The Importance of Peer Support in Recovery
Growing up I tried so hard to fit in. Too hard. I was the definition of an awkward human. I had no boundaries and let people walk all over me. On top of that I struggled with a bad case of “people pleasing.” I “Needed” to get approval, or attention, unfortunately none of this took away the loneliness I felt. In 8th grade I started to explore what it would be like to be bulimia. This new obsession soon took over my life and took away my need to connect with others. My eating disorder consumed my life and limited my interaction with friends on a social level. Since I spent most of my time binging and purging. This continued till the middle of my Junior year when I finally decided I needed help and went to treatment.
As time went by my loneliness just got worse It seemed I could never shake the feeling that I was an outsider. My eating disorder progressed, and I even decided to “experiment” drugs and alcohol. I stll had friends but they dwindled as I had more incidences where I made an a@# out of myself. People started to not invite me to parties. So I started spending more time alone. It was easier. I only socialized when I needed something from people
My Life Was Miserable
Years went by and I met someone I thought if I got into a relationship then I wouldn’t be alone anymore. So I did, I wasn't alone anymore but I was still miserable.
As things progressed and life got worse I finally had enough. I didn't want to live anymore but I wasn't able to kill myself, other than to keep using and hope I wouldn't wake up.
I had that moment where you realize there may be another option, treatment. I took it and off I went desperate and willing to do anything to get sober.
I tried to keep to myself. I trusted no one, and had so much social anxiety that groups were painful. They took us to outside 12 step meetings and I found it harder and harder to keep avoiding people.
In truth, I longed for what they had. People seemed happy. They were laughing and talking and hugging and a part of me wanted in.
But, I was still so scared. So, I sat there quietly, avoiding eye contact and feeling so awkward and uncomfortable I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Fortunately I was willing to do anything to get better and that meant pushing myself, as well as talking to other people. And do I did it I even got a sponsor!!
Slowly I Found My Tribe
After a little time, I loosened up. I found my smile and my laugh. I accepted hugs and began giving them. I opened up to my best friend. I told her what was really on my mind. I know that sounds kind of silly. But sobriety was the first time I was honest not only with myself but with others.
This was huge, it was not easy and very painful at times. Growing is painful, but worth the price, every penny!
I started to gain confidence as I slowly pushed myself to do more and try more. I went up to people in meetings and gave them my number or talked to them.
I came early to meetings and went out afterwards to fellowship with others from the meetings. I even chaired meetings. It’s crazy while I was using I had little social anxiety and would gladly talk in front of lots of people.
This was not the case in Sobriety. It took time, I know that word is like a smack in the face to any addict. We are definitely some of the most impatient people on the planet.
One day, I looked around and realized I had found what I was looking for all along. Friendship, acceptance and love.
I Still Had my Moments
The pull toward my old ways was strong. I had poor social skills from years of using and isolating. I had unrealistic expectations of myself and new friends.
For some reason I kept expecting them to read my mind! I know imagine that!
Learning To Be A Friend
It was not easy realizing that I had to be a better friend. I had convinced myself that I was a nice person. I was always ready to help someone. Prior to my sponsor suggesting that I needed to be a good friend I had not really given it a lot of thought.
I started to see that if I wanted good friends then I better start working on myself. I started to realize something, the way I treat myself is the way I treat others. And so I started to treat myself better, in doing so, I became a much better friend to others. I was able to listen to their problems and talk to them. I was able to help when they needed me. I started to be vulnerable and open with people something I had never done before.
Developing A Support Group
Everytime I encounter someone who is new in recovery, I encourage them to start building their support system. I encourage them to start reaching out to people who have some time, as well as people they can relate to. I stress that in my experience who you hang out with is so critical to staying sober so pick people that have what you want!
I give my phone number out to newcomers, I give rides to meetings, I chair meetings and any time I’m asked to speak I do it. Even when I don’t want to, because I need to give what was given to me. That is why this program works. This is the beauty when you give you always receive way more in return.
I know it isn't always easy to put yourself out there. It's easier to hide and push people away, but that's no way to live. Ask for phone numbers, accept invitations and let people in.
Being Your Own Friend
I also learned that it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy my own company. As important as a support group is, it's also good and healthy to spend time by yourself.
I am comfortable sitting with myself. I don't need to be with people all the time. I treat myself the way I treat my friends -- with respect and love.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. A single mom to two beautiful children, Rose has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.