Creating a Culture of Recovery

By Ken Wells - 01/08/2021


Sobriety and serenity is never an accident or a matter of luck. If you are addicted to a substance or process this seems obvious. Yet, addicts who do not experience sobriety often conclude that temperance is a luck of the draw, some can do it and some cannot. If you observe the experience of two addicts, one who is sober and the other not, you will discover vast differences at every level in life. The way an addict approaches life challenges differs greatly depending whether or not h/she is practicing sobriety. 

There is a night and day difference in attitude toward frustrations, problems and responsibilities hinging upon sobriety or intemperance. The manner in which addicts carry themselves and the energy that is emanated is very different all revolving around sober or addictive behavior.

This is not only observable with sobriety from addiction but can be noticed in enterprises at every level of life. Business, education, sports entities that experience accomplishment and fulfill objectives with great intention also differ from those who do not. So what are the differences that can be witnessed and examined?

It begins with the word culture. Addicts who cultivate sobriety and serenity develop and nurture a healing environment in every aspect of their lives. There is an expectation for accomplishment. There is a propriety about finishing the tasks in recovery. There is a cultivated expectation toward experiencing self-dignity and treating others the same. There is commitment to training and practice in creating an atmosphere of honor and respect that begins inward and impacts everything you do in the surroundings of life. This culture is passionately bred, fertilized and cultivated in a life of recovery. Here are some components to consider in building your culture for recovery:

1. Community:

It makes all the difference in the world who you choose to hang with. If you want to create a culture for sobriety, everything depends upon who you choose for support. It’s pretty simple, yet, profound. Culture depends upon the community you choose. The necessary attitude, habits and lifestyle for what you want to create in your life will be legitimized or deconstructed by the people you choose to engage as friends. If you want to create sobriety, then you connect with people who are done using. It’s not just attending a recovery support group either. You might ask yourself when you go to a 12 step meeting, do you hang out with those who are on the margins of recovery or do you look for individuals who are dead serious about sobriety, regardless if they present as cool or someone you think you might like? It’s not a necessary requirement that the folks you choose be able to quote the Big Book, just that they will do whatever it takes to be sober. Over the years, I have noticed guys who are not “all in” with recovery gravitate to others who equally who are not “all in”. These are people who will not hold their own feet to the fire nor will they hold yours about sobriety. Waffling around recovery issues is what they are about. A culture of recovery requires that you plant yourself in a community who practices and aspires to build an environment for healing from addiction. 

2.  Attitude is everything:

Whether I am sober or stuck in addiction is all about attitude. It always is. It’s not about disease, parents, background or bad breaks. It’s always about attitude. Granted, you might have negative scores in all of these areas but your salvation depends upon your attitude to embrace whatever it takes to become sober. That’s it. Not more or less. Today, there is cutting edge research, new and wonderful therapeutic technologies that all provide important insight and helpful interventions that should be considered and responsibly embraced. Yet, ultimately the determining factor to creating a culture for recovery will pivot on your attitude toward healing addiction in your life. Most people struggle with bad attitudes about many aspects of life. This struggle is common place to life. The key is do you recognize your bad attitude and are you willing to wrestle with the negative beliefs and the accompanying feelings and shift with action to do the next right thing? This is determined by attitude. Take time to examine your attitude. This does not mean to examine whether or not people, life circumstance and experience is fair. It simply means will you commit to next right steps in order to achieve the outcome of sobriety. 

3. Live a principled life:

“The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice”- George Eliot. Addicts in sobriety choose to live their lives by principles that help them grow. They develop principles that establish a strong foundation that cultivate consistency and congruence with values that strengthen sobriety. They tell on themselves as a lifestyle. Disclosure that occurs when an addict steps out of the secret life of addiction becomes an act of stepping across the threshold toward telling on themselves for the rest of their lives. In principle, they commit to living emotionally naked to a selected few who become a part of their life support. For example, sometimes it is suggested that ninety meetings in ninety days is necessary to strengthen sobriety in the face of relapse. For the addict, in principle before embarking with this commitment, the addict must first determine to make sure they do one meeting different than they did the last meeting they attended in the presence of relapse so that they don’t repeat failed habits that fuel relapse and then do that 90 times over thinking that ninety in ninety will make a difference. Sober addicts live in consultation with accountability. They don’t make major decisions about life and recovery without consulting recovery people and others. Accountability in support becomes a primary staple in their navigation of life. Living within the context of their limits and boundaries become a principle of lifestyle. They come to terms that others can do what they cannot. Principled living finds peace in this reality. Sobriety requires a commitment to principles when developing friendships. No more keeping secrets for friends. When an addict friend chooses to act out, they no longer collude to keep secrets. They distance themselves with clear boundaries from the addict who engages addiction because they choose not to harbor secrets that would destroy trust with the addict’s partner that the sober addict also knows. They are willing to end a friendship if necessary to avoid harboring a secret of betrayal. To this extent, sober addicts learn to stand alone and bleed over principle when necessary. These are all examples of sober addicts living by principles which generate a culture of sobriety and deepened serenity. A culture of sobriety places a premium on being true to yourself. Twelve step living is built upon principles that become the foundation for a culture of recovery. 

4. Transform the present by giving back past shame to family legacy.

Soren Kierkegaard said “life is meant to be lived forward but can only be understood backward”. Creating a culture of recovery requires that we dig deep in our first step story and unearth the nature of our character defects. We address them by doing 4th step work which is to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. It is common for addicts to begin working through the 12 steps and then get stuck and stop with step 4. The reason is emotional pain and discomfort. Cultivating a culture of recovery means that you not only embrace the 4th step but you practice living in it. It is not just a one and done approach. It is a lifelong commitment designed to address and work through character defects. Most people don’t even know what their character defects are, let alone address them. It’s a bit much to think of embracing and addressing character defects as a lifestyle. Yet, creating a culture of recovery requires this. From the principle of courage, you dip into the past throwback behavior of your family of origin and stalk the family shame that you carry which fuels your addictive behavior. Fourth step work helps you dispel the shame and give it back in order to stop carrying toxic shame that sabotages sobriety. It’s scary and painful. It can only be done by purposefully scrubbing the wounds of your family history that spoils serenity in the here and now. Scrubbing the wound means that you recognize that the destructive dysfunctional behaviors that fuel addiction are not about you. For example, my grandfather died the year I was born suffering from alcoholism. His brothers were also alcoholic and I was told that two of them suffered from syphilis. These behaviors were all secretive. Education was de-emphasized. On my mother’s side family cutoffs were common when individuals got their feelings hurt. Abandonment triggered by conflict was prevalent. Therefore, I grew up carrying the shame of secret addiction with the mistaken belief that advanced education would be beyond my grasp and that relational conflict would always create abandonment. Without intense 4th step work, I would have been doomed with character defects passed to me from the past generation with secrecy being the conduit and shame the payload.   Separation from destructive family legacy is ensued by letting go of the mistaken beliefs upheld by your family tradition.   Developing a culture of recovery requires that you separate yourself from the toxic shameful beliefs and behaviors that have dominated your family legacy. This severance can free you and your progeny from the shameful legacy that otherwise is passed from one generation to the next. 

Cultivating a culture of recovery requires purposeful and intentional living. With a commitment to forward living, exercising the courage to understand by looking backward and letting go of the shame that besieges is absolutely necessary in creating a culture of successful recovery.

Recent Articles

Subscribe and thrive.

Subscribe to receive the latest stories, thought leadership, and growth strategies from PCS therapists.

© Psychological Counseling Services