Addiction recovery is often depicted in the media as an epiphany instigated by a lengthy process of counseling and tough love. In this scenario, the brutal honesty forces clients to confront their substance abuse and its associated unhealthy behaviors. Unfortunately, it’s not this easy. While recognition is a big portion of recovery, a majority of the necessary work is tied to uncovering someone’s true nature.

Most counselors practice motivational interviewing, which is a therapy technique that is dedicated to learning what motivates someone to be good. This focuses on unpacking two factors: internal and external motivators. External motivators can be obvious things like loved ones, jobs, and passions, but they can also be more abstract concepts like society at large and not wanting to injure others. This is just a starting point, though, because internal motivators are a bit harder to pin down. 

Internal motivators are elements of the self that they deem good, such as personal principles like honesty, integrity, work ethic, creativity, etc. It takes quite a bit of emotional labor and self-introspection to identify one’s internal motivators, and often it’s too hard to do alone, which is why it’s best done with the assistance of a counselor. In order to make these realizations, addicts need to want to get better and commit to understanding what makes them tick. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to be motivated if someone’s used to only feeling desire in conjunction with addiction. Behaviors like substance abuse and gambling obscure one’s view of their own self-worth. The best thing about recovery is realizing that you are loved and worth it and that you can be yourself without needing the buffer of substances. This kind of introspection and motivation is hard to achieve without a clear head, which is why it’s crucial for those in recovery to remain sober through the entire process and beyond. Relapsing can erase prior groundwork laid by professionals.

While counseling can help addicts immensely on their path to recovery, effective change is best achieved through community recovery. Most of the recovery process occurs during conversations with others who are struggling with the same vices. The best counseling comes from folks who are going through drug recovery together; the comradery in the community is indispensable to anyone going through treatment.

One of the few accurate depictions of recovery in pop culture can be seen in The Lord of the Rings. In this analogy, the addiction is presented in the form of a ring that holds an ancient evil force that warps the heart and mind of any person that is saddled with the hardship of carrying it. The ring, although poisonous and bent on the destruction of its bearer, also makes those who wear it believe that they are invincible and immune to the forces of evil corrupting them. The ring is so powerful that if it’s worn for any significant amount of time, the ring will distort the soul of those who wear it, making them forsake all things vital to their own prosperity, e.g. Golem. Because of this, no one being is capable of carrying it alone; hence the creation of the Fellowship.

The Fellowship is analogous to the recovery community, as both are support systems essential to overcoming the addiction corrupting its members. The Fellowship is assembled with the sole purpose of destroying the ring and with it the dominion of evil that poisons it. Each member of the Fellowship brings unique personal experiences and skills on the collective’s perilous journey to destroy the ring. Despite their differences, they work together, passing the ring between them to diffuse its influence over any one individual. Communities like these prevent individuals from being crushed by the weight of past decisions and help them bear each other’s weight together. Although everyone must find their own path through recover, one thing is certain: no one can do it alone. The only real way to overcome an addiction is to have help and support from others, so asking for it is the most vital first step that someone can take towards getting better.

Drug addiction can feel like being pulled into a deep, dark, cave, and acclimating to the cold and uncomfortable conditions. On the other hand, recovery feels like emerging from the cave and stepping into the sun for the first time in forever, which can feel foreign, uncomfortable and overwhelming. But with time, community support, and love, living life in the light will become comfortable with the realization that the world is a beautiful place that is full of new possibilities.