by Jordan A.
In my experience as a man who has journeyed through the process of recovery and helps lead others through the same path, I have seen men grow, learn to trust and change not only their behaviours but their ways of thinking. The biggest complications I run into with men in recovery are that we don’t realize that we have specific needs or that we have the option to change who we are.
Most of us men are raised with the stereotype of being strong and independent, not needing help from anyone. This of course is a fallacy, but the idea of the old lie is so ingrained that it can be difficult – but not impossible – to overturn.
When speaking to men in the early stages of recovery I explain the basic needs of all people: a sense of belonging, survival, power, fun and freedom (per William Glasser, MD). Without knowledge of these needs, it is impossible to fulfill them.
The most essential need is a sense of belonging. We as men crave to be involved with other people and to feel as though we are a significant part of the group as a whole. This is easily remedied in 12 step groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, because the newcomer is the most important person in the room and in such groups we are all valued. A sense of belonging can also occur when we become open-minded and have an uplifting sense of genuine spiritual union with something larger than ourselves.
The second need is to survive. Survival is fulfilled almost immediately when coming into recovery, because we’ve chosen to live and have taken action to aid that decision.
The third need is the need for power. Men seem to relate power to physical stature and dominance over someone else. In recovery, we learn that power is something completely different. We are given the power to change, the power to help others and most importantly the power of choice. This is in contrast to our old way of life, where we were controlled by the disease of addiction and all power was taken from us. In recovery we are given a great gift: the power to admit we are powerless.
The next need is to simply have fun and enjoy life. This need is so vitally important to our recovery. When I got clean it was because I wanted my life back. I wanted to laugh again and enjoy time with others as well as myself. I didn’t get clean to spend the rest of my life in constant fear of my disease. I find it important to take time for one’s self – to put traditional recovery work on the shelf and enjoy the simple things in life, such as going out with friends, playing the guitar or watching funny videos on YouTube. These things can get overlooked because they don’t always seem relevant in recovery, but I believe that life is meant to be lived and enjoyed as much as possible.
The last need that we as men in recovery should recognize is the need for freedom. Freedom can come in many forms and look different to each of us. For me, freedom came as the power of choice. As an active addict I felt as though I had no choice in the way my life would turn out. My perception was that the world took from me and never gave me opportunities to change my place in the hierarchy of life. I believed I was destined to repeat my mistakes and live the same life today as I did yesterday. Today I know that I have the freedom of choice every morning to be whoever I want to be and do whatever I want to do with my life. Many of us men put limitations on ourselves and search for who we really are and what our purpose is. The truth is that we are whoever we want to be and our purpose is simply to be purposeful in our recovery every day.
When we men in recovery begin to fulfill these five needs and realize that we have the power to choose, we will be ready to embark on the miraculous journey of recovery and live a life we never thought possible.