I’ve got an important question for you today.
When was the last time you tried to do something really, really challenging on your own, without any help or support and without telling anyone you know?
It sounds a bit crazy, right? After all, if you were trying to lose weight, get fit or quit smoking, it’s unlikely you’d do it in secret. When it comes to most lifestyle changes, we actively seek out support, advice and accountability. Yet for some reason, when it comes to sobriety, most of us do the exact opposite.
Instead of reaching out, we hide away.
Instead of talking, we isolate.
In my early attempts at sobriety, I spoke to no one. I hardly dared google the topic never mind utter the words aloud. I bought the odd book here and there but that was about it. I spent an awful lot of time thinking about my drinking, with the same thoughts going round and round my head. I was convinced it was a puzzle I could solve on my own, if I just tried hard enough.
Next week it will be three years since I last had a drink. (Three years! It has flown by.) Looking back, I can see that whilst there have been many things that helped me stop, there is one main tool that stands out above the rest. It’s the thing you’ll be reluctant to do because it will push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you.
It’s the one strategy that almost everyone overlooks at first and it’s this: connecting with other people.
In Johann Hari’s book Chasing The Scream he says “the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s human connection.” Human beings are social animals. Just as we have a basic need for food and shelter, we also have a basic need to belong to a group and form relationships.
There is huge power in talking to others and having them listen or nod with recognition. Whilst it’s not impossible to change your drinking on your own, it certainly is hard. And it can be terribly lonely.
So where can you find this sense of connection, when it feels as if no one in your day-to-day life understands?
Here are 5 suggestions:
- Write a blog. You can set one up for free on WordPress. Writing is a great tool because it gives you the chance to make sense of your own thoughts whilst reaching out to others. You can be as anonymous as you like.
- Join a Facebook group. There are hundreds of support groups on Facebook which you can request to join. Most big cities have a group. (You might want to change your privacy settings first, so friends can’t see which groups you’re a member of.)
- Search for online forums. There are so many websites and chat rooms, even Reddit has a forum dedicated to sobriety.
- Go to a meeting. Now it’s not often you’ll hear me suggest this. But, no matter what you think about the content of 12 step programmes, they are a good place to meet people. You never know who you might strike up a connection with.
- Focus on finding one real life person you can be 100% honest with. It’s really helpful to have someone in your life who gets what it’s like to be you – someone who knows the whole story. This could be a friend, partner or even a counsellor or coach.
Now I’d love to hear from you.
What action are you going to take this week in order to connect with other people? You can never have too much support. Is there anything that’s worked for you that you’d love to share? Let me know in the comments!
I joined an online sober community when I was about 10 days sober. It was most certainly the best thing I could possibly have done to help myself stay on track. The feeling of connecting for the first time with people who have similar goals and experiences is something I will never forget. To find you’re not alone,and to get (and give) support,advice and inspiration has been very powerful. I have now been sober for 11 weeks and I know that those people I’ve spoken with online have contributed to my success… I don’t know how I would have got this far without them.
Congratulations on your 11 weeks Lizzy! Sounds like a sober community has done wonders for you – being able to get and give advice is really powerful. Keep up the great work!
I’m also on week 11
When I first got sober in 2014, I joined a local Buddhist community and it helped tremendously.
After a move and a job loss, I have relapsed.
I have chalked it up to personal weakness, but it is more probably human disconnection.
I don’t think personal weakness has much to do with it – changing your drinking is more about having the right tools. The connection and support of others is an important tool and one that has clearly helped you in the past. I think it might be time to find a new community!
Just starting the sobriety journey. It’s certainly a scary thing. It’s also come at a very stressful time in my life (middle of divorce proceedings from my emotionally abusive husband of 28 years…among other things) but I have to do it now. So happy to have found The Sober School as I am not ready for meetings yet. I’ll be back!