Episode 18 - The Gift of Community
Give Yourself the Gift of Community
Make connections to help support you as you battle addiction
If you are struggling with addiction or have an addict in your family, going it alone is never a good idea. I was fortunate in many ways that when my 14-year old daughter began her struggle, I had close friends that were there for me who had watched Laura grow up and knew I needed help. And people were there for me throughout the 15 years we battled the disease, and in the end when she overdosed and died.
You need help and support around you to give you perspective, a sanity check, relief and acceptance and that comes by finding a community that you can connect to. Communities help us feel connected and a part of something, but they also have strong benefits when it comes to helping you as you battle the disease of addiction for yourself or for a loved one.
Communities allow us to benefit from the lessons others have learned so we don’t have to learn from our own mistakes. Communities can inspire us when we watch members achieve things that go right in their lives. Communities give us contacts we can call on when we need help. Knowing others that are going through the same things we are, learning from them and getting their support is a very important gift that you can give yourself.
Our company, InterAct LifeLine, supports collegiate recovery communities, organized groups for people in recovery on college campuses. The gift of belonging to those communities as a student is a higher graduation rate, a higher GPA, a much lower return to substance misuse and frankly, friends you keep your entire life.
For those struggling with addiction, finding communities of sober, like-minded people promotes healthy social interaction replacing the circle of people that misused substances with others that you can connect with without worrying about being around drugs or alcohol. Communities provide support when counseling is not available, and its people are often just a phone call away.
But if you are a family member that is helping a loved one fight addiction, finding communities of other family members may not be as obvious as it is for the person who is finding community in addiction support groups. Here are a few ideas for where to go find the gift of community.
Connect to online support groups. Social media can be a powerful tool to find others that are going through the same challenges you are, share your thoughts without judgment, and find strategies that help you move forward. For me, I belong to several Facebook groups focused on loss of a loved one from overdose. The stories I read are sad, but also reminders of how many of us are turning grief into purpose trying to make a difference in the lives of others. All it takes on Facebook is to access groups, enter keywords to find groupa that you relate to the most and ask to join.
Find a support community in Al-Anon or other organizations. Most of us have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, AA and NA, but did you know that the same organization has support groups for families who have a loved one battling addiction? It’s called Al-Anon that uses the same 12-step philosophy to help families heal. If 12-Step is not your thing, then there are many other ways to connect to family support groups. If you just google “family support groups for addiction” you will get links to a number of support communities and likely find those who have meetings in your area.
Find a non-profit focused group on family support. As I mentioned earlier, I lost a daughter to overdose and found a non-profit called Compassionate Friends that focuses on helping families cope with loss. SAMSHA, a government organization focused on substance abuse and mental health, has a national hotline that can connect families to support organizations. (1-800-662-HELP). There is Parents of Addicted Loved Ones or PAL for short with a national directory of meetings in your area which have both an educational component and time for sharing. The list goes on and on, but these non-profits are here to help, connect you to others who are going through the same issue, and are easily found online.
And don’t forget about the support group you already know, your family and friends. The people closest to you may not be fully aware of how you struggle, so they often seem to sit on the sidelines until you ask them to jump in. They may not be able to empathize at the level you would like them to because it’s hard to understand unless you have experienced coping with an addicted loved one, so it’s up to you to paint a picture of how your life has changed and what you struggle with. And it’s also important that you are clear about the type of help you need. Do you just need a friendly ear to air out your issues? Are you asking for them to weigh in on what they think you should do? Do you need a partner to help you solve a problem? Or do you just need a break to focus on something that’s fun and normal?
Often when we struggle with addiction, it seems right to hide what is going on because we are ashamed, shy about sharing our struggles, and don’t believe we can find people to understand and support us. However, this thought process is counterproductive to helping you manage through what is arguably one of the most difficult challenges you will face. The gift of community is powerful, keeps you centered, helps you with strategies and most importantly, reminds you that you are not the only one struggling. Communities reinforce the fact that you are not alone in this fight.