Your Tribe

“Traumatic events destroy the sustaining bonds between individual and  community. Those who have survived learn that their sense of self, of worth, of humanity, depends upon a feeling of connection with others. The solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience. Trauma isolates; the group re-creates a sense of belonging. Trauma shames and stigmatizes; the group bears witness and affirms. Trauma degrades the victim; the group exalts her. Trauma dehumanizes the victim; the group restores her humanity.

Repeatedly in the testimony of survivors there comes a moment when a sense of connection is restored by another person’s unaffected display of generosity. Something in herself that the victim believes to be irretrievably destroyed—faith, decency, courage—is reawakened by an example of common altruism. Mirrored in the actions of others, the survivor recognizes and reclaims a lost part of herself. At that moment, the survivor begins to rejoin the human commonality…”    Judith Lewis Herman

Communities provide us with the emotional support we need in recovery as we undergo a complete life transition. Addiction interfered with every part of our experience. It will take years to make a complete shift to good health. It took years for addiction to undermine everything. Addiction recovery is undergoing a seismic change. Having surrendered treatment to the medical field who basically used the 12 step recovery model, the field is being revitalized to encompass all aspects of our lives–mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

The foundation for addiction/mental health recovery is community. Finding your “tribe” who share your life experiences is needed daily. I am an alcoholic because I used alcohol to run away from the emptiness of depression. Alcohol made me feel alive. It also made me crazier. So I quit drinking Nov. 24, 1976.     

Finding my recovery tribe has been hard. Having belonged to several different 12 step recovery groups, I have not found a place where I can talk about my dual diagnosis–alcoholism and depression. 50% of those in the rooms have both–addiction and mental illness. I believe most of what is labeled “relapse” is really untreated mental illness. Sad, but true. Mental illness is a taboo topic at 12 step addiction recovery meetings. How can we recover if we can’t be honest?

24,000,000 of us in the US are in recovery. According to a survey done by AA, about 10% of us go to a 12 step group. I think this unwillingness to face the reality of how complex addiction is has led to 90% of us feeling that we don’t belong there.  

I continue to use the 12 steps for my life’s foundation. Facebook has been such a rich place to build new community for me. As I write this (April, 2019), my Facebook Page, Emotional Sobriety, has received 11,000 souls who use our page to connect with each other. Plus many online groups offer specific companionship about various addiction recovery topics.

“Traumatic events destroy the sustaining bonds between individual and  community. Those who have survived learn that their sense of self, of worth, of humanity, depends upon a feeling of connection with others. The solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience. Trauma isolates; the group re-creates a sense of belonging. Trauma shames and stigmatizes; the group bears witness and affirms. Trauma degrades the victim; the group exalts her. Trauma dehumanizes the victim; the group restores her humanity.”

“Repeatedly in the testimony of survivors there comes a moment when a sense of connection is restored by another person’s unaffected display of generosity. Something in herself that the victim believes to be irretrievably destroyed—faith, decency, courage—is reawakened by an example of common altruism. Mirrored in the actions of others, the survivor recognizes and reclaims a lost part of herself. At that moment, the survivor begins to rejoin the human commonality…”    Judith Lewis Herman

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