The Power of A Sober Community
Addiction is a disease of loneliness. This loneliness, for many, seems to be present long before addiction to drugs and alcohol is present in ones life. I can remember many times throughout my childhood thinking that I was different, believing that I was different. It was as though there was some sort of handbook on how to live and socialize that I just didn’t get.
As I developed into a teenager the social pressure of middle and high school overwhelmed me. I watched others as they seemed to easily attend social functions and maintain relationships, while I was debilitated by fear. Fears of what others thought of me and fears of not being good enough repeated through my brain like a skipping cd. Making my best attempt to excel in sports and school become the ways that I coped with my inability to have the relationships with the people around me, that I felt that I should have. Looking back on those times I am now aware that I was attempting to treat an internal condition of suffering with external achievements. It didn’t work all that well. I survived high school with the notion that upon attending college I would be able to reinvent myself. Everywhere I go, there I am. I was about to find out that this commonly used recovery slogan applied to me too.
When I arrived at college I genuinely believed that this was my chance to change, to be the person I wanted to be. I bought the nicest TV for my dorm room, I set up the nicest speaker system and I wore new expensive clothing…I was finally going to be confident. These external niceties boosted my ego, but that didn’t change anything about the way I felt on the inside. I tried to make new friends, but still felt alone. I tried talking to people in my classes, but still felt alone. I survived like this for 10 weeks and then I found alcohol. Alcohol did for me what I could not do for myself. Alcohol allowed me to temporarily be okay with who I was. The fear of people began to leave me when I drank. I danced for the first time, although it was not a pretty sight. The pressure that I felt to achieve good grades left me as I drank more heavily. These short-lived freedoms from fear began to be more and more necessary as I began to embarrass myself while drinking. I was drinking to black out. The relief from the consciousness of my mind that I experienced while blacked out quickly became my mission. My need for relief became so great that I quickly lost my ability to control the amount of alcohol I took.
The only thing that I had found that allowed me to feel comfortable socially quickly began to isolate me even more. Invitations to social events became few and far between as my behavior while drinking became a liability to those around me. Loneliness overtook me at a new level. This lasted several more years. As my addiction to alcohol and drugs grew I became less able to maintain the front to friends and family that I was okay. I dropped out of school with the intention of returning home to “clean up”. Five days after being home I totaled my car and was arrested for DUI while intoxicated on drugs. I attended an outpatient rehab program while living at home and claiming to be sober. I was drinking any time I thought I could get away with it. During this time I was able to paint the picture that I had somehow now recovered from what was just a “phase” and my family allowed me to go off to school again. Three months later , I was again destitute and needed to return home. The truth is this. I was in such a great denial about truly having a problem with drugs and alcohol because my need to experience the temporary relief it gave me was so overwhelming. The consciousness of my sober mind was a place that a rarely felt comfortable being.
My family began to reach out for help. Fortunately, a cousin of mine was sober as a result of attending Alcoholics Anonymous and taking the necessary steps that were offered there as a program of recovery. She facilitated an intervention that included everyone that cared for me. They read me letters about how my addiction to drugs and alcohol had affected them. This heart wrenching experience is one that I will never forget and will be forever grateful to have experienced. I was proposed two options at the end of this meeting. I had the choice to attend a very well known inpatient rehab facility or go to Alcoholics Anonymous for 30 days every day. Attending 30 AA meetings sounded far less painful, so that’s what I did.
Not knowing what to expect, but having a very distorted idea of what AA was like, I nervously rode with my cousin to our first meeting the following day. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. People there were interested in my well being. They gave me uncomfortable hugs. They seemed genuinely happy. After several weeks of attending the same meeting each day I began to experience a unity with these people that I had not experienced ever before. I started being able to look people in the eyes when they spoke to me and began to carry a smile on my face. Invitations to events outside of meetings began to sound appealing, and I accepted them I was 22 years old and was spending most of my time with people much older than myself, but it was working. I began to enjoy attending meetings and social functions.
Although much of my life experience varied greatly from those around me, it was obvious through how people shared in meetings that we were all suffering from the same illness. It was obvious that at one time they had felt exactly the way I had felt my entire life. They had felt alone, fearful and not good enough… but that had changed in them. This began to change in me too. My daily contact with these people allowed me to begin carrying my newfound confidence out into the world beyond the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. You see, when I arrived, I was under the impression that recovery from my addiction was just about quitting using drugs and alcohol. What I quickly learned, was that this was just the beginning of a much larger transformative process. The internal condition that I was suffering from, the condition that I tried to treat with achievement, nice personal possessions and finally drugs and alcohol had been with me my entire life. Recovery happened in my life in large part to being able to experience togetherness with the people around me for the first time in my life.
Unique to my situation was one very important detail. My cousin Teresa. She took me to every meeting, introduced me to all her friends and she allowed me to tag along with her. She introduced me to my first sponsor. She encouraged me to introduce myself as a newcomer in the program. She was my link between the world I had always lived in and the new one I was becoming a part of. There is no way I would have had the experience that I did without her help. The intensity of social fear and disconnect that I felt would have carried right into that room if she wasn’t there to dampen it. Most who need recovery, or even seek recovery, aren’t so lucky like I was.
For this reason, sober living homes have become the universally recognized bridge for those seeking recovery. Sober living homes facilitate rapid friendship and give structure to a process that can be nearly impossible for the terrified addict newly in recovery to do alone. There is an immensely large range of types of sober living homes in San Diego, but when I started Shoreline Sober Living San Diego, it was with this goal in mind: To facilitate quick access to the unity and fellowship found in the sober community, for those who haven’t experienced it yet. Recovery homes are a dime a dozen in southern California, and not every home is the perfect fit for each individual.
We encourage you to search thoroughly; ask friends, family and professionals for sober living recommendations. Throughout the San Diego sober living recovery community there are certainly homes that stand out for their excellent work, and even if our sober living home isn’t the right fit for you, we will help you find the one you seek.
Founder, Shoreline Sober Living