21March

The Importance of Sober Support

The Importance of Sober Support


“Well we all need someone we can lean on.” That sentiment as sung by the Rolling Stones is universal no matter the life circumstance. In recovery, it is doubly true as those who have worked so hard to become sober now have to relearn (or sometimes learn for the first time) how to survive everyday life without the artificial coping mechanism of their drug or behavior of choice.

Maintaining sobriety is challenging in more ways than just saying “no.” On the journey to becoming an addict, the person's brain chemistry has been altered. The neuro-chemicals that normally would help one to cope are now in short supply, rendering the newly-sober addict with an unpleasant condition of anhedonia. So now you have a person who has the best of intentions but is out of practice when it comes to coping skills AND who suffers with a brain in need of healing or resetting, which can take many months of sobriety to achieve. Making good decisions and coping well with life stressors is especially difficult.

Being with others who are or have experienced this tenuous state of being is extremely helpful. When non-addicted people say “just deal with it,” they are asking for more strength than they realize. When a group of folks in recovery get together, they are able to offer true empathy, real-life suggestions and emotional support. Just as parents get the best advice about child-rearing from those who actually have raised children, the recovering addict often gets the best advice from others who have been where they are now.

As the person in recovery begins to heal and enjoy life on life's terms again, giving back to others then becomes a way to remind themselves just how far they have come. Groups like JACS, AA, SMART Recovery and now our new HAMSA (Helping Atlantans Manage Substance Abuse) Support all help the person in recovery to navigate his or her way through the emotional and logistical hurdles of everyday life as a sober person.

As part of HAMSA, which began last summer, we host monthly Sober Shabbat dinners at varying locations throughout the metro area. Our first dinner was in October, and since then 65 individuals have come to at least one dinner. Each dinner builds on the success of the previous one. Word of mouth spreads quickly! One woman in her 20s in recovery learned about the dinner from friends. She started coming regularly, and after a few months she brought her mother, who is also in recovery with her. At that dinner the mother learned about our peer support group and brought her son, who is in active addiction as well.

Expanding on this, HAMSA is matching patients in substance abuse treatment seders with families in our community that have a person in recovery for Passover Seders. Our peer-peer support groups meets on Wednesday nights. It is free, open to the public and facilitated by clinicians.

If you are in recovery and would like to join others for a Sober Shabbat or Passover, please contact us at HAMSA@jfcs-atlanta.org or online to for additional information.

Written by Jo Abney, Posted in JF&CS - Hope and Opportunity Happen Here, Counseling Services

About the Author

Jo Abney

Jo Abney

Jo Abney, NCC, LPC, is JF&CS' Substance Abuse Clinician. Jo’s experience includes facilitating intensive outpatient treatment programs and aftercare recovery groups, establishing a peer-support SMART recovery program, working with drug court and DUI court programs, and facilitating anger management and domestic violence groups. Jo is listed on the Georgia Registry as a recognized DUI evaluator and treatment provider and has been a Georgia-certified Family Violence Intervention Program facilitator.