No one recovers from addiction alone.
Addiction is often spoken of in the recovery community as a “disease of isolation.” Public health experts refer to the opioid epidemic as a “disease of despair.” People drink alcohol to feel a part of things, to bridge a wide gap of alienation they feel between themselves and other people — or they drink to deal with the isolation and loneliness that results from continual substance abuse. Young men often find it difficult to admit to or recognize an addiction problem when they’re surrounded by peers who drink or do drugs with abandon. They may feel like their inability to control their substance abuse is a personal failing, a lack of willpower, or even that it’s unmanly.
Even people who do realize they have a problem are often unsure where to turn. They may ask: Will anyone understand? Will people judge me? Is it even possible to get sober? And if it is possible to get sober, will my sober life be any better — or will it be another form of agony? Alone, despairing of answers, most people go on abusing drugs and alcohol, resigned to their fates.
Recovering from an alcohol or drug addiction is simply not possible alone. The stigma surrounding addiction drives many people, however, to fight it in solitude. There is a prevailing belief in our culture that addiction is a personal failing or weakness, that the best way to stop abusing drugs or alcohol is to try harder. Young men are often pressured by ideas of “manning up” and just quitting. While some people do sometimes manage to stay away from their substances of choice for a few days, a few months, or even years, most can’t even muster a few hours. Many find themselves in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type situation — at war with themselves — constantly quitting and then relapsing. The vast majority don’t even get that far.
The fact is, addiction, known in the medical community as substance use disorder, is a legitimate mental health condition. Drugs and alcohol actually alter areas of the brain that control motivation and decision-making. As a result, no amount of individual willpower or determination is enough for someone with a substance use disorder to cure themselves. The only way to get relief is to seek outside help from other people.
When young men move into Design for Recovery’s sober living home, they are immediately welcomed into a community of other young men who have had similar struggles. The relationships that residents develop at Design for Recovery are the foundation of their sobriety. In fact, a large body of research exists showing that strong involvement in a sobriety-focused social network is one of the strongest predictors of outcome during recovery. At Design for Recovery, residents and staff alike understand that unique struggles that come from addiction, helping new residents feel connected and less alone. They are also all equally committed to staying sober. Together, residents support each other in making a journey of recovery that they would be unable to make alone. It is a difficult journey, but in the company of others it is also filled with laughter, joy, and warmth.
Design for Recovery emphasizes one-on-one mentoring as a crucial aspect of recovery. Young men new to sobriety have much to learn from someone who has been down the same road. It is also our belief that residents who have accumulated some amount of sober time benefit greatly from mentoring newly sober young men. Sharing the gift of sobriety, being a leader, and working with someone whose struggles with addiction are more raw and pressing, is the best way to remain sober long term and avoid relapse.
For many addicts new to recovery, the removal of drugs and alcohol is just the first step in a long process of rebuilding a broken life. Addiction tends to trap the addict in their own personal hell—where nothing else matters but the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain found only in their drug of choice. Over time, life slowly passes us by. When the mind of the addict is so narrowly-focused on one thing—that is, the acquisition of more drugs or alcohol—there is often little room for learning other essential life skills necessary to live functionally and successfully in society. Basically, we lose ground and the seemingly trivial tasks that others complete with relative ease—like applying for jobs, developing a resume, paying bills, waking up on time, sticking to a budget—seem so daunting or unattainable. Furthermore, some addicts may face even more pressing issues, like pending legal trouble, lingering toxic relationships, or the inability to cope with certain emotions they can no longer numb in early sobriety. They may struggle to find passion or purpose in life to fill the huge void left after drugs are expunged from the system.
This is why one-on-one mentoring is crucially important in a sober living environment. It ensures that each recovering addict is better prepared to meet the challenges of everyday life and receives the individualized attention they deserve.
Even outside the sober living environment, Design for Recovery works to make sure that residents are developing important relationships to facilitate their long term recovery. At daily 12-step meetings, Design for Recovery residents build friendships and connections to people throughout the Los Angeles recovery community. Many take on sponsors, or more experienced sober individuals who have finished working through the 12-steps, who help them navigate the difficult terrain of early sobriety. These relationships, like the relationships residents make inside their sober living home, will continue to be an invaluable resource even years after graduating from Design for Recovery.
As time passes and an individual gets surer footing in their sobriety, many young men are shocked to find themselves becoming leaders and mentors to others. This is perhaps the greatest gift of sobriety. Only months after arriving at Design for Recovery broken, despondent, and hopeless, it can be quite rewarding to find that new residents are approaching you because they want what you have. Happiness is often intangible, and early sobriety is full of ups and downs, but when someone is suffering and they look to you as an example of someone who’s made it, that is often when the realization dawns on you that you have began to overcome your addiction.
Addiction does not discriminate. It has no inherent prejudices. It affects individuals from all walks of life and geographic locations. The issues many addicts face are unique to them. These issues must be addressed uniquely, with diligent and delicate care.
They say the only impossible journey is the one we never start. Don’t start this journey alone. Millions of recovered addicts know what it is like to walk a mile in your shoes. Let us guide the way.