Tribes of the Recovering Community

complogo-2010_noshad_400This week’s tribe is LifeRing Secular Recovery:

LifeRing Secular Recovery is an abstinence-based, worldwide network of people who are choosing to live in recovery from alcohol and other drugs. We encourage individuals to build their own personal recovery programs based on three principles: sobriety, secularity, and self-direction.

We believe our personal recoveries require communication and connection with others in addition to our individual practice of abstinence. In LifeRing, as we talk about recovery and share tools that have worked for us, we find our sober intellectual, analytical, and emotional selves engaged, nurtured, strengthened … and empowered.

Recovery requires hard work and perseverance. If you are self-directed and want to create a personal recovery program that is yours and yours alone, you owe it to yourself to check out LifeRing.

(The “Tribes of the recovering community” series is intended to demonstrate the diversity within the recovering community.I have no first hand knowledge of most of the tribes, so inclusion in this series should not be considered an endorsement.)

Shame and Addiction

Shame-poster

Analysis of a recent study on shame and addiction suggests that shame may play a helpful role in getting alcoholics to initiate recovery but, once they’re sober, it’s associated with relapse.

Two psychological scientists at the University of British Columbia — Jessica Tracy and Daniel Randles — decided to see if alcoholics’ feelings of shame about their addictions might actually interfere with their attempts to get sober. They recruited about a hundred middle-aged men and women from the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, all with less than six months of sobriety. They measured their levels of shame and other emotions, along with personality traits, and then about four months later they brought them back into the lab to see how they were doing in recovery.

… The alcoholics who were most ashamed about their last drink — typically a humiliating experience — were much more likely to relapse. Their relapses were also more severe, involving much more drinking, and they were more likely to suffer other declines in health. In short, as described in a future issue of the journal Clinical Psychological Science, feelings of shame do not appear to promote sobriety or protect against future problematic drinking — indeed the opposite.

This is the first scientific evidence to bolster what alcoholism counselors and recovering alcoholics have long known: Shame is a core emotion underlying chronic heavy drinking. Shame is what gets people into the rooms of AA — it defines the alcoholic “bottom” — but it’s a lousy motivator for staying in recovery. The power of AA is that it offers something to replace the negative emotions that most alcoholics know all too intimately.

Dry run

56/365 morning run
56/365 morning run (Photo credit: kharied)

Recovery lessons from training for a marathon:

I had set myself up for marathon success: I had a cohort of supporters, I followed the training rules, I hydrated for fear of splitting headaches, I had my guilt-inducing early morning car pool in place, and I had faith in the coaches. And yet, when it came to sobriety, I resisted help, I resisted talk of higher powers, I resisted the notion that a few simple rules and a cohort of support could be helpful. I was in control; I had stayed sober for a year all by myself. And that’s right about when I started to get very cocky about running, too.

As you might imagine, her cockiness was challenged:

By the time I crossed the finish line that October and wrapped the silver space blanket around my shoulders, I had found not only a new respect for my body, but a new respect for faith — a concept that would become integral to my recovery but one I had always disdained as illogical and submissive. I realized that I hadn’t known everything, that the “possible” consisted of more than what I had experienced or conceived in my own head. What’s more, I stopped seeing my sobriety as some kind of endurance test consuming every scrap of fight I had. Like marathon training, it’s not about willpower and white-knuckling it; it’s about making the next right choice. I’ve since set myself up for sober success; I follow a few simple rules and surround myself with sober Sweathogs. And sometimes, when it gets difficult, I close my eyes and think, “I choose to run.”