identifying with addicts

Identifying with Fellow Addicts, But Don’t Compare

As a disease, addiction has a number of profound effects on a person’s health, mental and emotional well-being, interpersonal relationships, a potential for success, and so on. Over the course of active addiction to alcohol and drugs, many addicts become financially destitute, unemployed, and oftentimes even homeless. Even family, friends, and other loved ones—from whom addicts frequently resort to stealing in order to support their habit—get to the point where they feel they have no choice but to abandon the addict who has repeatedly caused them heartache, pain, and hardship. While the details often vary from one addict to another, there are also many similarities in the stories and experiences of those who have been addicted to alcohol and drugs, which helps to foster a sense of understanding and camaraderie among members of support groups and other recovery communities.

In fact, statistics have shown that addiction support groups and other similar types of recovery communities can be instrumental in the success and longevity of an addict’s recovery. Among the many reasons that support groups have proven to be so helpful, perhaps the most obvious is the ability of support groups to alleviate much of the loneliness that those in recovery often feel over the course of their rehabilitation. Although addiction is often a lonely disease, recovery can feel just lonely, which can leave individuals feeling like they have no one to whom they can talk about their recovery experiences, nobody supporting and encouraging them, and so on.

Recovery groups are fellowships that consist of addicts in varying stages of recovery, from those who are just beginning (or even yet to begin) recovery from addiction to those who have sustained sobriety for many years. The breadth of firsthand recovery experience and knowledge translates into an environment in which each individual can offer others a certain amount of insight into the journey and experience of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Therefore, in addition to offering a social circle in which members share similar goals, recovery groups are also a great resource for addicts who may feel abandoned, confused, unsure of what they need to do to minimize the chance of relapsing back to addiction, and so on.

Unfortunately, it’s incredibly common for addicts in support groups to compare themselves—their background, experiences, and especially the mistakes they’ve made—to the other addicts around them. While this would seem to be an innate part of the recovery group experience, comparing one’s self to others can be very counterproductive, harm self-esteem, lower confidence, and even put a recently recovered addict at risk of relapse. A sponsor can help to navigate the tenuous balance between relating to other addicts and comparing one’s self to other addicts, but the present discussion will illuminate why this is particularly important.

Identifying with Fellow Addicts

Over the course of recovery, an addict will encounter many individuals who are like him or her in some ways. This can be something as small as having been addicted to the same substance or substances, or something a bit bigger such as having committed similar crimes in the name of addiction. Identifying with other addicts helps to prevent addicts from feeling alone and from feeling like their addiction and its resultant behaviors has made them an unredeemable bad person.

On the contrary, even the most well-meaning, kind-hearted, intelligent people can fall prey to alcohol and drug addiction, making choices they would never have made if they weren’t a victim of addiction. By sharing with other addicts, individuals often realize that a substance abuse disorder and the mistakes made during active addiction don’t define them as a person, but rather provide them with learning experiences with which they can become stronger people who make healthier choices, are productive, and feel fulfilled. What’s more, those in recovery can benefit from shared experiences, learning how to overcome obstacles, deal with stress in healthier ways, and otherwise benefit from numerous other perspectives.

Reasons Why An Addict Shouldn’t Compare Him or Herself to Other Addicts

It’s common for addicts in recovery—especially for the first time—who are hearing other addicts share stories and experiences to compare what they hear to their own life and experiences as an addict. Oftentimes this takes the form of trying to decide whether one is a “better” or “worse” addict than someone else by gauging whether one’s choices and past behaviors are considered more extreme or harmful than those of another individual. This might also mean comparing the speed of recovery or comparing which treatments work for some while being less effective for others. Unfortunately, this comparison is more of a hindrance than a help. Here are some of the reasons why comparing one’s self to other addicts is unhelpful and possible even dangerous:

  • There’s no such thing as a “worst addict.”
    Many addicts will compare themselves to others in the hopes of determining how “bad” of an addict they are relative to others, usually so they can find out if they’re the “worst” addict in the room. Addiction counselors have the expertise to gauge the severity of an individual’s addiction, but they don’t compare that individual to others in order to do it. Since addiction affects every addict differently, it’s not really possible to distinguish one addict as being worse than another; rather, they’re different addicts.
  • What works for one addict doesn’t necessarily work for every addict.
    Again, addiction tends to affect each addict a bit different depending on numerous factors. Understandably, there’s not a one-size-fits-all cure for addiction that will yield optimal results for every addict. When one addict compares the effectiveness of a treatment with the comparatively small effect a treatment had on him or her, the addict might assume that means he or she is a worse addict or a hopeless case, which is an incorrect conclusion that has dangerous implications.
  • Comparison can be used to justify relapse.
    Over the course of recovery, addicts in support groups and participating in group therapy will hear a number of stories from other addicts. An addict comparing those stories to his or her own experiences might come to the conclusion that he or she has been treated more unfairly or has been “unluckier” than many other addicts. This sort of victim’s mindset is often used as a justification for individuals to relapse and begin using again.

As you can see, it’s important that addicts don’t try to compare themselves to the experiences and recovery of other addicts, but it’s just as important for addicts to have peers to whom they can identify as they continue on the road to recovery. If you or someone you love is currently suffering from addiction, the journey to recovery is only a phone call away. Call us at Drug Treatment Center Finder today so one of our recovery specialists can set you on the path to a new, more productive and fulfilling life.