Together, We Are Healing: How Individual Recovery Impacts Our Communities
You may think that recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction or even a mental health disorder is a private and personal experience. An experience that should be done in secret, without telling others that you have sought treatment or are currently in therapy because there is a sense of shame or worry about what people will think. But in doing so, you disregard the impact that you can have on those around you and exacerbate the already growing stigma against addiction and mental health disorders.
Healing from a substance use disorder IS a personal, unique experience, but it is also a catalyst to connection and the healing of those around us. In other words, the recovery of one person can have a domino effect, which can start the healing process in others. So, where does this all start? Well, to put it simply — it begins with you.
Recovery is a long process. Much like a mountain road, it is full of twists, turns and tunnels before you come out at the top. A person struggling with addiction isn’t always ready to make the active changes needed to get healthy. It’s like what William L. White writes in his Recovery Carriers essay; they may be resistant to change and work to ‘hustle’ through treatment. But let’s say at the bottom of this hypothetical recovery road, there is a humble guide who has been to the top before and wants to help others find their way up.
That is the thought behind ‘catching recovery.’ As individuals begin working through their addiction, these guides, also known as ‘recovery carriers,’ open the way to stigma-free healing. They understand where the ruts in the road will be, that you may get off track on your way up, that you may feel like you are overwhelmed by the prospect of letting go of the dangerous comforts of drugs or alcohol but most importantly, these carriers treat you with the respect and love you deserve as you move through the entire journey. This is how recovery spreads.
As a recovery carrier becomes more influential to a person’s life, the more likely it is that the person working through their addiction will want to follow their guide’s footsteps. This is where the real magic of addiction recovery is! When we start healing, we impact others to begin healing as well!
So what is a recovery carrier? Who qualifies to take on such an important role? That is the truly incredible thing about recovery carriers…they can be anyone! They could be a member of your treatment staff, a church leader, a neighbor you are close to or someone actively involved in AA or NA meetings. You don’t need any professional or highly intellectual qualifications to be a carrier. You just have the drive to inspire others through your own experience.
Often these people are in recovery themselves and create infectious motivation for healing by sharing their own stories of working through addiction. These individuals live lives of compassion for their fellow recovery peers and offer authentic support to help them find hope and healing. It’s as White says, “The recovery carrier is in many ways the opposing face of the addiction carrier—the person who defends his or her own drug use by spreading excessive patterns of use to all those he or she encounters.” White goes on to mention that recovery carriers often share these three traits:
- People are magnetically drawn to them (even those not in recovery).
- They exude kinetic energy that creates confidence and action in others.
- People who spend time with and connect with the carriers go on to recover and achieve a high quality of life.
Just by being a source of genuine compassion for another person experiencing addiction and sharing your story of struggle with them, you can spread the infection of healing! You can achieve this by beginning with your core group, like family and friends, and your influence of hope can move outward from there. It is in this way that we can collectively begin to heal our communities.
Healing The Community
The spread of recovery eventually moves out from our close-knit networks into our communities. Whether in alumni meetings, 12-step meetings, church gatherings, yoga classes or even just standing in line for coffee, we can speak the truth and share stories about addiction recovery. In his Reducing Social Stigma essay, White says it best, “Be a Recovery Carrier/Witness. Tell stories of individual and family recovery at every opportunity. The most singularly important thing you have to offer individuals, families, and your community is hope.”
By healing individuals, communities will begin to heal. We all have the ability to be a recovery carrier. It merely comes down to sharing our experiences with working through drug and alcohol addiction, our fight against the social stigma of getting help and supporting each other as we move through the journey. Together, we can heal the disease of addiction through infectious recovery.
Creative Content Director with Promises Behavioral Health