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OPINION: Discovering strength in unity: the power of community in sobriety

Nicole Montanari
Nicole Montanari

As someone who's walked the path of recovery, I've experienced the value of a sober community. The community is there, too. In the U.S., more than 20 million people consider themselves to be recovering or in recovery, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This community is filled with people from all walks of life, from CEOs to dishwashers, all sharing a common goal of sobriety and all acting as a check and balance for each other. In a city notorious for excess and indulgence, Las Vegas is home to a robust network of sobriety groups that meet the needs of our incredibly diverse community.

Why is it important to have a community of sober people in Las Vegas? A sober community, for me, rallies around four main principles: support, accountability, hope and purpose. Especially with the concentration of bars, liquor stores, clubs and casinos across the valley, a supportive group can often be the difference between sobriety and relapse.

Stepping back into the world as someone in recovery can feel lonely and daunting. A community of people who understand where you’ve been and where you’re headed not only makes the sobriety journey more approachable but allows for a support system to help at every point in the journey. I’ve seen it all, too. Whether they’re rallying around someone looking for a job to get back on their feet or in need of housing, this community is there for each other.

While all the resources that come along with this network are important, there’s one aspect of a sober community that stands out from the rest: accountability. In a world where isolation can lead to relapse, you’re with a community of people who call it like it is and aren’t afraid to call you out in order to keep you sober.

With that, too, comes the ability to spot someone struggling even when they claim to say they’re OK. The sober community can see right through the facade and help someone feel safe to open up, be vulnerable and take responsibility for their life and wellness. The moment someone starts to slip in their sobriety or stops coming to meetings, this incredible group of people is there to rally around and ensure you’re on the right path.

There have been times when I haven’t wanted to go to meetings — or I’ll flat out not go to a meeting — and my community here in town has really rallied around me with calls and texts checking in, offering me rides or encouraging me to ask for the time off from work to go to a meeting. That nudge hasn’t only helped me to stay on track and accountable, I’ve seen it countless times with other people.

Given the fast-paced and action-packed environment in Las Vegas, substance use is very prominent within the city. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 10 percent of Las Vegas residents age 12 or older have a substance use disorder.

Going to meetings and actively participating in a sober community can feel like checking the box at first. That’s how it was for me when I first got sober; I was there to abide by the rules and do the basics. It wasn’t until a few years into my sobriety that I realized just how powerful the groups could be for myself and others.

Sober communities have the power to highlight the hope for living a successful and happy life in recovery. Hope is in every corner of a sober community. It's in the stories of those who've reached milestones, from the first 24 hours to decades of sobriety — that sobriety feels attainable and manageable for my future.

And finally, there's purpose. The opportunity to give back, to be of service to others, really allows me to step outside my personal struggle and feel a sense of accomplishment in helping someone else beat their addiction. It's in lifting others up, in being a guiding light for those still lost in the darkness, that one discovers the true essence of sobriety.

So to anyone embarking on the journey of recovery, remember this: Wherever you go, there you are. But with a sober community by your side, you're never truly alone. You have a lifeline, a network of support ready to lift you up, hold you accountable and remind you that recovery is not just a destination, but a lifelong journey. It doesn’t matter if you move to a new town, state or country, the temptation will always be there and a strong sobriety group can help keep it at bay.

In the chaos of daily life, it's easy to overlook the important role that sober communities play in maintaining long-term sobriety. But dive deeper, and you'll find that these communities are important to lasting recovery. In a world where 40 percent to 60 percent of people tend to relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, forging a support system and community has never been more important.

For many, leaving the structured environment of treatment can feel like stepping off a cliff into the unknown. The safety net of therapy sessions and support groups is suddenly replaced by everyday life, with all its triggers and temptations. It's during this uncomfortable transition that the importance of a sober community becomes abundantly clear.

When I left treatment, I thought that was the end of my addiction. I thought that I didn’t need to put in the work and that I didn’t need a community to help me stay grounded and sober. I was wrong. While all the temptations and triggers are around us, our support groups and communities allow us to stay focused and aligned with what’s important in our lives to stay sober. For all of us, our addiction isn’t going anywhere, it’s always going to be there and you can’t let yourself get stagnant or you’ll eventually fall back into old habits.

Four and a half years into my sobriety, I got stagnant and thought I could have a drink. I’m so thankful that the warning lights and alarms went off in my head, and I picked up the phone, called my sponsor and didn’t pick up the drink. I hadn’t really worked with this sponsor but we kept in touch, which ultimately saved me from going down a slippery slope of having a single drink to not being able to stop drinking. Immediately though, my sponsor met me with a “I’m willing to give you my time, if you’re willing to put in your effort.” I committed and fully accepted that I had a lifelong problem, which meant I needed to actively work on this problem and seek lifelong support from my community.

A sober community serves as an invaluable resource and practical support for any person in recovery. Whether it's help finding a job, securing stable housing or simply navigating the complexities of everyday life, there's a wealth of knowledge and assistance to be found within these communities. It's a testament to the collective strength and resilience of those in recovery, who come together to uplift and empower one another.

Hope is perhaps the most powerful currency within a sober community, offering a lifeline to those in every part of the journey to see there is a future out there for us. It's in the stories of resilience and redemption shared by fellow members that we all find the courage to keep moving forward, even in the face of adversity. Whether it's witnessing someone celebrate a milestone in their sobriety or receiving words of encouragement from a trusted mentor, hope is the fuel that keeps the flame of recovery burning bright.

Finally, I found a great sense of purpose in being active and supporting the sober community that was there to support me. For many individuals, addiction can strip away a sense of identity and purpose, leaving someone in a very dark and lonely place. But a sober community provides individuals with the opportunity to rediscover their worth and value after a difficult struggle. Whether it's through volunteering, mentoring others or simply offering a listening ear, each of us has the power to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those around them.

Let this be a call to everyone in the sober community to stay active and support each other in our journeys. Reach out, connect with others and remember you’re never alone on the path of sobriety.

Nicole Montanari is the interim program manager at Desert Hope Treatment Center in Las Vegas.

The Nevada Independent welcomes informed, cogent rebuttals to opinion pieces such as this. Send them to [email protected].


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