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181: Networking – a Guide to Building a Support System (Sort Of)
Welcome to Recovery (Sort Of), the podcast where we explore the winding paths of mental health recovery. Join us on a journey of self-discovery and growth, as we navigate the highs, lows, and unexpected detours of the recovery process. From managing anxiety and depression to coping with trauma and grief, each episode delves into real-life experiences, insights, and practical strategies for finding balance and healing.
We explore the concept of building a network, or networking, in your recovery. Where to start with building a support system? What are you looking for in the people? How do you find people? How do you get them in your network? How does finding and maintaining your network change over time? Where can you look to build a network, does it have to be in meetings, or can it be other places as well? Listen in as we explore the world of building a network and support system in recovery, and then share your thoughts with us.
How to find us and join the conversation:
Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/recoverysortof/message
We explore the concept of building a network, or networking, in your recovery. Where to start with building a support system? What are you looking for in the people? How do you find people? How do you get them in your network? How does finding and maintaining your network change over time? Where can you look to build a network, does it have to be in meetings, or can it be other places as well? Listen in as we explore the world of building a network and support system in recovery, and then share your thoughts with us.
How to find us and join the conversation:
recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or Fellowship the attitudes expressed are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature [Music]
welcome back this is recovery sort of I am Jason a guy who has a support system and I’m Billy from person long term recovery and I’m Caroline I’m also a person in long-term recovery and we’re going to talk about building a support system right which I’ve always heard is building a network so I don’t know if like support system is the direction we’re moving with calling it something else or if that’s just a term we decided to use this morning because the AI bot told us to or I’m not really even sure what would you call it Carolina like at a base level what would you call it um I think so if I’m talking specifically about people in recovery I’m going to call that my network my support system can be like my sister’s part of my support system right um so that feels a little bit more General hmm what are you what’s your take yeah and I was thinking the uh support group support system can be things outside of uh individuals like it can be Professional Services it might be a therapist it might be like a Counseling Group if you’re doing some sort of group counseling things like that that are more what I would consider like professional type services that can still be part of a support group versus your individual Network that you might build in your specific recovery path which is really fascinating because like when I think of the word network the first thing that comes to my mind is professional things right like you go and you network with people in your industry and stuff like that so to me that feels less personal than maybe a support system which feels like yeah that’s like my family my friends my the people I really trust I don’t know I guess that’s interesting there’s all a different take and you know another term it doesn’t have to be those two where it could be like my friend group or my people or like peer group right right there’s a lot of different terms for like the people around us that are assisting Us in moving forward so I I think it was one of like the first things I heard in recovery probably was like get a sponsor get a network okay maybe it was number two right I heard I heard get a sponsor first and then get a network uh and maybe it was even three because it was go to meetings good response again but either way like this idea was given to me early on and I I didn’t completely know what I was doing or why I needed these people or what we were gonna do together it was just kind of like hey get you some people and I was like okay I’ll get me some people and I don’t know looking back now like just telling you guys this story the first thing I’m thinking of is like I didn’t know how to do that and nobody said these are the ways to do that and I didn’t even know that I didn’t know how to do that to ask so I don’t know did you encounter any of that like they’re looking back do you think like damn I had no idea how to make friends or what it was looking for in friendships or what I needed out of these Network people I was just kind of grabbing whoever so I I was very lucky when I when I got clean I was in a Recovery House a Women’s Recovery House and I was in an area so I was I was 20 when I got clean I was in an area with a lot of other young people and so it was very easy so maybe I didn’t necessarily know what I was doing but it just kind of happened for me because of you know going to you know I did a 90 and 90 so going to a meeting every day and seeing the same other people it just it just kind of happened organically um I I would say the longer I’ve been around the harder it’s been and I did at some point have to learn to do it and make an active effort to do it but like in those those early months like it just it just it just was easy I was very lucky well I I agree with that some in the sense of like that early recovery tie into other people like oh we came in around the same time we got the same amount of time we’re kind of doing the same stuff um and I think in the beginning I was probably just so starved for connection honestly that I was taking it from wherever it came from but I I don’t know that it was actual and and again I don’t know thinking about this right now I don’t know that the process can happen any differently like I don’t know if somebody could have went back in those moments and said hey these are the actual great qualities you’re looking for in people and maybe that’s how you can pick good friendships if they treat you in these ways I don’t know that I was capable of doing that even if somebody told me but like yeah I think I was just way more accepting of of anybody then as opposed to now it’s like well no you gotta meet some criteria for me to have any interest in spending more time with you or or really being vulnerable with you so maybe it’s that we’re more selective as we stay longer and not that it’s harder yeah well I mean similar for me as to what Carolyn said like I went to meetings every day so I saw a similar group of people all the time and after 90 days of going to meetings every day you just see the same people all the time I was getting away from the people because I did have a support I don’t know if you call my support group but I had a close group of friends that I used with that I had grown up with we had all been friends for years and years and years of time so I had to kind of walk away from that group of people I wasn’t one of those people that was like alone with no friends by myself you know I had a group of six or one of those people was my brother I was incredibly close with my brother um and I had to kind of walk away from that group and build a new group um so that happened from that process of going to the 90 meetings in 90 days and then I went to more meetings than that but I saw a lot of the similar people being in a small rural area it was real easy to just sort of build some friendships uh out of commonality of like Hey we’re not doing drugs what do we do now you know like that was kind of what that was built out of yeah and I think the commonality for me that has shifted the longer I’ve stayed in recovery when I first got in you know I came in the door and like you said other people coming in at the same time were all trying to do this recovery thing we’re all kind of like I said like there was a lot of young people in my area which was fortunate because that gave me that connection so I felt like I had a ton in common with the other young people that were in the area at the time as I’ve stayed clean and grown and figured out who I am and had some like experiences I feel like you know I’ve started to everybody builds their personalities and sometimes that builds in different directions for different people and I know that’s been a struggle for me like I remember a few years ago saying like you know I go to a meeting and I’d have so little to talk about with some of the people in the meeting in terms of just life experiences and then I’d go down the street and have a 45 minute conversation with my Amish neighbors and like it was like super easy like we got tons to talk about so you know like just that feeling of like why am I connecting better with the Amish community than than the recovery Community but it you know that’s I was living in an old farmhouse and I had chickens and so like it was like those I my life experiences at that time felt like they aligned more to this other group and so that has been a struggle as I’ve stayed clean longer and had some life experiences to try to find people that are living the same type of life that that I’m living unless I want to go be Amish which I don’t I mean it’d probably be happier but um yeah just thinking about this idea like I’m trying to think of you know it says like Step One is recognizing the importance of having a support system right so like trying to start there when I came to recovery I’m coming from a place of like pretty much entirely being disconnected from everybody right like you know there was a couple people along the way but then you keep burning your Bridges or whatever and then there’s at least for me Billy I know your story is different now I’m thinking about that as I’m telling mine I assume everybody’s always like mine but yeah there wasn’t much social interaction for me so coming into a place I I’ve been hiding from people because of the shame I feel about myself right like I don’t even want to walk on the main roads I’m trying to like take alleys to get from place to place and stay out of sight because I just hate what I am and have become at that moment and then I come into a place and ask for help or suggested I come to a place and ask for help and like it’s just really really hard and I think when they said get a network then right like the the the the things I’m remembering I’m saying is like stick with the winners right like but then don’t take anybody else’s inventory and don’t judge and and I’m like I didn’t know who the winners were and at that moment in time I wasn’t really looking to get real vulnerable about any of the deep dark stuff I was taking to the Grave I just wanted people to hang out with to not feel alone and maybe that’s like there was very little qualifications on what we had in common or what we were doing together it was just like can this be better than just sitting at my house by myself yeah that’s fair I think our needs our needs change over time and our needs for connection change over time so yeah I think the you know the the criteria does does evolve and I think again like I think it it the longer we stay around people people fall off you know like I remember even just with like five years clean looking around at me and like who is still here from when I got clean and that was I mean now good Lord I don’t think there’s anyone around that came in at that same time as me there’s people who were like you know maybe a year or two ahead or a year or two you know after but um so it becomes harder too like when I go to a meeting today I’m normally the person in the medium with like significantly more clean time than everyone else um which is fine not to say that I can’t build a network with people who have less time than me that’s not my point at all but again going back to those like similarities in life if I’m in a meeting and everyone else in the meeting has less than a year clean the the things that I’m dealing with on a daily basis are going to be very different than the things that they’re dealing with on a daily basis and so that connection becomes a little bit it has to be it more intentional if it’s going to happen at all it’s not kind of like that just like we’re gonna we’re gonna like click off the bat in most cases so for for either your own personal experience in recovery or your experiences in the role of a sponsor and trying to guide others uh to find the importance or recognize the importance of making this network or the support system for themselves have you found that this is a tough sell either to yourself or to People Like Us who generally tend to not be the most social or we tend to be more loners I would say no and maybe that’s just because we talk about it so much in meetings that it just is it’s such a core piece of the recovery process that for me I definitely recognize the value over and over and over again and maybe that’s maybe I recognize it more when I have less of the network and I can feel that but then also having conversations with sponsies and being like you need more than just me to reach out to like they seem to hear that now whether they’re able to like effectively action that is another thing um but dude you told people uh you’re calling me too much low-key and they they stop calling you they didn’t call nobody else they’re like oh yeah they took my suggestion no I’m gonna disagree with that I don’t know I don’t know worry about you Billy yeah I am a person that believes people need connection to other people that it’s not just a oh we like people you know or we don’t like people like the and this is a generalization obviously but I think most people want to connect to other people the reason we don’t is usually all those things you talked about at the end of your process of using which was shame guilt embarrassment like that makes us incapable of those human connections so for me early on when I came in and was able to like start making a few healthy decisions you know some of that shame and embarrassment uh started to go away and it was a little more comfortable around other people part of my connection with the group of people that I hung out with was that using took away all those feelings of Shame built and shame and guilt and embarrassment and so when I was high I could hang around with these guys and and not feel all that stuff but when I stopped using it all came back in a rush so early on in recovery um it was difficult like I didn’t feel like I was really connected to people that I had close friends until I had more than a year clean um it took that long because the guy again the guys that I was using with at the end of my addiction were people that I had went to high school with you know I had I had grown up with we were all friends we knew each other’s families we were kind of close you know shared a lot of uh whatever you call it chaotic use stories like we had all that lifestyle in in common and so to come in and build new relationships with new people that I didn’t know you know from nothing took time it really took a lot of time I think I think in there you spoke to something that really stood out to me as being important and if we ever do come up with this idea and follow through with creating our own program Billy uh this is one we want to make sure we include which is when you’re talking about that shame right so okay we have this level of Shame and I had I did a bad thing I’m a bad person now I can’t connect with Caroline and Billy as well because every time I come in here and I don’t tell them about that bad thing I’m like oh God if they find out they’re not gonna like me and I I’m so concentrated on that that I worry and focus more on keeping that hidden from you which builds the shame right it prevents the connection so drugs stop that feeling great that’s awesome but how do we stop it once we get here and just thinking about the if there is a safe secure meeting space where people can get vulnerable and I think that’s one of the reasons that this these programs and church basements have worked right because you go into this place and you have all this shame and I can’t connect but then you realize these other people are you too you know what I mean they have lived that same shame they have done those same things and they’re openly talking about it and saying it’s okay now that Shane wall can come down and without that exposure to that I think we’d be hard-pressed to make connections and I just that’s a really valid uh piece of like our program is that community of like a place where I can reduce the shame because other people are also have bad parts I guess yeah and I mean that whole process in the beginning of early recovery for me like none of it felt comfortable none of it felt like easy it was more for me just all right these are the things that I’m supposed to do so I’m just gonna like put in the work and try to do it and see what happens you know and that that attitude has carried through into other difficult things in my life like exercise or going to the gym or trying to eat eat better you know it’s like going to the gym I’m still not a person that like wakes up every morning like yeah this is what I want to do you know it’s great I love it it’s like oh that’s right you’re like I get some real mental health benefits out of this it’s good for my Stress and Anxiety it’s got some physical health benefits so I’m just going to put in the work because I like the results and that was similar to most of the things in early recovery like I’m gonna go ask some guy to be my sponsor that was awkward and difficult and I wasn’t used to like going to some guy and saying hey well you know will you be my friend like that’s what it felt like [Music]
okay so we’re here we’ve recognized the importance we’ve been sold the idea that we need some kind of support system Network something to go along with it I guess the next step is like how do you find that right so one of the things that I’m realizing is we’re kind of talking about this maybe we’re jumping the gun we’re talking about it from the standpoint of we have already arrived in this 12-step program or fellowship and and here where will I pick these people for my support right but like knowing in 2023 this isn’t the way recovery looks for everybody anymore there’s a billion past defined recovery right and you know take it into idea like where can we find sources of support for ourselves and that might be you know family and friends you know we talked about those a little bit it might be support groups like if you do attend a n a a smart recovery a recovery Dharma you could probably find people in those groups that could be supporting therapists and counselors spiritual religious leaders like this is really an individual program and I think maybe maybe that’s one of those things coming right out of this you know Overeaters Anonymous episode where everything is more fine-tuned to the individual and their needs and what works and doesn’t work for them maybe that’s something like I feel like I never got exposed to more in the Narcotics Anonymous program itself or in the 12-step world that maybe there are maybe we need more variation from person to person right like maybe somebody needs seven seven meetings a week and to find most of their support group there but maybe somebody else does better with one meat in a week and a therapy session each week and maybe that’s their best support system and like you know what I mean we don’t talk a lot about that idea of like variation across people’s different versions well and I think historically the idea I mean if you even look gosh 10 years ago like it was just oh you have a drug problem or an alcohol problem you just go to one of these 12-step fellowships and that’s what you do like that was the only thing we weren’t as Savvy at incorporating you know the trauma counseling or mental health and how important those aspects were and I think for the 12-step fellowships that’s where a lot of that what I’m going to call bad information I don’t know that it was intentionally bad information but that idea that oh you just need to come here this is all you ever need and this is fine like that’s slowly starting to go away because we’re starting to see like yeah you know this the fellowship I think does serve a great purpose the fellowshipping in general for that connection to other people that have similar types of issues where you can sort of form a peer group and support group and some people that can recognize you know the same maybe struggles that you’re having so there’s easy identification there right but it may not address all the specific supports as an individual that you need whether that be mental health counseling trauma counseling you know whatever those additional things are to bolster your recovery yeah I I think that’s fair but I also in hearing kind of what maybe more what Jason was saying than what you were saying Billy is like I I for me thinking back to when I came in I needed people that were doing the same thing as me like maybe I didn’t maybe I needed other things but like I cannot undersell the value of having other people who had struggled with struggled with substance abuse and we’re trying to rectify that having those people in my life like that was really critical for me well for how like so I get even the 90 and 90 or even the six months but like I just think now like if I were to take myself back like if I took myself back and again you can never say for sure but if I had gotten like maybe some trauma counseling and understanding the traumatic experiences of my childhood and how to better emotionally deal with those could I saved myself some years of suffering you know and you don’t know that for sure but by six months into the program I had a pretty solid network of friends and people that I knew um we I like say it took a year till I felt exceptionally close to some of those people but they were still people that I would call that I could go to meetings with that I felt I got good support from yeah absolutely and I’m not saying that it’s ever bad to do more I guess what I’m saying is it would concern me if someone were trying to do it especially in the beginning oh like with no one with no one else around them that could relate right like so if I’m if I’m trying to get clean or you know get sober and I um relying entirely on friends and family that did not have the experience of trying to find recovery from substance abuse or or maybe some sort of recovery maybe it doesn’t need to be substance abuse specific but if I didn’t have that like I just don’t know I don’t I needed an outlet I needed other people who could relate to the life that I had just so recently been living yeah and and when I hear that like I think that is the the idea that I have kind of rocked along with my whole life like it had to be these certain type of people and this that and the other but like thinking from where I’m at now and the people I see as co-workers that you know like you said they they’ve never been in the same situations we’ve been in necessarily but they have they’ve struggled in life right which is ultimately in my mind this is all the same [ ] thing as everybody else’s problem in life like we’re not doing anything different it’s a very intense and extreme version of what other people do right seeking soothing like when when she said in the the OA episode like I’m addicted to soothers I was like yes of course because we’re all [ ] seeking relief that’s how life works right it feels not that great and in order to feel a little better the chicken pecks the ground right because that’s what brings the relief we’re all doing a version of this and so I was just thinking like I used to buy in that it had to be people just like me that had that but really what I’m thinking now is man if a human could show up and be vulnerable and like really see their pain and struggles and the places they struggle in life it would be the same exact thing right so like like what Billy’s saying like maybe that therapist who was understanding could have taken the place of six meetings a week like I don’t know what looking back when I was doing it I thought I couldn’t but I see it now and I’m like man I just really wanted to be seen and heard yeah I wanted to connect I think there is an important thing though I think getting back to what Caroline’s saying is like I can’t also undersell the value of having that peer support network as well like I can’t replace that with just a counselor like it’s almost like I need both you know like both are important to that idea of a support network well I I definitely think you know the one of the other scary things that comes to mind and I guess it shouldn’t be scary but it is for me because I’m from the land before internet um is the idea that like a lot of people find their networks or support systems online now right there’s a lot of social interaction right at Twitter Instagram Facebook they’ve all got recovery communities Tick Tock right like we’re a part of these and there’s a lot of people who who encounter our podcast and you’re like oh god I’ve been in recovery I’ve never even thought about going to a meeting before right like so this is a new and fascinating concept that I don’t know that was excessively available to me when I was Finding recovery but like that’s another thing too so if you go see a therapist and then you’re on Twitter all day right like I I don’t know is that just as healthy as going to a meeting in person and having that face to face I really don’t know what the difference is or drawbacks are but that’s a whole new space that like people are in and and we’re finding people in so like maybe that’s another space you can look for Community right or even in people’s blogs or readings or podcasts right like feeling some connection to the ideas and the ways people are talking so but I think you need more than connection to ideas and you need that that interplay and so I think you can find that online if you’re making connections with individuals where you’re communicating back and forth but I don’t know that just simply reading someone’s blog is going to give you that connection that you need yeah no no no I guess uh for me it’s more like this okay so somebody heard our podcast and they’re like oh man this idea in here so maybe they comment when we post it or maybe they send us an email or or maybe they share it on a discussion group and say hey I listened to this and I thought this like it’s all these ideas of kind of oh other people also think like me and I’m not bad or weird I can openly talk about this other places I guess just reinforcing that idea really of lessening Shame right I think it is about breaking down what we call stigma but just this idea that like okay I did some stuff that we all want to call bad in my life I’m not a bad person like so have you we’ve all done that right like let’s let’s just all be human and together I guess um so we’re talking about where to find them what do you do once you do find people that are like you how do you make a support system right like I I remember the first time and I didn’t do this necessarily with my network but the the first time I asked somebody to be my sponsor it was definitely like asking a girl out right it was all nervous and Jesus Christ is this guy going to reject me or accept me and uh I mean I didn’t have that formal conversation with my network do you think it would have been more useful too like if somebody came up to you and said Billy man I I think I really want to include you in my network man is it all right if I like put your number on that list to call you do you think that would increase your connection to them well I mean I feel like I’ve had people actually do that um you know asked like come up after a meeting and say Hey you know I’m trying to build my network you know can I get your number I can’t say how many of those people
but it’s like I I guess I was told in the beginning to kind of interview like your sponsor per se and uh you know that idea of like what I always took out of like stick with the winners is like look for people that are actually actively practicing recovery like it was starting to give me some guidelines for what healthy relationships or or what maybe healthier people looked like um and then of course I built some of my own morals and values and start to build relationships more off of that um but yeah it’s it’s difficult and you know I think like one of the challenges in 12-step fellowships or at least you know my experience has been you come in you find people you really like man you kind of know maybe they’re not doing exactly what they should but you just connect with them personally and then you watch them relapse or you see them you know sort of drift away or go out or start on this you know using again and it’s like you know that’s hard like because what for me what happens at least what I knew of early on in the program was well they’re just gone you just cut them off and you can’t you know like saving a drowning person you know I’m not trained enough to run into the ocean to try to save a drowning person it’s more than likely they’re going to drown me before before I’m gonna save them so in the beginning it was a lot of that you know building these relationships with people that came in around the same time as I did and had the same you know challenges early in recovery and then how many how few of those people actually stuck around and continued to be a support person three years in five years in ten years in right right so when we’re when we’re thinking about these people right we come in don’t judge people like that’s that’s you know we know that from before we come to na judging people’s wrong and all that good stuff and and don’t take people’s inventory and but then stick with the winners right or or find your people and gravitate towards them and and you kind of talked a little bit about that just now like seeing these different behaviors and maybe what a healthier lifestyle looks like but what do you think it is about this healthier lifestyle because the healthier lifestyle is always an option for us and we didn’t choose it at first so what is it that we’re seeing in these these sticking with the winners what do the winners have like what quality is it we have that we see in them or or what is it that we feel when we’re around them like what is it that’s leading us to say oh this person feels like they got something I want I mean for me I felt like people spelled it out or I heard it pretty specifically it was like people that were involved in service that were actually you know like doing service work at the time what would have been for Narcotics Anonymous through you know H and I or special events or one of those types of things uh people that were going to meetings regularly you know and that might have looked a little different depending on who you were and how much time you had but like someone that had a home group that had a sponsor that talked about working steps that you know was was sort of living a life that looked like they were practicing the principles that they were talking about in meetings um Integrity you know that had integrity and like I was like oh okay like those are people that you can see you know people that were I guess what they would say like on the inside that idea of like if you picture it as a big boat you want to stay more towards the middle you know you want to stay towards the center the the core people that are like super involved that know a bunch of people at meetings when you go places they’re connected like that’s a terrible analogy yeah you’re gonna be out hanging on the edge of the boat well uh I mean I get the flock right you want to be in the middle of the flock so you’re more protected but I feel like when the boat goes down everybody dies it doesn’t matter it doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of the outside
um yeah I was trying to think through your list right be in a service going to meetings regularly having a home group a sponsor working the steps and I and I think the the underlying and you had a couple more in there um integrity and like living a life that looked like what we talk about in the meetings which I think are ones that are possibly slightly harder to pinpoint in people because most of the people I saw I only saw in meetings you know what I mean or or before and after I didn’t see them in there you know what I’d call their natural environment around the people that poked their their tense stuff you know what I mean like so that those I feel like weren’t as accessible to me and it’s interesting I get the theory is probably if you’re doing all these other things you’re probably living a pretty good life and principled and stuff but I was just picturing somebody or people I’ve seen that do all these activities and yet are angry or miserable or talking about people the whole time they’re doing them and I’m like none of these really spoke to how I feel around somebody right because there’s a little difference like if I’m if I’m around somebody that I tell them like I did some dirty [ ] and they’re like hey man you know what like that doesn’t mean anything about who you are and I still love you and like like that feels warm and inviting right whereas if I’m around people that are just talking bad about so and so every time so and so isn’t around or talking about like that doesn’t make me necessarily feel better even though there is a weird piece of early on where I felt more included because they were telling me so maybe I did feel better I don’t know like I guess that’s just really tricky to try to figure out like who are these people and how do we find the attraction to them sometimes go ahead well I was going to say and that’s exactly it like in the beginning I was so out of touch with my feelings that I didn’t know any of that [ ] and as I stayed clean for a while then I started to add a few more things into those people I wanted to be connected with like you know oh like I generally liked people that looked like peaceful and calm in their life like I’ve had a lot of anxiety and everything was felt like chaos and stress all the time so I was attracted to people that had you know more peaceful demeanor I was attracted to people that were like married with a family and a career you know and those were just things that became values that I thought were important but I didn’t know those when I first came in I still had to do some work to figure out oh okay these are my values this is the person I want to be and then I could start to find those people yeah I was going to say something very similar like I think my values over time have changed when I first came in my values were just simply trying to stay clean and and work just like me so some sort of a program my friend when I saw other people that were like going to meetings and staying clean and like generally doing on a broad sense the right thing that was enough right but today my values are are more defined more clear for me so um I you know things stand out to me like I was in a situation the other day where I was talking with a group of people and and one person was was doing a lot of gossiping and that’s a big turn off for me today whereas you know 15 years ago probably wasn’t such a big turn off like I probably it made me feel included or or I was right along with them it’s like my as my values have evolved my my expectations for other people have evolved as well damn picture and being asked like if I was having this support system Network interview early on somebody being like Oh man what’s your values be like I don’t know what values you like they’re probably mine too
yeah my first sponsor was just my friend’s sponsor I was like who’s your sponsor and she told me I was like okay I guess I’ll get her to be my sponsor too like I didn’t have I didn’t have enough of an awareness of like what I needed in other people at that point but that’s okay because what I did have the awareness that I needed people that were also staying clean and generally trying to follow the program and and that was enough in the beginning you know just thinking about that and not necessarily so much from the network angle but I guess a sponsor is part of our Network right a part of our support system and thinking through the sponsors I got at different steps of the way like my first sponsor had exactly what I needed at that time which was a lot of time and energy and attention for me like he would come pick me up for meetings almost every night of the week he was really early on he didn’t even have a year yet but like that’s exactly what the [ __ ] I needed because truthfully I was not going to call anybody and go to a meeting I was just going to sit there but then when they called me it was like okay I can do that and then my second sponsor came at a point in time where I felt like my ego had gotten so out of control in the recovery process of like just trying to feel better about myself magnifying that fake ego to feel better right so then I got a sponsor who was really humble and just chill and like didn’t get into all that drama or being seen or or any of that and it’s like damn so intuitively I guess somehow I was seeking out the thing to counteract what I was struggling with in those times anyway yeah and I think that’s part of uh the benefit of having a support network is to have people around to see what different values look like in people’s lives you know you see the people that are all caught up in the excitement of whatever area positions and service and the whole ego and I don’t know chaos that can come with that we’re pulling up to the meeting in the nice cars or you know for me I I I’m gonna offend some people with this maybe but maybe the loud motorcycles or whatever like it all feels like a uh like it takes away from the environment I guess right and then recognizing like oh that doesn’t do it for me like and it’s nothing against them it’s what does it do to me does that speak to my heart does that speak to my spirit is that the person I want to be I mean I’m sure guys that are in the motorcycle clubs that are recovery based like they get exactly what they need out of those groups and that’s awesome and and some of them build lifelong you know friendships and support you know that they need from that group and that’s awesome just thinking about this idea next of like what’s the next step once you have a network we didn’t figure out how you build one yet though
so I feel like we were just talking about like how do we identify the people that would be good fits for our network but I don’t feel like we talked about concrete ways that you actually go about building the network oh I don’t know the meeting hang out after the meeting that would be a way I would say uh if people say hey we’re going to the cafe or the diner to get something even if you don’t have money just say I don’t have money uh can I go or I’m interested or you know uh those would be the first things that come to my mind go to go to events being of service like Billy mentioned right like if you step up and be of service you will find yourself around the quote unquote winner supposedly that are all there in the center of the boat uh not drowning when the boat goes down you know like I don’t know what kind of ideas do you have that’s what I’m thinking so yeah no I would agree with all of those I feel like so I’ve over the course of my recovery had to do this a number of times where I’ve looked around and said my network is lacking and I need to remedy that and so yeah going to meetings regularly going before the meeting like going early staying late home group getting a home group yeah that’s a good one too um you know in in a best case scenario a home group can really almost become like a family if you find the right one so that can be amazing sharing in a meeting too is another one that that I’ve done many times you know sharing like I need to build my network any ladies that uh you know have some time wanna wanna give me their number let’s let’s connect that’s what I say when I build my network too
um thinking through this idea of like either getting a service position that stands out right I I read the anniversary list in my group every week or I hand out key tags like something that gets you front and center hey I’m this and this and you know here’s my name uh you know I think that draws attention to you so to speak as in hey people get to know your name and they start saying hi to you and they recognize you in other meetings or you know I don’t know that every form of program or meetings has readings in the beginning that people read but like that’s another one where you get to say your name people get to hear your voice you get to be familiarized all all part I would imagine of the process of finding people thinking about the internet like I see people almost every day posting on the the Reddit you know the subreddits around recovery or redditors in recovery or whatever and they’re always talking about hey I’m new I’m thinking about detoxing or I am detoxing I’m on day three and I’m struggling and like constantly without fail there’s 10 20 replies of like support encouragement sometimes there’s a little back and forth and arguing and all that kind of stuff but like there’s is these places out there to go seek it even if you can’t find that person you know in the meeting down the street because the meeting down the street doesn’t exist right now maybe there is a place you can just go post and get some kind of support for the moment yeah or just checking out like different 12-step meetings like I was never real like I knew the big ones you know aana that’s what I knew when I got into recovery I had no idea that there were all these other different versions of 12-step and even non-12-step you know recovery meetings so now with the internet like there is way more access either virtually or just letting you know what groups are out there I mean maybe it does take like for us like maybe I do have to ride you know 45 minutes to Baltimore or Philadelphia to find like uh marijuana’s Anonymous or some other type of meeting like that that I feel more comfortable and connected at um but yeah in the beginning it was like here’s these two fellowships pick one one that’s where you go you know and and if you didn’t like either of them or you struggled with God or whatever it was like good luck right right right yeah I would say I think smaller meetings can be easier too so if you’re in an area where there’s you know meetings that have a hundred plus people that can be really easy to get lost in the sea of that but if you can find some of the less popular meetings where maybe it’s 20 or 30 or even less people and you’re going to those regularly people will start to recognize you a lot a lot sooner than in the like massive mass of people meetings I have not seen many hundred plus people meetings that have not also had a group of home group members that hate it start like a step study in the back during the same time frame like every 100 person or more meeting I’ve seen there’s always a group in the back they’re like oh we also have a step study in the back if you want to go do that and I’m like yeah that’s where all the home group members are I can’t think of any meetings like that that’s so funny yeah we we were existing in in parallel for many years but yeah I can’t think of any meanings like that so that is funny so so one of the things I think is important do you feel like we’ve have we established how to get your network yes okay well my only thing is what do you do if you don’t want to go to a 12-step group I mean I would think definitely through a church or group you could build a support group there um go online yeah or maybe through like an alcohol or drug counseling program I know sometimes they have group therapy or group sessions yeah there’s definitely random support groups I say random like you know I think Bode wants to start a random support group just for people in you know that are struggling with disordered uh substance use but like I don’t know the best way to go about finding them necessarily maybe your local Health Department could tell you um but like I guess you had mention Reddit and some of those other things yeah yeah it’s Facebook Facebook has tons of recovery groups yeah yeah it’s incredible how once you go out there and look for some of these places I like to advertise a podcast uh how many of them there are like I had no idea there were so many large groups of people supporting each other each day right they they wake up hey I’m struggling today with this and I see it on Twitter all the time and there’s 30 comments hey we can do this right be easy with yourself just really kind stuff and it’s like man sometimes that’s what we need exactly [Music] thank you
thank you so so one of the ideas that’s presented here and I don’t know that this one gets talked about much is the idea that like having a support system or network is kind of useless if we don’t get vulnerable and honest and and share with them in ways that make us help us connect right we’re talking about that shame at the beginning that prevents us from talking with people and connecting and like how do you do that right because one of the things you were talking about we were talking about how do you pick your network and I was thinking well if you don’t feel like you can be honest and vulnerable with those people they’re obviously shitty Network people for you but that might not necessarily be true in the beginning right it takes time to form that trust over time like okay I shared with Billy that I did this one thing but I ain’t sharing about that sex addiction [ ] yet right like and so me I don’t know like how do we build that is it just practice I don’t think everyone in your network needs to be that for you though I mean it can be that it starts in the beginning that just your sponsor maybe or your therapist can be that and then over time you can find some more people that you have that with um for me I think in the beginning my net the the biggest value that my network gave me was other people who were clean and had time to hang out and we were like hanging out and doing fun things and being clean they weren’t all necessarily people that I was going to Bear my heart and soul to but they were they were they were friends that I could do healthy things with we could go to meetings together we could go out to eat they could give me rides well I think what you’re saying about the the past shame maybe the the one we still carry from previous stuff yeah I don’t know that we necessarily have to be able to say that at all times with every individual but if the people I’m around I can’t tell hey I’m having thoughts of using or hey I’m just really feeling off right now like and I I feel like I can’t connect to you guys like if you can’t get vulnerable about the now I I don’t know what good it’s going to do to have those people there for me I just end up feeling lonelier around people when I feel shitty and can’t say it yeah well and just and you’re saying that it takes me down a different path of like so much of that for me my willingness to disclose or to evolve some of the darker parts of myself have so much more to do with how I feel about myself than they do with the person that’s sitting across from me listening they do but the way to feel better about ourselves is to be able to be vulnerable with that person sitting across from us listening so it’s like how do we get here when we’re not right but I do believe you know the the step process I mean sort of forces that on people at least with a sponsor or you know if it’s not a sponsor in your fifth step when you get to the fifth step you know it can be another person and so from there you know I begin to learn about that practice and the benefits of it and then I can build that hopefully build that with other people another another concept that was presented to us by our handy dandy AI today uh was this idea of setting boundaries as an important part of building your network and I feel like that is so far into the idea nobody said that to me when I was getting a network like don’t forget to set your boundaries um but I I do think boundaries are hugely important and one of the ways we look at them in a not useful way for us I think is we talk about boundaries in the sense of like it feels like if I was to set a boundary with Billy I am harming him right in some way like Billy you’re not allowed to do that thing that you just tried to do that’s not okay and it feels like a harm is being done and I would say that boundaries are more of a form of protection right and what I’m doing is I’m protecting our friendship Billy because I’m what I’m telling you is if you keep doing that I can’t be here anymore right so it’s really like a form of loving action like Billy I want to keep you in my life so I need to do this instead of a harming action towards somebody else and I don’t think we think of it that way yeah and boundaries are tough though because like I can have boundaries in a relationship that also eliminate or minimize vulnerability like if I say well one of my boundaries is you really can’t criticize you know I don’t like when you criticize me or or say anything that’s negative about me well how am I supposed to be intimate with you and say hey you do this thing that’s really bothersome or you do you know there’s this part of your personality where you know whatever you’re late all the time to things and and you know what I mean like you can put boundaries up that aren’t necessarily great if you’re not really aware of healthy boundaries or Intimacy in relationships that’s interesting and I say that from personal experience because I have a fear of intimacy in relationships and it’s really easy to start going well these are my boundaries and then it’s like well yeah because you just stuck your arms up to keep everybody 10 feet away so I’m gonna I’m gonna credit Al-Anon with this and maybe wrongfully but I do think it’s kind of where I learned it which is that a boundary really has nothing to do with what someone else is doing it doesn’t say what someone can or can’t do it’s all about what I’m doing so I can’t say Jason my boundary is that you don’t say that to me anymore I can say my boundary is that if Jason says that to me then I will do X right so it’s all about my behavior and my choices and really has nothing to do with what the other person does or doesn’t do and I was thinking about Billy could set the boundary of we’re not allowed to criticize him and yet we could still say Billy when one of our podcast members shows up late for the podcast it really hurts my feelings it’s not a criticism of you at all right never even mentioned you it’s just saying what doesn’t work for me you know so I don’t know I don’t know if that helps any I don’t know the people early on in recovery well my boundaries maybe it’s something to start exploring earlier on yeah I think and I didn’t think of it in this way but Billy talked about this earlier my boundaries in early recovery were that like you needed to be living a program of recovery at a very general nature it wasn’t very discriminatory but like my boundary was like if you start using like I can’t hang out with you anymore like I need to protect myself because I don’t want to use um so those were kind of like my very basic boundaries in the beginning was that like these you people that I was going to hang out with they needed to be cleaner I couldn’t hang out with them so uh you know we’ve done this talking about it and I think it’s been a great exploration but maybe one of the things we haven’t really explored and I don’t know where it gets explored is the idea that okay this is great for the newer person the newer member but one of the challenges and you said it earlier Carolina and I’ve seen it with so many people including myself is once you’ve been around and those new people that were in your network drop off stock come and behave differently and you don’t hang around them no more how do we build a network later in recovery and what does it look like well how is it different then because I feel like maybe part of my problem was I was trying to do it the same way I was like oh I’ll just go to meetings a bunch and then I’ll meet a bunch of people and I’ll be around them and I’ll find some and we’ll hang out and what I found was that didn’t work with eight and ten years clean when I had a family and kids and I couldn’t go play pinochle till two in the morning drinking coffee every night because I had a job like those methods didn’t work anymore and I wasn’t just meeting people in meetings and maybe like maybe even thinking about it from that idea if I have to meet meeting people was limiting already in itself like maybe at that point I just need a support system in the world right I’m not really dealing with staying off of drugs on a day-to-day basis anymore maybe I need people who understand being frustrated with your kids is when they won’t go to bed and stuff like and like I didn’t adjust so maybe that’s what we can talk about like because we people who are adults can’t find friends and that’s basically what we’re saying in a recovery vocabulary well and when you say that I think sometimes as addicts we think we’re like terminally unique to this but if you think of people generally in life how like how many people do you know that have like 20 30 and 40 year long like friendships like that’s not that common like we think oh yeah people just go out and they have these friends and they keep them for life and it’s like well no not really you know lives change people move things go away when you hear about those you know exceptionally long marriages or exceptionally long friendships it’s like there’s almost Something Beautiful in it like wow you know that’s great so to think that I would be involved in a 12-step Fellowship for 20 plus years and have the same exact support group that I had when I came in like that’s probably not a realistic expectation to have um I do have some friends that I’ve had for all that time which to me again now I look at like wow that’s [ ] amazing that I can name probably three people that I’ve known for that 20 years you know two of which are still people I talk to almost daily in my life like that’s [ ] incredible you know I I was thinking about that subset and I was thinking maybe that exists more than we realize in my mind there’s like people who can’t find friends as adults people who’ve had these friends for less than a year because you just keep cycling through new people trying to find some and then there’s the people who because they can’t find friends just hold on to the people they went to elementary school with and I feel like that is a large portion of our society it’s like I ain’t got time to search for new ones so I’ll stick with whatever stuck around basically and it’s like are they just like Facebook friends well like my wife’s friends like she feels close to them but it’s three people from Cecil County she grew up around right they didn’t all go to the same schools necessarily but like I don’t know I mean she’s got a couple new friends from her job but like where do adults go where they’re actually doing anything or having fun or it’s about them when you have kids I guess I’m sure if you don’t have kids there’s probably like you know your life probably rocks um maybe you don’t need friends if that’s got all the time in the world anyway um it’s not the case um yeah I I would say over the years I have definitely seen my membership in a 12-step Fellowship as an asset in that regard because normal people do not have a place where they can go and meet a bunch of other people recreationally like yeah I mean church but you were talking about Kim it’s like she has work and she has her friends that she grew up with but but like I feel like for those of us that participate in a 12-step Fellowship we have this place where we can go and hopefully make some friends it’s an it’s another resource that most like normies don’t have and I think yeah I don’t know I feel like we have it and we don’t because when I was going to meetings with 10 years clean there wasn’t really what I found was 95 of the people had nothing in common with me still like I probably had less in common with them than I did people I would randomly meet watching my kids soccer game on the bleachers you know what I mean like I like you talk about Billy when you go into an h i institution and you’re just like I am so disconnected from this like our problems are not the same on a daily basis we’re not you’re like how do I not inject my veins full of poison today and like I have I’m not gonna do that today right like we’re not dealing with the same life issues we don’t have much to talk about yeah and I think that changes what my expectations are from let’s say a meeting like just having an understanding of what my expectation should be let’s say walking into my home group where the average length of clean time is probably a year or less right you know that’s very different than my expectation you know of going and hanging out with maybe my sponsor or some people with a lot more time some of that is leveling out my expectations or knowing sort of paying attention to what I need and which part of my support group provides what because there is value in having this support group of new people that are at my home group I do go and build new relationships with new people that are just coming in to replace some of the ones that I’ve lost along the way it keeps you connected with my Foundation but if my expectation is I’m going to go into this meeting with a lot of these people that I don’t have much in common with and they’re going to replace friendships that I’ve had for 5 10 15 years it’s probably a little unrealistic well I guess what I was thinking was with Caroline saying that’s a place that she feels she could readily go at any time to find or make or cultivate new friendships I’m like that’s not the place I’m going to find people like me most of the time it depends on how far I’m willing to travel right like I don’t I don’t hear them yeah and and the the go to that AAA meeting with them guys that uh crosstalk yeah that might be more my speed oh yeah I didn’t that wasn’t probably where I would find people I had a lot in common with but um I uh you know this this past Friday I made the trip down to Bel Air and so I went to a meeting I reached out to a girlfriend who’s probably got eight or so years now you know she told me that was her home group she told me a couple other women I know with you know close to around a decade clean that go there I went there there was definite I mean I I’m lucky that I’m if I choose to I don’t have to be starting from scratch because I still know people right um but to be in that meeting where there were other people with substantial time versus I feel like a lot of the meetings probably closer to my house where it’s more like a year um I do tend to have more in common with those people they’re building careers going to school have families they’re a little bit more in the like normal day-to-day life struggles than the oh my God I’m just trying to stay clean today or I’m just trying to like get rent to pay my get money to pay my weekly recovery house rent like that’s those are different issues um so I guess that that it depends on where I am and and I can try to seek out areas or meetings where I know there’s going to be more of that and I can just keep trying too that’s the other thing you know like I’ve been bouncing around areas I went to um I went I checked out a couple meetings north of Me Up near Lancaster uh like a couple months ago I’ve checked out some meetings in Cecil County and now I’m kind of back in Harvard County again um but it’s not my experience having had to do this multiple times throughout my recovery journey is it’s not something that I can just be like I’m gonna do it go to one meeting problem solved now I have this great Network it takes work and it takes like trying and failing and it takes showing up um but my experience has been when I’m willing to do those things when I’m willing to consistently show up and consistently work at it it does eventually pay off well and there’s a difference too in long-term like recovery and having relationships versus early on and having relationships like early on it was like oh we’re in the same Home Group cool we’re best friends let’s go hang out and [ ] go to diners and hit on chicks and whatever else we do and go to events you know now my relationships do have a little more substance behind them there is a little more about well what are your values you know what how do you treat you know your wife and your family and your kids what do you think about you know your life and and like the people I want to have in the relationships I want to have have more substance you know than just oh we’re in the same home group that’s cool we’re buddies you know I was thinking about the story you were laying out of like where to invest your time to possibly put you in the best position for this network or support system building and I was like damn you just laid out what the [ ] we did uh you and I met up I ran into you at a meeting when I moved up here and we exchanged numbers somehow or whatever and and then it was like hey let’s go to a couple meetings and we did that and we’re kind of like yeah you know the meat was all right whatever and then we’re like maybe we should just meet up on Sunday mornings and meditate right we’re like [ ] that meeting thing let’s just go hang out and talk and meditate and like that went well for a while and then we were like well let’s just make it a podcast where we just talk a lot about [ ] and like I feel like that’s exactly what we did we found connection like we were like oh it I feel like we’re almost wasting that hour sitting in the meeting where we could be talking to each other and getting to know each other you know what I mean and I’m not saying that the meeting meeting things were bad or any of that but just at that point in time for you and I what we needed was not necessarily to sit in that group of people we needed a way to connect and build a relationship with each other and so it’s just interesting you were laying that out I’m like damn that’s what we did and it’s funny when Caroline was telling her story I thought yeah that this relationship with this person is probably happening like meeting up before the meeting or on the ride to the meeting more so than the event of being in the meeting like that’s almost just a a sub thing that’s happening the relationship building is happening around that meeting I will say one thing I’m noticing for me as time goes on the thing that kept me from having the time to invest or the energy or the resources to invest in in more relationships was like just feeling overwhelmed with all I had to do already right like I I very overwhelmed and I think this is a societal level problem very overwhelmed with like life’s demands basically or what I thought were life’s demands of me which didn’t leave me any space or desire to want to like do more right oh man you were supposed to call that guy you met the other day that you really guys clicked right I don’t want to do that now like I just put the kids to bed it’s been a long-ass day like and what has helped me with that idea or at least is helping me and it’s something I’m changing now is like realizing kind of kind of like the lady from OA said like taking control of your life like it’s I’m not a victim right I can choose whether these the world demands this whether I do it or not and like creating more space and time for me has created more interest in you know what I want to get some of these regularly scheduled uh phone calls on the thing I don’t like phone calls but you know what it’s feeling good so let me do more of it like I have the time to invest I guess when I’m not feeling like all my times being taken from me yeah and that’s I think early in recovery when I was going to a lot of meetings like physically going to a lot of the meetings that stuff happens way I’ll say easier I mean it’s just I’m going to the meeting I’m 15 minutes early we’re hanging out out front you know we’re chatting bullshitting about whatever you know I see you at another meeting on Wednesday and then I see you at the meeting on Friday and we chat and whatever well then when I start going to one meeting a week or just my home group and then you don’t make it to my home group well then it requires me to do some [ ] work like I gotta actually reach out to you I gotta make a phone call I gotta shoot a text I gotta I’m not just seeing you coincidentally so the effort that it takes to maintain this support group grows you know as my outside life grows or my lack of meeting attendance grows or my lack of service grows then it’s on me to maintain that support group it’s just not happening organically I’m gonna say this Caroline it is your job to keep me from continuing in debate or arguing about this because we are out of time but I do want to say it and then you all can respond and then I’ll just shut the [ ] up I promise you’re gonna remind me of that uh so what you just described to me as this clicked in my head early on people don’t have jobs people don’t really have responsibilities we’ve been running from all that [ ] for years right or if you have a job it’s like some I don’t give a [ ] job mostly not everybody I get it some people come in they still got a great job but for most people there’s very little demands from the world on you because you ain’t been doing none of those demands anyway which gives us all the [ ] time in the world and space and energy to connect with other people and as we go on in recovery and we keep stepping up to be fully self-supporting of ourselves we take on so much [ ] that we actually don’t have space for the thing we need which is connection and I would say that that is where we are kind of being misguided as humans like no we don’t need all these demands on us what we need is more connection and I don’t think it’s a problem like oh I can’t meet people because I’m 40. I think it’s the fact that if I had more time it would probably happen naturally the same [ ] way it did early on sorry soapbox moment won’t argue feel free to respond yeah so I uh totally agree with that and was thinking that earlier I think when you were saying the thing about demands on time I was so fortunate that I’m so fortunate that when I came in I decimated my life and I was 20 so I didn’t have a lot of decimating like I had no responsibilities literally like I I had no job in the beginning I was not in school and I could go to meeting and I could hang out a ton and then I got I think my first job in recovery was working at like KFC um I could literally devote my entire Focus to recover and and so grateful for that right like a lot of people don’t have that privilege a lot of people come in and they have kids or they have significant others and they have mortgages to pay and you know they probably struggle from the beginning then probably probably um so I I agree completely with you it’s a lot easier when you have the time um than it then it becomes potentially down the road but I also think you know like there were periods of time now is not one of them as I find myself unemployed with no kids um living alone there were times in my recovery where I was working going to school in a relationship where it did have to be more intentional about maintaining you know relationships with other people um and and did that to varying degrees of success but it certainly it can be done when we prioritize it um but yeah it’s a lot easier when you got nothing else to do yeah and all I’ll say is it’s yeah where are your priorities I mean for me when I came in I had a full-time job that my managed to store and within 60 days I got my own apartment was taken care of all my own stuff I didn’t go through treatment I didn’t go into a halfway house or none of that [ __ ] I had a full-time job I got out and took care of myself still went to meetings every day because that was a priority and a Focus right as I got older some other things became equal or more of a priority when it was my marriage and my kids and those things I think were valuable sometimes it was ego stuff and sometimes it was enjoyment stuff and at the time those were decisions that I made but yeah where’s my priority my priorities in maintaining relationships I can probably find the time any other thoughts about Network support systems how to do it which we are looking for I think we covered it pretty exhaustively honestly so go out there start building yours whether that’s you know on a social media platform in person virtually through some kind of program however it is find these people that you can go to when things don’t feel good that feels a little better because that’s the people you’re going to want to be around take care of yourselves [Music] [Applause]
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