Integrate is launching its website in the midst of one of the most tumultuous years in recent history: 2020. Potential help seekers are most assuredly asking, “How can I get sober or stay sober in the middle of all this chaos?” As the world navigates both a pandemic and social unrest, the addiction epidemic may seem like it’s falling through the cracks. However, for some drug and alcohol treatment providers, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The discomfort we are experiencing is an opportunity for growth.
Leslie Dwight wrote, “What if 2020 isn’t canceled?
What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?
A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw –
that it finally forces us to grow.
A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us
from our ignorant slumber.
A year we finally accept the need for change.
Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.
A year we finally band together, instead of
pushing each other further apart.
2020 isn’t canceled, but rather
the most important year of them all”.
Integrate’s core philosophy is in line with Dwight’s words: Drug and alcohol treatment must imitate real life because recovery is real life. The truth is that life is uncomfortable, painful, scary and raw – and we need those things to grow! As a drug rehab, we would be failing if we did not prepare you to handle discomfort, vulnerability, and fear. The flip side is that once you become willing to walk through fear – and willing to allow yourself to be vulnerable – you learn the meaning of courage, and you develop genuine confidence. When you aren’t willing to walk through fear or demonstrate vulnerability, you rob yourself of the joy of living.
We Don’t Get Sober to Be Miserable
There’s a saying in 12 Step recovery fellowships: “We don’t get sober to be miserable”. Sobriety is almost always equated with misery. People in early recovery ask, “How can you have fun without drugs and alcohol?” The irony is that relying on drugs and alcohol to be your only source of fun is like taking your car to a crusher instead of a mechanic. Drugs and alcohol are ruining your life – not improving it. However, the “cunning and baffling” element of substance use disorder is that drugs and alcohol deceive you into thinking they are the solution instead of the problem.
When you use a substance to numb your pain, fear, and discomfort, you numb everything else; excitement, adoration, elation, gratitude, awe and everything in between. And the feelings you do experience? They are manufactured by a factory line or a drug cartel rather than your brain’s authentic interaction with the environment.
There is something profoundly tragic about a life fabricated by outside forces rather than consciously created and experienced.
Discovering the Joy of Living Sober
So how do you live a joyful sober life – especially in times of disorder and discord? The answer lies in Integrate’s other core tenet: Connection. The first step is to dismantle the walls that separate you from yourself and others. The surface layer will likely consist of denial and distrust – and that’s why drug treatment is so necessary. Recovery isn’t an “I” thing, it’s a “we” thing. We need others to help us both accept and feel accepted. The people who have gone before us can also show us the way. If you want to tap into recovery’s vast potential, why not seek out a diverse array of teachers?
Walls that have been broken down can be rebuilt. That’s why drug treatment aftercare is so important, as well as staying in the center of a vibrant sober community. The closer to the center you stay, the more connected you will feel, and the more you will learn to create “a life beyond your wildest imagination”.
When you’re connected, you tune in to a deep well of creative energy, and creativity is the key to having an authentic, contented life experience. It’s not about being able to draw or sculpt, but about shaping your life into something that has significance for you. When drugs and alcohol are driving the bus, the scenery loses significance, and the joy gets lost in the blur of the passing landscape.
Autumn Khavari is Integrate’s in-house writer. She received an education in Substance Use Counseling at Beal College in Bangor, Maine.