I read this morning that in British Columbia there were 175 deaths due to drug overdoses in July alone. Canada has a serious challenge managing its propensity to medicate. Just a note as I begin… please don’t ignore this because you are not using opiates, or meth. Alcohol consumption was up over 40% in the first 3 months of the Covid-19 lock down. This is truly an issue for all of us.
As a recovering addict for over 45 years, and working with the vulnerable and hurting, my perspective is that simply shaming, punishing or declaring a “war on drugs” has not and will not work in addressing this country-wide challenge.
What’s the difference between those who get and remain sober, and those who find a measure of sobriety then slide back into old behaviours? If we could predict and capture this, every rehab would be closed due to no demand.
Here are, however, some observations between those who find a healthy place in recovery and those who struggle needlessly.
In a word: “connection”. When I was deep into my meth addiction it was due to the pain I carried from being disconnected from my family.
I had immigrated from England at the age of 14. My mother returned to the UK within 18 months which created a dilemma for me – stay alone, or go home to be with family. Since I never felt a deep connection with either parent I chose to stay. This seemed like a bold move at the ripe old age of 16; in grade 11. I worked an evening job, went to school in the day, and discovered the party life on the weekends. The drinking increased, drugs numbed out the pain of feeling abandoned, and one thing lead to another. Underneath the behaviour was a disconnection from the people I needed to protect and love me. I found acceptance within the drug community.
Johann Hari in his 2 books: Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections, outlines the importance of connection and its relationship to drug usage. Within the AA community it is well know that HALT is an acronym for: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. All significant triggers in dealing with addiction.
Those early days of loosing friendships based on drinking or drug use or of feeling included even if the price was high, is part of the drug culture. The addictive voice that attempts to seduce us into using, that voice in our head that never stops, that seems to be ever present… especially in the early days of recovery.
One of the early indicators of people who “Get SOBER” is the willingness to rebuild community connection, caring relationships based on sobriety. This seems so tame, so pedestrian yet may I say it is so powerful. This is why in the AA NA culture attending meetings is so vital. Saying like 90 meetings in 90 days for the early recovery. This is the AA way of getting people connected. Find sober friends. Coffee becomes the new addiction and around the coffee new friendships formed, based on honest conversations, open dialogue and healthy interaction.
Getting to the initial 90 days of sobriety is an important miles stone. This has been identified as the time many of the new pathways within the brain start to rewire. So getting connected quickly and building a healthy support community is so important for our recovery. Thank you to the many that helped me in the early days I will be forever grateful.
The stories we share allow us to put voice to our thoughts and feelings. They help us describe the things we have seen and done, the moments that matter, the things that have shaped us, and the things that have defined us. Read some of the Transformations Stories here.