Recovery is a choose-your-own adventure novel. Each choice leads me further away from (or closer towards) a drink or drug. That doesn’t mean my choices need to look like anyone else’s.
Once I got some time between myself and drugs, and drinking, I found the courage and self-interest to speak up for myself about what I needed and what wasn’t serving me in sobriety. This placed me in the cabin of a ship I hadn’t considered steering before: the ship of my life, floating down the superhighway of the universe. I’d been a passive passenger in this ship for so long, cruising and drugging and boozing. I hadn’t realized I could speak up about what I needed in order to get better.
But now I’m here, 8 years later. I haven’t picked up drugs, or a drink. And part of that is because I built my own recovery world, my own toolkit full of tools I knew I’d actually use. I placed in this toolkit all the community, medical, and spiritual support I needed. When a ritual didn’t feel good to me, I abandoned it, and made my own.
Recovery shouldn’t be a one size fits all plan. Here are 6 reasons why my journey won’t (and shouldn’t) look like anyone else’s:
1. Recovery, like life, is a journey, not a destination.
I’ve gone through phases in recovery. When I first got sober, the young people’s recovery community sucked me up like a sponge. I made lifelong friends, many of whom are still my besties today. Then I got busy, and older, and drifted. I got sick, and searched for meaning. I went to classes at a Buddhist temple. I went to therapy. I took a mindfulness-based stress reduction course. Now, I’m plugged in with 12-step meetings again.
Other people? Other paths. Other life events. Other journeys.
2. We didn’t all struggle with the same addictions (or addictive behaviors), so we won’t all recover in the same way.
I can’t drink or use any substance safely. I know that. That’s my personal choice. That’s what my recovery looks like today. For someone else, who has a problem with pain pills or heroin, they might know they can’t take opiates safely. Everything else they do? That’s their recovery, and it’s up to them.
3. Cold turkey, hot turkey, tofurkey — medication is here, and the science doesn’t care what you think about it.
I would have quit pain pills cold turkey if I could. Detoxing off of them taxed the body and the brain in ways I’m relieved to never go through again. I tried, many times, to detox cold turkey. But I always, always, broke down and used. I finally received medication to assist me in my detox. That was my recovery.
The science supports using medication to assist with detox from opiates and other pain pills. If someone who isn’t able to detox on their own chooses to use evidence-backed medication to help detox, stabilize them, and prevent their risk of relapse, that’s their recovery. It might not look like yours, or mine, but it’s their path. And it’s one science backs up.
4. Different people have different co-occurring stuff.
I wish we could all put down the dope and ditch everything else with it. But that’s rarely the case. We often have other stuff going on. Like other addictions, or mental health issues that we were taking drugs or drinking to self-medicate.
All that stuff needs treatment. Treatment will look different for everyone. I had anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. I still do have all these things, to this day. I get medical help for this, and my doctors and I talk about what medications I’m comfortable taking or not taking in sobriety.
It’s common to find out once you get your main addiction under control, a secondary risky behavior appears. In the Workit program, you choose a main addiction, and a secondary behavior or substance. You can focus on your first addiction, while not forgetting that secondary concern.
5. Introverts and extroverts might have different recovery needs.
Introverts recharge with quiet time, but socializing defines most of our current recovery world. I didn’t even realize I was an introvert until I quit using and drinking. Addiction can twist our ideas of who we are in strange ways. I imagined myself as the life of the party, loving every weekend out. It took me a few years in sobriety to realize I loved to rest at home with a book.
When I went to an international young people’s conference, I took time to recharge in my hotel room. I confused people with my inability to keep up with the fervor of connection at the conference 24/7. But that’s okay. Connection can mean one on one time spent getting a coffee with a supportive friend, or calling in to an online support group.
Not sure about what ‘vert’ you are after kicking your addiction? Take a peek inside our online program with this free preview exercise, Pick Your Vert.
6. Different support groups work for different people.
I love AA. I consider myself an alcoholic, and even though I also used drugs and was an addict (or someone with severe substance use disorder, in medical community lingo) I go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly and feel at home in them (I’d love to change the anonymous part, but hey – I still go!). I chose AA because they had the most meetings near me. People in those meetings seemed to be happy and sober long term. I tried getting sober without a support group or sober social when I was younger, but I ended up miserable and lonely.
But that was my journey, and it doesn’t have to be yours. If you’re looking for a different type of support group to suit your needs, you’re living in the perfect time to find it, or make it if it doesn’t exist yet.
I can’t even list everything that is out there: CA is popular in my area (for open talk of drugs but with use of the AA text instead of the NA text), Yoga of 12-Step Recovery is gaining traction all over, Against the Stream is a Buddhist meditation group, SMART Recovery is an additional support group, Women for Sobriety is a female-founded recovery movement, Secular Organizations for Sobriety is bringing together secular recovery groups, and Moderation Management offers moderation support.
What if you want support that you aren’t getting? Nothing is a more powerful act of self-care than creating the recovery community you need. If you’re looking for connection with certain people in your area, chances are there others out there are seeking the exact same thing. Use meetup.com or start a new 12-step meeting in the fellowship of your choice. Be the recovery you want, for yourself and for others.
The future of recovery from addiction is here. We may not have jetpacks rocketing us to a new spiritual dimension or a button to press for an instant detox. But online meetings are only a keystroke away, and scientists know which genes cause someone to become hooked on tobacco. It’s time to stop judging people for the paths they take on their journeys into recovery. Recovery is like childhood, in many ways. It’s discovering how to live, who you are, and what works for you. And then doing it, every day.