In 2020 in the United States, 93,000 people lost their lives to an overdose. NYS OASAS recently initiated a campaign “Connections are Stronger than Addiction”. This campaign is based on a TED talk by Johann Hari1 that received a great deal of attention. We have known for many decades the healing power of connections, whether with a mutual aid support group, formal supports with a counselor or peer, or with informal supports in the community, church, and family. When people tell their stories of recovery, there is often a person or a group of people with whom they connected. Of course, this is not only true for people who use substances, but also for everyone. We all need connections to others; they help us to live richer and more meaningful lives.
“I love you whether you are using or you’re not. I love you whatever state you are in. And if you need me, I’ll come sit with you because I love you and I don’t want you to be alone or to feel alone.”
It does indeed appear that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection. Developing healthy, supportive interpersonal connections as a part of recovery and healing is not easy. It takes time, effort, and a willing support network. The good news is that we now know for certain that this type of recovery and social connection is possible.2
In a qualitative study published in 2019 on how social relationships influence substance use disorder recovery, the relationship that most participants described as helpful for initiating recovery was recognition by a peer or a caring relationship with a service provider or sibling. These findings suggest that, to reach and maintain recovery, it is important to maintain positive relationships and to use your own inner strength to protect oneself from the influences of negative relationships. Substance use disorder service providers should increase the extent to which they involve the social networks of clients when designing new treatment approaches. Service providers should also focus more on individualizing services to meet their clients on a personal level.3
To honor the people whom we have lost to overdose and to encourage all of us to make connections to combat addiction, we are asking people to make a connection with someone on international overdose awareness day, August 31, 2021. We are asking you to set an intention to make a connection with someone you know and love that is using or struggling with their use.
Some ideas to consider:
- Reach out to a friend who is going through a hard time and plan a get together;
- Call a friend or acquaintance whom you have not talked to in a while;
- Volunteer for a day at a food pantry or social service agency; or
- If you are looking for help – call the HOPE LINE (available 24/7: call 1-877-8-HOPENY or text HOPENY) and connect with a counselor or peer.