Being a recovering addict in general is work. Everyday comes with new challenges, temptations, and desires. But being a recovering addict in your 20’s can be especially brutal. Drinking is such a big part of twenty something culture…actually of American culture in general. Weddings, concerts, clubs, bars…alcohol is everywhere. And with alcohol there are generally other substances not too far behind. At least for me, there always was. Here is a small guide I put together to help my fellow twenty somethings maintain sobriety and hopefully offer some promise for the future.
1. Be honest about your recovery status.
Have a big slice of humble pie, put that pride aside and be honest that you are an addict in recovery. There is a stigma that is attached with addiction. People will either really respect you for your honesty or become extremely uncomfortable. Or maybe both. The way a person reacts to your confession will be a good indicator of whether this is someone that should be in your life or not. If someone asks me out for a drink, I just keep it simple “I’m in recovery for substance abuse and I do not drink”. It takes any prospect that you may do it one day off the table. Whether you are meeting someone new or rekindling old friendships/relationships, honesty is the best policy and will make you feel in charge of your recovery.
2. Surround yourself with others in recovery who are serious about staying sober.
This coincides with the first point I made but it is really important to be around others who “get it”. Your friends and family who love you are a great support system but being around other recovering addicts can be validating in a positive way. There are some things that only those who have struggled with addiction can truly understand. This is why twelve step meetings are so effective. They are generally run by facilitators who are recovering addicts themselves with years and years of sobriety under their belt.
3. Cut the people out of your life who are triggers.
When I was in my party mode, there was a distinct group of people that I hung out with. I needed to cut them out completely. One time when I told a friend that I was trying to stay sober, she proceeded to tell me about her weekend LSD trip. It became instantly clear that this girl shouldn’t be in my life. Don’t judge and don’t put yourself above anyone. The people I got into trouble with weren’t necessarily bad people to the core. But when I was with them, it was a recipe for disaster.
4. Utilize that “addictive gene” for positive things.
Studies have shown that genetics do play a significant role in developing addiction. Some of us seem to be more vulnerable and carry an “addictive gene” so to speak. That being said, I have become addicted to running. I love to run and need to do it everyday. It almost feels like I transferred my addiction to running. I’m 25 and in the best shape I have ever been in. I wouldn’t be able to run like this if I was drinking or using.
5. Create a young person recovery support group in your area.
Post an ad on Craigslist or talk to your facilitator at meetings about putting together a group specifically for people who are younger. I felt like it would be impossible to find others my age going through recovery. But sure enough there are “young people” meetings and they are amazing. It really helps to be around people your age going through this. Finding twenty somethings who are sober can be difficult but they are definitely out there.
6. Put together fun events for your recovery buddies.
I think a big part of why recovery in your 20’s can be so rough is that we basically feel like we are missing out on all the fun. It is easy to forget how bad it can get when you see a big group of college kids having the time of their lives under the influence. But being in recovery doesn’t mean sitting at home eating Doritos and watching reality TV. Set up bowling events, movie nights, sushi dinners…there is a whole world out there that doesn’t include drinking or using. And it is beautiful to experience through clear eyes.
7. Get a Sponsor.
A sponsor is someone of the same gender who is a few years older than you and has a few years (at least) sober. Go to your local NA/AA meeting and ask someone to be your sponsor. This person will provide you with support and be a phone call away when that nasty craving hits you.
The 20’s are the decade where we try on many hats, study different things, and begin to construct our identities (may take a few tries, I’m still working on it!). To be in recovery at this particular time feels really confusing and scary. But allowing yourself to face the reality that this is a part of who you are at such a young age is a powerful thing. Recovery is the perfect time to get in touch with yourself again to see what it is you truly love. And what better time than in your 20’s to do this? The 20’s are the age that everyone wants to be! Embrace your recovery, embrace your 20’s and relish in the simple pleasures that life has to offer.