The first word of the first step is “We” and that isn’t by coincidence. There is a TedTalk out there in the internet world that talks about how addiction isn’t moral ineptitude or a lack of humanity but is instead the absence of connection. We get so disconnected from everything and everyone during our use, that we can no longer differentiate the true from the false. Our life seems the only normal one because when we DO associate with others, we usually choose those who use how we do.
This is why having sober supports when we make the decision to stop is so vital to our recovery.
What is a Sober Support?
This is not someone who will try to be your parent, your parol officer, or your higher power. A sober support is someone who has also been through the wringer, has come out the other side, and is living a more or less happy, joyous, and free existence. Chances are, they got this way through:
- Working the steps
- Engaging in the fellowship
- Having a belief in a higher power
- Communicating with their own sober supports
In the grand scheme of things, we are very different from our “normal” fellows. Sure, non-addicts and alcoholics can empathize with us, they can understand why if THAT thing happened to us, we would use over it. However, non-addicts and alcoholics will never understand the depths of the darkness that we have to crawl through in order to be able to get out of bed or hold a simple conversation.
Getting sober can be a pretty strange experience, especially for first-timers. There are new obligations and responsibilities that people expect of you, and dealing with all of these without drugs and alcohol can be tough. Left to our own devices, of course, we would relapse. We don’t know any other way.
Having a group of sober supports around us, to call when we feel angry or stressed, to vent to when we are frustrated with life, or to show us that we CAN have fun again, is essential to getting through the early days.
People to hold you accountable
Human beings are pack animals. We were never designed to be alone all of the time, no matter how tough or capable we think we are. With us, the problems don’t live “out there”, they live inside of our minds, and they speak to us in our own voice. They tell us we won’t make it, or that no one wants us around. Having sober supports who can call out the crazy and remind us what is real is extremely grounding for us, especially when everything seems to be falling apart.
Strong sober supports, who have been through similar situations and remained sober, or relapsed over it and came back, can provide us with a different perspective than the one we are most likely trapped in. They can remind us to be grateful or to take action. They can remind us to be patient or to keep our heads down and keep moving.
Sharing life experiences
At one point or another, you will hear the phrase “terminal uniqueness” being thrown around in the rooms. When people say this, what they mean is that, we all think that no one else has felt what we have, or experienced what we have, and we use it as a tool to keep ourselves distant and separate from everyone else. It is a learned defense mechanism that we all use to keep ourselves safe.
That being said, when we find sober supports who we can connect and share with, we learn that just about everything we experience in sobriety, someone else has already been through. The frustrations in the halfway house, the insanity around relationships, the torment of your first mindless sober job. Someone else has been there. Being able to share, vent, and laugh about these things with someone who has been through it already is a huge relief.
Experience with the steps
Something that every single one of us must complete, if we wish to stay sober, is working the 12 steps. Upon the wall, with zero experience of our own working them, they can seem pretty impossible, something we will never be able to accomplish. When we find sober supports who have worked the steps themselves, we are able to gain insight into what to expect, how to work them, and how to find a sponsor to take us through.
What to Look for in Sober support
In an ideal world, your friends and your sober supports should be the same thing, however, this is not always the case. For many of us, our friends in early sobriety are often the people we went to inpatient rehab with and the people in our halfway house. This is all well and good, but the problem here lies in the fact that everybody around you has about the same sober time, the same sober experiences, and not much of a real solution.
The best place to start looking for sober supports is in a sponsor. When picking a sponsor, it is important to find someone who has:
- Worked the 12 steps with their sponsor
- Had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps
- Continue to live their daily life in a manner that aligns itself with how a sober person with integrity should be living
That’s it. It doesn’t matter what kind of car they drive or if they have the newest watch or purse or shoes. What matters is that they work this program, and can help you work it too.
After you find a sponsor, it will be helpful to make other friends and connections with people in the rooms who have more time, more experience, and more serenity than you and your rehab friends. These are the folks who you will call when your sponsor is bugging you, your friend is flirting with your crush, or when you don’t want to admit to anyone that you’re struggling.
Sober supports who have been through the steps, live a sober life, and continue to be involved in the rooms and in the program will pick you up and carry you through when you cannot do it yourself. If you haven’t surrounded yourself with people like this, you are doing your own sobriety a major disservice.