The Importance of Sober Support
By Daniel Wittler
I spent nearly 6 years trying to get sober and utterly failing. I would go into treatment feeling like I never want to touch a drug again and then a month out of treatment I would find myself relapsing without any hesitation. Why was that? I could come up with a laundry list of reasons, but at the very top of that list would be, I tried to get sober all on my own.
Getting out of treatment is a terrifying time in life. You feel good but once you are in the real world you remember what it feels like to be full of fear and anxiety. The old response was to just use some substances and numb myself out to make those bad feelings go away. Now I was being asked to truly deal with my feelings in a healthy manner and I had no idea how to do that. I needed to find someone to teach me.
Meeting a stranger and asking them to help change your entire life is a tall order though. For years, I would get out of treatment, go to a few meetings, maybe say hi to one person and then leave right before the meeting ended so I didn’t have to speak to anyone. Inevitably I would resort to just isolating in my bedroom, telling myself tomorrow I would start meeting people and going down that road. Tomorrow was my favorite word, tomorrow I will start my new life but today i’m just going to relax.
Within a few weeks of telling myself tomorrow, I would come up with the idea of getting high. It sounded fun and I knew it would get rid of the terrible anxious feeling I always had. Even when I knew getting high meant I would get kicked out of the sober living I was staying in, I still did it. I would tell myself I’ll get away with it or just deny it and then go do it. I always got caught, I always got kicked out and was homeless. Insanity.
I wish I could understand the triggers that would set me off into a relapse, but that’s the problem, I could never discover this stuff on my own, I needed someone's help. In 2015, I finally realized I had to do things differently. I had to do everything differently. The first step of change meant meeting someone who was going to guide me out of the mess.
I had all of these beliefs on how terrible and awkward it would be to meet a stranger in something like AA and talk to them about my most personal events in my life. I could not have been more wrong. I remember one night, fresh out of treatment, going to a monday night meeting and promising myself I would engage in conversation with someone. The first person I began to talk to continued to have a conversation with me for 45 minutes. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to talk to and connect with them.
Not only was it easy, I asked him to be my sponsor and he was the one who took me through the steps and was my sponsor for the first 2 years. There were a few lessons to be learned that monday night. One was that my fears are often very irrational and far from the truth. For years I had feared that talking to new people in recovery would be like pulling teeth. In reality, talking to others, no matter how different they are from you on the surface, is incredibly easy when you have that common denominator of being in recovery. I have rarely find a person that was hard to talk to in recovery.
Once I found my sponsor, he introduced me to a large amount of people with years sober. This was surely a better group of people for me to lean on than the guys I lived in halfway with who were not very determined to do the right thing. The key to me working with a sponsor was that I no longer made all the decisions in my life. Along with trying to get sober alone my whole life, I also came up with all my decisions in life and no matter how good my intentions were it always led me to relapse.
My support network and sponsor got me through all of my bad days and crossroads in early recovery. When I was facing something that was difficult for me to process, the absolute first thing I would do is reach out to them and ask what they think and what I should do. Did they always have the answers? No, but there is something about getting your problems out into the universe with people you trust that immediately makes you feel better.
If you are struggling in early recovery, who are you surrounding yourself with? Are you surrounded with people who are more interested in finding a new relationship than completely changing their life and building a new one. You are who you surround yourself with in recovery, and unfortunately a lot of people are not there to do the right things. On the same note, the people who are doing the right thing are very easy to pick out. This type of people want you to reach out to them for help. Surround yourself with winners, and you will become a winner yourself.