Few people understand what it means to be in recovery like those who travel the same path. Like any shared experience, choosing health over destructive behaviors creates a bond that enriches life experiences and presents new opportunities.
“I Got You”
In a 2021 article for Forbes, sociologist Tracy Bower explored why sharing hard times helps people create stronger bonds and greater happiness. She notes that “we have deeper engagement when we go through tough experiences. We have to consider the conditions we’re in, think through our response, consider impacts on others, solve problems and improvise.”
While challenging circumstances tend to be more memorable, so too are the people who share them with us. “We remember the friend who stayed in touch. We hold close the colleague who needed our support when she was struggling,” Bower writes. “Pain is a shared experience and it is the combination of deeper processing and more memorable circumstances which tend to link us with others.” These forged bonds are a type of solidarity.
On United Methodist Insight, Morgan Guyton wrote in 2017 about the importance of solidarity in her sobriety. “Being in recovery is like being in an ocean in the middle of a category five hurricane locking arms with a giant island of people holding onto each other for dear life who collectively rise and fall with the thirty foot waves and survive because they are all linked.”
There is nothing, she adds, like sitting in a circle with people whose sobriety and survival depends on her being there with them. “The person who comes to AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] for the first time is just as important as the person who has been in the program 40 years.”
The slang phrase “I got you” is often enough for people to feel not only heard, but understood. When it entered the mainstream lexicon, it’s definition expanded to imply additional meanings such as “I’ve got your back” and “I’ve got you covered.” These are essential messages to an individual striving to overcome addiction, especially if they’ve never experienced such support before.
Making Vital Connections to Thrive
The Society for Personality and Social Psychology indicates there are five primary factors to better well-being:
- Eudaimonic: which includes having a purpose and “progressing toward meaningful life goals.”
- Hedonic: often defined as happiness or life satisfaction.
- Physical: such as maintaining a healthy weight and participating in exercise and nutritional wellness.
- Psychological: which relates to an overall positive self-regard and absence or better management of mental health symptoms or disorders.
- Social: having “deep and meaningful human connections, faith in others and humanity, and positive interpersonal expectancies.”
For some people, especially those in recovery, the ability to accomplish each stage of well-being as outlined takes time and effort. Individuals who might not have a foundation in these practices and are building from the ground up often struggle with elements such as acceptance, belonging, trust, and self-love.
Having a Support Network
Let’s use one wellness factor above as an example of how it can lead to better, more supportive relationships.
- While at an inpatient rehabilitation facility, you and another person start daily morning walks together, as outlined in your continuum of care plan. At first, you’re both a bit out of shape, more than a little sarcastic about whether these walks will do any good, and even grumpy that you can’t hang out in the lounge watching TV with your coffee.
- For more than a month, the two of you complete your goal to walk each day, often talking about the progress of your treatment and sharing stories of what led you to this place in life.
- Then, your walking buddy leaves the center and goes back home a couple of hours away. You still have a few weeks left in your stay. Although you continue to walk each morning, you miss the conversations shared with your pal. Once you return home, you appreciate this small but necessary ritual, as you accept that exercise is important for continued recovery, especially for your peace of mind.
- Then, you attend a facility alumni event, and surprise! There’s your former walking buddy! The two of you joke about those first early mornings and how much you initially dreaded the routine, but then profess that not only have you kept up with it, but also that you both appreciated keeping each other on task and sharing attention. You fall back into an easy rhythm.
- Although you live in different cities, you make a plan to do a couch-to-5K program together in three months.
So why might this scenario help you thrive?
- Although the two of you come from different backgrounds, you worked together to accept one another in the present.
- Sharing an activity at the facility formed an initial sense of belonging that created a bond.
- Opening up about your experiences helped establish trust and deepened that bond.
- Focusing on your physical health was a form of self-love recognized and appreciated by your walking buddy—so much so, it created a bridge toward a life goal the two of you could share.
The alumni event was a catalyst to building a stronger relationship with someone who knows what you’ve been through, sees possibility in the future, and wants to move forward, not only like you, but with you.
The Power of Community at Willingway
Some people might think of their time in rehab as when they hit rock bottom. But only through the power of relationships in recovery can you reframe the experience as one full of opportunity—not only for well-being, but for newfound trust and stability with people who understand.
At Willingway, our wellness philosophy is rooted in the power of community support, which is why we have numerous continuing care meetings throughout the southeast and celebratory alumni events. Once you’re here, you’re part of a family dedicated to acceptance and positive growth, with endless resources for your wellbeing. Ask us why this will make a difference in your life.