Substance use disorder (SUD) can be a deeply isolating experience. You most likely feel like no one around you understands what you are enduring, even those who are closest to you. It can feel like no one has experienced what you are going through, and you are uniquely alone in your struggles.
That type of loneliness can make the path to recovery seem like a bleak road rather than a celebrated journey. In recovery, the peaks are extraordinary, but the valleys can be devastating. You might feel that even the most supportive people in your life are not able to fully grasp those highs and lows because they do not have the same insight and experience you have. This might lead you to wish you had someone who understands it on the same level as you do and can recognize how difficult it can be and how hard you are working to make a substance-free life possible.
The Importance of Advocacy
Fortunately, even if it is hard to imagine, you are not alone. It may be the case that no one in your family or friend group is working to overcome addiction, but that does not mean that others in your community are not pursuing that same goal. With the infinite level of connection afforded to us by technology, a community can span the nation or world, not just your city or neighborhood. This means that there are people out there who are willing to share in your wins and losses, even if they do not share the same physical space as you.
Part of what drives us toward recovery is that sense of togetherness and the reminder that it is possible. Without success stories, writing off recovery as an impossible feat can be easy. Amid addiction, nothing is more challenging than stopping substance use and confronting the cascade of side effects.
Advocacy Provides Motivation
Only having a fuzzy and abstract image of what recovery might look like sometimes is not enough to motivate us, as it can feel like there is no guarantee the effort is worth the reward. Connecting with others can introduce you to role models who have been where you are and made the journey you are embarking on, yet they have made it back to tell the tale.
That type of motivation is invaluable and can be a powerful tool in your recovery. There are many ways to tap into the wealth of wisdom from people who have recovered. You can seek out memoirs from individuals who have recovered from SUD and engage with their stories that way.
Additionally, numerous online forums, blogs, and social networks are dedicated to furthering the message that recovery is possible. These avenues also allow interaction that is impossible when reading something like a memoir. Support groups are another way of learning about the recovery process and both receiving validation from others about your progress and learning from those more knowledgeable than you.
Advocacy Can Enable You to Give Back
Some people find that a valuable part of their recovery is to guide others through advocacy. Just as the stories of others may have inspired you, you can offer hope to those early in the process. If that is not something you are interested in, there is nothing wrong with that either. Maybe it is something you would rather leave in your past and move forward without focusing on it. It also might be too painful to tell your story and relive what you went through or to see people who are actively struggling with something that once consumed your life.
How to Get Involved
For some, it can be a way of finding meaning in the pain they endured by using it for good. Various non-profit agencies provide education and support at the local, state, and federal levels. Some organizations include Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). You can get involved as a peer support group facilitator, event or crisis line volunteer, or public speaker. There are also opportunities to participate in fundraising and lobbying for change at the political level, whether that looks like speaking with legislators or campaigning for a political candidate with an agenda that supports mental health.
If you are the loved one of someone in recovery from substance abuse, you can also participate in advocacy. Many family-centered support groups and classes need experienced facilitators and members. You can also participate in political advocacy, fundraising for treatment research, and campaigns to reduce the effects of stigma.
Another opportunity to advocate for others is to serve as a sponsor for someone going through the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program. With all you have learned in your journey, you have important lessons to teach those without experience. You can help anchor someone to their goals and remind them what they have to look forward to in recovery.
Advocating for Yourself
If you are still in the early stages of recovery, you might not be ready to help others, which is perfectly acceptable. You should focus on being your greatest advocate. This can look like keeping up with your treatment plan, even when it is difficult. You should prioritize taking care of your physical and mental health to give you the strength to persevere. Also, reaching out to your support system can energize you.
You are the expert on your body. Being straightforward and honest about your needs will help your treatment providers help you. Educating yourself about treatment options empowers you to have productive discussions with your doctors about what is best for you. Becoming knowledgeable about addictive medications that can clash with your recovery and advocating against them can protect your sustained sobriety.
Without a doubt, recovery is difficult. Choosing to get treatment is a significant obstacle, but remaining committed to it can also present challenges along the way. It is also a deeply personal experience that can be hard for others to understand and support you with if they are not familiar with it first-hand. That is why it is crucial to find a treatment team that intimately understands your unique struggles and how to help you achieve your personal goals. Family-Centered Services exists to help individuals and families in this exact way. We offer individual and family therapy, a Family Recovery Program, comprehensive case management, and sober accountability services. All of our services are provided by licensed clinicians who are experienced in the field and can give you the tools to succeed in recovery. Reach out to us at (509) 991-5822 to get a start on the path to recovery.