Treatment for drugs or alcohol isn’t intended to be lenient or gentle. It forces you to accept the past, take responsibility for your actions and be conscious about making better decisions in the future. If recovery was pleasant and forgiving, you probably wouldn’t stay sober for very long. The fact is that recovering addicts need consequences, tough love and extreme motivation, and this comes from rigorous treatment programs.
By now, you’re probably no stranger to recovery, and the experience has pushed you outside your comfort zone in a variety of ways. As you leave treatment, the next step is fitting back into the world. This can feel strange and scary, so it’s strongly recommended that you attend an AA or NA group. These groups seem to be the answer that everyone has. “You’ll find friends there,” your parents tell you. “These people know what you’re going through.”
But what if you’re not exactly fitting in with the other members? They can only be as helpful to you as you allow them to be, and it’s going to be hard to bond with them if you’re not feeling comfortable during the meetings.
Let’s talk about some of the reasons why newly recovering addicts commonly feel disconnected from their group and what can be done about it. Your feelings may be legitimate, or you may need some time and perspective.
Explore Different Groups
No two AA or NA meetings are alike. These groups are held all over the country in various settings with different focuses or approaches. You can find groups that have hundreds of people or groups that have just a few. Some are designed for specialized groups of people such as men, women, lesbians, gays or young people. Others are focused around a particular addiction such as Heroin Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous.
AA groups are very different from one another, and you may find that you fit in better with a different set of dynamics. This is okay. But before you change groups, make sure that you have put in the effort to make things work with your current group. You have a lot going on right now, and it can take time to feel comfortable and trusting of the other members.
Find Common Ground
One common misconception with self-help groups is that the members should be able to relate to one another and compare experiences. Yet the only thing you may have in common with the members in your group IS the addiction. Some may have been in prison, others may not have experienced much loss.
It’s easy to feel disconnected from others because you’re probably still angry about your recovery. Everything is new to you right now. You may have had to give up friends, change schools or live with an extended family member. Your family may be sticking to their consequences, which means your life isn’t so carefree anymore. You may also be facing the harsh reality that you have no job, no home and no spouse to come home to.
This will undoubtedly leave you feeling angry and frustrated, like no one could possibly understand you. But don’t be so quick to judge. Each member has lost something in their life because of their addiction.
As you explore your personal relationships, you’ll find that people offer different things in your life. That’s why it’s important to have a variety of relationships and not to expect too much from one person. As you build more relationships, you’ll find that there are always people in your life that you can turn to, whether it’s for a laugh, a night out, a shoulder to cry on or someone to motivate you.
As you attend AA groups, you need to take the same approach. Many of the people in your group will be different from you, and they’re not necessarily people you would have chosen to be friends with outside of AA. But you share many things; emotions and experiences that no one else can relate to. When you look past the initial differences, you’ll find that the members in your group are key people in your recovery.
For more information about AA groups in your area, visit www.aa.org.