovery within a safe and supportive group.
Across the world, there’s a diverse range of recovery groups. These groups offer support for people of different races, genders, sexual preferences, spiritual beliefs, and more. Stepping outside of the more informed and traditional groups can help you find people that you really resonate with. It’ll allow you to experience a sense of connection on a deeper level.
Recovery communities can be closed. This means they start and end with a certain amount of people for a set period of time. They can also be open, which means they are ongoing and people can come in and out.
Conversely, they can be virtual with online meetings, or they can be in person. They can also be very specific to a group of people, beyond recovery, or they can be broader.
No matter who you are or what you’ve been through, there is definitely a recovery community for you.
Why is a recovery community so important?
There are so many reasons that it is important to find a recovery community while in recovery from addiction.
In addiction recovery, a recovery community can consist of people in all stages of recovery.
Those who have more years of recovery under their belt provide guidance and support to those who are new to the recovery world.
Recovery communities can provide a safe space to discuss triggers and difficult emotions.
They’re also a place to explore patterns of behaviour, and new coping skills to try.
They can offer a space to discuss relapse prevention and circumstances that may be a threat to your sobriety.
Recovery communities also provide an outlet for people who struggle with co-occurring disorders, or who have experienced trauma or abuse in any form, to connect around their shared experiences.
Benefits of recovery communities include:
- They promote inner healing
- Help to establish a renewed sense of purpose
- You will feel less alone
- They can help to increase your confidence
Read on to discover more reasons why finding connection with like-minded others is incredibly important on your journey through recovery.
When joining recovery communities or meeting new people in recovery, you’ll meet many people who are in different stages than you are. People who have been in recovery for longer than you have can provide a huge deal of inspiration to you, especially in the early stages of recovery.
Knowing people like this is an incredible asset as you journey through recovery. Hearing their struggles, and hearing how they persevere through them, can offer you a beacon of hope when you begin to feel hopeless. It can also be invaluable when you begin to feel challenged by the recovery process.
People who are further along in recovery can also provide you with advice and guidance as you move through your own recovery. They can tell you things to look out for, and they can help you when you’re struggling.
The beautiful part of this is that one day, when you’re far ahead in recovery, you can serve as this beacon of light to someone else.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who have similar goals and aspirations as you do can be incredibly motivating.
When our social circle is only filled with people who can’t necessarily relate to us or have very different goals than we do, it can be tough to stay motivated.
Being around other people who are on a similar journey as we are can provide additional motivation during the times that we don’t feel like going on or actively working on ourselves.
Research has shown that having a strong support system and connection with others can reduce stress levels.
This is so important in recovery because stress is a cause of relapse.
Having a community of people who can relate to you and accept you fully gives you a safe space where you can open up. You’re able to share any thoughts and emotions that have been weighing you down, which in and of itself can provide huge stress relief.
Additionally, creating connections with others produces less cortisol in our bodies, which is the stress hormone. This is another reason why forming strong connections actually has the power to reduce stress in our physical bodies.
Many people think that the recovery journey is all about staying away from drugs and alcohol, but this is only part of the process. There’s a great deal of inward reflection and personal growth that happens in the ongoing process of recovery. You are learning new ways of living and intentionally shifting your thoughts and behaviours. Having a community of people in your back pocket can be invaluable as you explore new parts of yourself.
A recovery community can hold you accountable to staying the course. It helps you practise using new coping skills, healing habits, and thought processes.
When you have friends in recovery, they might be able to notice if you’re struggling, before you’re even fully aware of it. They can call you out, and help you face whatever you’re going through mentally or emotionally.
This is so beneficial, as it allows you to work through whatever you’re facing before it results in a domino effect that leads to relapse.
Since addiction is a disease of isolation, recovery is all about connection.
In early recovery, you may experience feelings like guilt or shame around things you may have done in active addiction. You may have days where you feel like you can really take on recovery. However, you’ll have other days where it feels nearly impossible.
When you’re part of a recovery community or have friends in recovery, you’ll see that none of these feelings or experiences are unique to you. Knowing that these are universally shared parts of recovery can help you feel less isolated.
When you’re struggling, having a recovery community gives you people to talk to who won’t judge you. You’ll have a community of people who have been there, and who can offer you support.
It can be incredibly helpful to connect with people who have shared experiences as you and can relate to both your struggles and your triumphs. Isolation is an easy and sure-fire way for us to get into our own heads and spiral downward mentally and emotionally. This is what leads to relapse, so having that support system can act as a great tool for relapse prevention.
Another important part of a recovery community is that you will learn how to socialise and have fun doing sober activities. In recovery, it is important to have fun, and to get a natural influx of dopamine to feel good. When it comes to your family members or close friends who aren’t sober, you may feel uncomfortable going out or socialising with them. When you have a recovery community of people who are staying sober just like you, you can try new activities together without any added pressure of engaging in substance use.
Types of recovery communities
There are many types of recovery communities for you to explore. Below are just a few examples of recovery communities:
12-step programs like NA and AA focus on following a set of principles in order to achieve and maintain recovery from addiction. The program provides individual action steps for its members to follow. 12-step meetings can be open or closed, they can feature speakers, or they can be a space for sharing.
12-step meetings also feature the experience of having a sponsor, who takes on a similar role as a mentor. A sponsor is also a member of the 12-step meeting, and has been in recovery for a longer time.
Some people tend to be wary of 12-step programs due to their spiritual focus. However, the higher power referred to in 12-step can be defined in the members' own way, and doesn’t necessarily have to refer to God.
12-step meetings are incredibly popular and you can likely find one that isn’t too far away from you. They are also available online as virtual meetings.
The SMART in SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management And Recovery Training. SMART Recovery groups stray away from the traditional methodologies of 12-step meetings. Rather than operating from the foundation of powerlessness over one’s life, SMART Recovery focuses on developing positive self-regard, self-empowerment, and learning skills to overcome and maintain sobriety.
It is a program that is science-based and is run by volunteers who used the program themselves in order to recover. In SMART Recovery, individuals create their own recovery plans. SMART Recovery meetings are becoming more and more popular, so you may be able to find an in-person meeting that is local to you. Additionally, there are also online SMART Recovery meetings available.
SMART also offers specialised meetings for various communities such as veterans, family and friends, and more.
Sober Living Houses
A sober living house is a house that is specifically for people who are in recovery from addiction. Many people enter sober living houses immediately after ending a treatment program.
A sober living house is less structured than a rigorous treatment program. In a sober living house, residents can generally come and go as they please, but often there are certain guidelines to abide by. For instance, there may be curfew, and there may be drug testing involved in order to ensure sobriety. The main rule across all sober living houses is that the residents must maintain their sobriety.
Living in a sober living house is essentially the same as living in your own home, as you are expected to pay rent, buy food, and take care of yourself and your surroundings. This is so important in recovery because typically in active addiction, taking care of yourself falls by the wayside.
People who live in sober living houses have jobs and go to school. The house itself serves as a place to provide ongoing community support and accountability towards sobriety.
Living in a sober house offers a supportive, transitionary environment where you can live with others who are sharing your experience.
Religious and Spiritual Groups
There are many recovery communities that are based on a foundation of various religious beliefs. For instance, you will be able to find Christian and Catholic support groups. You can also find Jewish support groups, such as Jewish Addiction Awareness Network (JAAN) and Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependant Persons, and Significant Others (JACS). Additionally, you can find Buddhist support groups, like the Buddhist Recovery Network and Recovery Dharma.
Entering a support group that is based in your faith can provide a deeper level of connection and healing. This type of recovery community allows you to learn how to access your faith and utilise it to understand and overcome your addiction and maintain your sobriety.
If you don’t follow a specific religion but would still like a foundation of faith in your recovery community, you can also look for faith-based groups.
Additionally, if you don’t identify as being religious but you are instead spiritual, you can find many spiritual-based recovery communities.
If you are atheist, agnostic, or non-religious, there are plenty of recovery communities that may appeal to you. Not only will you find teachings that aren’t rooted in religious or spiritual practices, but you’ll meet other people who share in the same beliefs that you do.
This can contribute to feeling less isolated, more understood, and provide a greater sense of connection while on your recovery journey. Some examples of recovery groups that aren’t rooted in religious principles are LifeRing Secular Recovery and Secular Organisation for Sobriety (SOS).
If you’re in the LGBTQIA+ community, exploring a recovery community specifically for those in the LGBTQIA+ community can be incredibly powerful. Being part of a sexual minority comes with its own challenges regarding stigma and discrimination, each subgroup facing its own unique needs and struggles. Connecting with others in this way can help foster a greater sense of healing and connectedness that will be invaluable on the addiction recovery journey.
Men and women face different sets of barriers, societal pressures, and internal challenges through the process of recovery from addiction.
A recovery community just for women gives women a safe space to be who they are and express how they feel without feeling the pressure to live to societal standards.
Similar for men, who have been boxed in in a different way by society. For example, men traditionally are not allowed to have emotions aside from anger. Pain or sadness is unacceptable and is viewed as “weakness.”
Whereas for women, pain and sadness are acceptable, but anger isn’t.
It can be incredibly helpful to connect with other men and women who can relate to you on this level and share the same struggles. Seeing other men and women be authentically themselves will help you feel more comfortable to be your own self, too.
There are many additional sub-communities you may be able to find that intersect with addiction recovery. Some ideas you can explore are finding a recovery community specifically for moms and dads, veterans, or doctors. Connecting with people with who you closely identify can help add an extra level of community and support to your recovery journey.
Remember, there are many more options available today than there were 20 years ago. Get creative, and see what you can find!
A final word on recovery communities
If you feel nervous about joining a recovery community, rest assured that that is completely normal. Everyone in the recovery community was once where you are, and plenty of people are exactly where you are right now.
Everyone is eager to help support and connect with you. You’re not a burden, and you deserve to feel connected and supported.
If you’re already in therapy or counselling, ask your mental health provider for recommendations on recovery communities near you.
If you can’t find quite what you're looking for, be sure to check out the groups on Recoverlution which is free to join. Here, you’ll find many different communities of people, all interconnected by their journey through recovery.
Additionally, you can start your very own recovery community by creating a group of your own!
Author - Thurga
Alcoholics Anonymous: What its About & How it Works