Q&A: Do you believe an addict can become addicted to the recovery center or support group they use?

In a word, “No.”  That said, let me go on to what I know can happen.

Getting clean and sober is a life-changing experience, in the literal sense: we are successful only if we give up the world that we built for ourselves and tried to hold together with alcohol and other drugs for one that is new and strange.  It’s scary.  One of the things that makes it possible — in fact, for most people the main thing — is the bonds and feelings of safety that form, centered on our recovery center and/or support group, and the people who were and are there for us.  This is our new home.  These are our new friends and teachers.  This is where we feel safe, protected from the wolves of our addiction that still prowl around “out there.”

Nonetheless, recovery is about resuming (or finally attaining) a place in the world.  This means moving away from our safe space, slowly but surely, and expanding our circle of friends, acquaintances and activities to encompass the rest of the community — not dropping our old friends and our program, but making new friends and developing outside interests, getting jobs, reconnecting with families, and growing into the adulthood of our recovery.  Change is never easy for human beings, and here we are, faced with the prospect of making huge changes: moving away from the place we feel we “belong” into a world where — we intuitively understand — the vast majority of people don’t even know we are alive!

It’s no wonder, then, that some people become stuck, unable to move onward in their recovery.  They have found a new family, a new nest, a new place “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”  It takes courage to move out of that glow and into the real world.  Addicts and alcoholics are people who have never learned that it is OK not to feel OK.  So we get stuck.  Some of us don’t want to become unstuck.

It’s not addiction, it’s fear — of change, and of changing.  People don’t get addicted to the rooms, but some certainly abuse them.

1 thought on “Q&A: Do you believe an addict can become addicted to the recovery center or support group they use?

  1. Adam E

    Thank you for a great response, I myself went through a 12 step recovery program, the program gets you through the first year to two years of early sobriety and then you move one into the communities of AA, Na, etc. However I have personally seen people stay for multiple years over this limit with no intentions of leaving and it was a fear of mine to be stuck just floating along. It really does make sense that it’s out of fear rather than addiction though, Thankyou.

    I don’t know if I’m comfortable with the word “limit.” Each of us is different, and the length of time we need to work an intensive program is pretty-much directly proportional to the diligence with which we apply the “work” part.

    Those of us who have been through formal treatment and therapy are a leg up on some of the folks who have done it “the hard way” by shaking out in the rooms, but I, at least, need to be careful about my humility, (and to remember that some of those folks kick my butt when it comes to sobriety.) I attribute most of the credit for my not having officially relapsed in over 20 years to having had the luxury of immersing myself in recovery, in a safe place with skilled professionals to help. However, I say “officially” because relapse comes before we pick up, and I have been in relapse on a couple of occasions over the years without actually using.

    I’ve also been through several periods where I did not attend meetings — not too coincidentally, a couple were in conjunction with the periods of relapse — but I always end up back at at least two or three a month, and often at least one a week. I am not especially worried about relapsing at this point, but I do feel an obligation to bring my own experience to the meetings, and maintain contact with people who know better than most where I’m coming from. Besides, it’s cheaper than therapy, even though I’m married to a psychotherapist and could get a discount. ;)

    A sponsor of mine used to say that he didn’t need but maybe one meeting a year, but he went to a lot more for fear of missing the one he needed. There’s something to that. I’m a strong proponent of moving on out into the Earth People’s world, but also of checking periodically to insure that my foundations remain intact. I know from experience that I’m not very good at doing that for myself, so I like to have regular checkups.

    Then there’s the matter of having a lot of old, dear friends in the rooms. Those folks are still my people, and us old country boys take that seriously.

    But, of course, everyone’s mileage varies.


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