Addiction feels like a one-person show. When you’re addicted, it’s all about you. It has to be, because your primary concern is answering the cravings—which feel like life or death—while trying not to let your addiction consume you. For this and other reasons, you may have alienated friends and family while you were addicted. Maybe you were hurtful to the people you love, or maybe you simply withdrew from them, or they from you.
Now that you’re in recovery, you may feel like you don’t fully belong in either world, addicted or sober. You may feel a bit isolated and lost. Rest assured these are normal feelings in early recovery, but your long-term success depends in part on healthy, supportive relationships and finding a sense of belonging and purpose in your life.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stresses the importance of a sense of belonging in recovery.1 Having purpose in life and feeling like you’re part of a community can dramatically improve your chances of long-term success.
Purpose comes from conducting meaningful daily activities, like working, attending school, caring for the family or engaging in creative pursuits.
Community is comprised of your relationships and social networks that offer support, love, friendship and hope.
But these don’t transpire from thin air. Repairing damaged relationships and developing new ones takes time and effort. Finding a sense of belonging in your community requires putting yourself out there, trying new things and being ready and willing to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
Here, we’ll examine ways to find a sense of belonging in your community through honing your new identity, repairing old relationships, developing new ones and putting yourself “out there.”
Growing into Your New Identity
Addiction affects thought and behavior. It leads you to take risks you wouldn’t normally take and do things you wouldn’t normally do. These things can erode your self-esteem and shape a negative self-identity.
Recovery brings with it a new identity. As you grow ever more distant from your using self, you begin to see yourself in new, more positive ways. A strong focus in treatment is helping individuals improve their self-esteem. In treatment, you learn to let go of damaging emotions like guilt and shame. You identify and evaluate the core beliefs you hold about yourself and discard those that are false or negative. You practice seeing yourself in a positive light.
How we perceive ourselves can have a major impact on our sense of belonging. Developing a new, positive self-identity in recovery is important for helping to foster a sense of self-worth and belonging in the various communities through which you circulate.
Here are some tips for improving your self-esteem and nurturing your new, positive self-identity.
Participate in a recovery fellowship. A recovery support group is an important network of sober peers who can help you establish a new self-identity. A support group helps you work through issues that contribute to…
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