Updated: Aug 7
Get in the Herd!
We know that recovery means changing practically everything about our lives. Our relationships with others and ourselves, our environment, our habits, our outlook - all of it changes when we choose recovery.
As much as we want to make that change, it’s still daunting and intimidating. Naturally, we feel vulnerable, a necessary outcome of changing practically everything about our life.
How we choose to handle this feeling of vulnerability is at the heart of how we approach recovery.
Are you a Lone Wolf or Part of the Herd?
On one hand, we can choose to “go it alone,” withdrawing into isolation, loneliness, and fear. If we often feel awkward or uncomfortable around others, withdrawing can seem like the more natural choice - even though the evidence is clear that this approach almost always results in relapse or setbacks. It’s easy to let discomfort and the fear of rejection, shame, and embarrassment prevent us from getting the help we need. Remember, isolation is the enemy of recovery.
Or we can choose to be vulnerable with others who will support us, share our struggles, understand what we’re going through, and want to help us stay on the path of recovery. (If you missed our last blog post about this, it’s here.) We can be bolstered and encouraged by others in recovery who want to help and see us succeed.
We can choose to get in the herd.
For animals in the wild, being in the herd provides protection from predators because there’s safety in numbers. Most of the time, predators are not interested in attacking large groups. They’re looking for the more vulnerable, lone animal.
Being part of the herd means being protected and safe. In nature, the herd helps protect the members by reducing the chance of being singled out by a predator. Likewise, in recovery being part of the herd shields us with the support of the community, making us less susceptible to relapse.
When we connect with each other with a common purpose, to stay sober and safe, we’re better supported and protected from people, places, and decisions that pull us away from recovery. Alone, though, we’re weak and vulnerable to attack and continued suffering in addiction.
In nature, the most vulnerable of the herd stay in the center where they are protected by members who are both stronger and more experienced at fighting off a predator. Keeping the more vulnerable members in the center of the herd also means there’s less of a chance of one of them getting lost or falling away, becoming vulnerable to a predator.
In recovery, working within our herd and practicing self-care like exercise, therapy, meditation, 12-step group participation, and mindfulness can accomplish the same purpose for us. We’re at the center where we’re protected by the more experienced members, keeping us safe from predators, in this case, addiction. We develop positive techniques and build our psychological and emotional strength, which helps protect us as individuals and adds strength to a sober community against the threats of active addiction.
The only thing that changes when you get sober is everything.
Getting in the herd with a peer support groups like AA, NA, SMART Recovery, OA, CoDA, SLA, or others, keeps each individual safe and secure from the dangers of addiction. It means developing positive coping skills and having support, as well as offering it to others.
And what do you do if you don’t have a herd yet or aren’t sure where to find one? Reach out to us at Gooding Wellness and we can help get you started. We have an extensive list of local resources for you and your loved ones to get the support you need, no matter where you are on your recovery journey.
Recovery is always possible and you don’t have to face it alone.
Written by Gordon Gooding, LCSW , Director & Founder of Gooding Wellness LCSW PC