Recovery Support Groups

Stability

I’m grateful to Harm Reductionists for introducing me to the concept of “stability”. Harm Reductionists suggest that stable drug use is better than chaotic drug use and that any changes in the direction of stability are worth acknowledging and celebrating.

 Though I chose a path of abstinence years ago, I recently started to consider stability in my own life. What am I finding stressful and what could I do to make things better? Who or what things throw me off balance? What choices would add to my stability? I’ve also begun to use the concept of stability in my coaching practice with clients recovering from addiction. I ask, “What can you do that would increase the stability in your life?” I’ve begun to see stability as a guiding light.

 When I joined a 12-step program years ago I was introduced to the Serenity Prayer. The prayer was useful to me—I could understand the advantage of accepting things I cannot change and having the courage to change the things I can—but serenity itself never appealed to me. I really didn’t understand what serenity was, or why I should want it. Serenity seemed rather like complacency and that sounded dangerous or boring. I’m quite sure that if I had been introduced to the Stability Prayer when I quit drinking it would have been a much better prayer for me. Maybe because I was a child of chaos.

I grew up with neglect and trauma and I knew what chaos was. When I left home I eventually figured out that drinking and drugging added to the chaos in my life. I knew that drinking too much led to having sex with men I didn’t know, which added to shame, which added to misery. I knew that having a boyfriend who spent the rent money on drugs resulted in chaos. I knew that having a boyfriend who tried to kill me was more chaos and misery.

 I still remember when my best friend asked me if I would help her raise her son. I told her that we both drank too much and were too fucked up to raise a child. She turned her boy over to her parents, which was the better choice though she hated it. And I hated it too.

 It was my growing dislike of chaos that eventually got me to stop drinking and drugging. I didn’t quit when things were at their worst. I quit when I had a good opportunity to improve my life and was afraid my drinking/drugging would ruin it. 12-step recovery did a lot to help me stabilize. I worked all the steps and learned the Serenity Prayer.

Yet I think a Stability Prayer would have been way more practical for me to orient around. As it was I floundered in recovery for many years. It took me a good ten years to learn how to be a functioning self-supporting adult. It might not have taken so long if I had set my sights on stability. These days, I say the Stability Prayer while others are reciting the Serenity Prayer. Just one word is different, and yet for me that one word keeps me heading in the direction of positive change. Here it is. Try it—you might like it.

 

God, grant me the stability

 to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

StopDrinking on Reddit

This is the first of a series on recovery support options.

I heard about the StopDrinking conversation group on Reddit from one of my recovery coaching students. I checked it out and was surprised that it had more than fifty thousand members. That was eleven months ago. Now StopDrinking (SD) has more that ninety thousand members. Why is this conversation group so popular? Is is effective? Here is what I found.

Round the Clock

One distinct advantage of StopDrinking is that you can find support at anytime of day. Think you're the only one awake at 3 am and wanting a drink? Type a post and within minutes you’ll receive encouraging words. Bored with sobriety on a rainy Sunday afternoon? Read about other people’s struggles and remember why you don’t drink, or post your angst and read the responses.

Self Study

Not all of the members are currently sober. Some come simply to observe or “lurk”, to find out if other people have found a way to stop drinking and, if so, how did they do it? StopDrinking offers a comprehensive overview of what others did to stop, what got in their way, what it’s like to relapse, and how long someone has gone without drinking.  Many members use a badge that gives a day count. Some SD members watch for months or years before giving abstinence a try.

AA’s Grandchild

While StopDrinking has no relation to Alcoholics Anonymous, SD certainly has learned from AA experience. Both have a singular goal of not drinking. Both support anonymity. Both use a “one day at a time” approach. Both are supportive and encouraging. Both encourage speaking in “I” statements and sharing experience, not advice. (I got dinged once for saying “That’s scary!” to one woman’s very high blood alcohol level at time of DUI.) StopDrinking differs from AA in that it offers no specific way to stop other than doing just that. “I will not drink with you today” is SD’s supportive slogan that many end their posts with. There are no steps or traditions, just the wisdom and support of the members. I rarely see the word “alcoholic” or “alcoholism” on StopDrinking posts. Some members make reference to “meetings” but those may be SMART meetings, or Refuge Recovery, or Celebrate Recovery, or AA meetings.

What Members Like Best

I asked members what they like best about the SD community. I got 16 answers and will post a few here. One person with a star badge for four month of sobriety says, “I joined this community a few months before I actually stopped drinking. It gave me the push I needed to finally take the first step, help with resources to keep me firm on the path... and comfort in knowing that I'm not alone on the journey.”

Another says, “This is the most useful [tool] for me. Reading, posting, commenting, connecting, commiserating, celebrating - all of it helps.” 

An observer said a few days ago, “I see all the excuses I've made for years. I'm not sober yet, but I know I want to be and I've been able to take days and weeks between drinks. I loaded up with sparkling water and I stopped buying beer. I avoid situations where I might get trashed. I have extreme respect for my sober friends and I see them as examples for my life. All of this is due to being exposed to an environment where everyone is encouraging me, everyone had been there before, and everyone knows I'm not perfect.” His/her badge now says two days.

Another person wrote, “This is my main support group and I don't use anything else. What I like best is the camaraderie. We all have one goal in common and we help each other achieve or maintain that goal. I don't feel weird or out of place when I talk about what led to my sobriety, or what my life was like when I was still drinking because we all have our own horror stories. Sometimes I will comment when I am feeling strong, and hope that my comment will reach someone who may be struggling. Because when I am struggling, reading through stories and comments makes me feel strong again.”

From another with four months, “The badge is a big, big motivator. Seeing others having to reset keeps me scared and honest. The honest stories about slips, relapses, sobriety struggles, and realities, both good and bad, of not drinking. I like that it's called "stop drinking" rather than "sobriety" because for many of us, we aren't ready emotionally on day one or day ten to say "sober" is just "not drinking for now". That is a very important distinction to me and I think to many others as well. There is complete lack of the judgement, sniping, and second guessing that goes on in a lot of communities. It's almost 100% support and that is wonderful. The tips and tricks I learned from seasoned members have been SO helpful. "Play the tape" has saved my raggedy butt many, many, many times.”

One of These Days

StopDrinking provides a safe place for those not drinking today, and encouragement for those who are hoping  to be able to stop someday soon. Some members have 2 days or none, some have years and years. StopDrinking didn’t exist when I needed help. If it had I might have stopped years sooner. I’m glad it exists, the StopDrinking family on Reddit. My hat is off to you, and I won’t drink with you today.