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Staying Sober During the Summer Holidays

Staying Sober During the Holidays

Celebrating Interdependence Day

by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.

celebrating 4th of july and recoveryOn the brink of independence day it is important to reiterate that recovery doesn’t occur in a bubble, it occurs from building a rewarding life and meaningful connections with others.  Staying sober during the summer holidays is much more likely with support from friends and family. Total and complete independence is a myth of the intellect.  The mind protects our separateness with mythical borders of independence.  When we break down the armor that borders our mind we experience the exhilarating, terrifying thrill of vulnerable connection.  The well-constructed border walls of our minds protect us from pain and hurt, but the cost is isolated starvation and sometimes addiction.

Given human reliance on others and our need for community and connection, it is no coincidence that we celebrate our day of independence here in the United States by joining in spectacular crowds that come together for a shared experience.  Our families, our nations, and our species as a whole are successful because of our amazing ability to work together and support one another.  We cannot make it on our own.

Recovery in a Culture of Individuality

The culture of individuality and independence in the United States reflects important values like hard work, determination, and sacrifice.  However, the human propensity towards shortcuts to thinking quickly took the spirit of individuality to nonsensical proportions.  Nobody makes it entirely on their own.  When it comes to substance use, the mentality of recovering without support from loved ones, or in more severe cases professional help, can be dangerous.

In US culture, countless examples of successful individuals are held up as exemplars of the rugged individual spirit of Americans. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, or so the story goes.  In reality, the light bulb was the culmination of the work of many brilliant people (Wikipedia’s timeline of the evolution of the light bulb mentions over 10 names before Edison).  Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, but many argue that a woman named Catherine Littlefield Greene solved significant design flaws before it was successful.

The Myth of Total Independence

Behind every story of individual exceptionalism is a constellation of unrecognized brilliance in others.  The archetypal Marlboro man exemplifies the rugged independence of the American psyche.  The myth of pure and total independence undercuts the reality that addiction is a systems issue, not an individual issue.  Fourth of July celebrations offer a wonderful opportunity for systems – family systems, social systems, cultural systems – to come together to recognize and celebrate the freedom that comes from working together and supporting each other.

Our freedom depends on the efforts and sacrifices of all of us, much like an individual’s successful recovery is aided by the efforts and sacrifices of friends and family.  Now more than ever we are dependent on each other.  The fourth of July offers an opportunity to appreciate our interdependence as it manifests in the ease of appetite satiation via wonderful barbeque thanks to farmers and truck drivers, the safety of our nation thanks to the risks and sacrifices of our military, and all the work we all do so this wonderful, painful, mysterious, beautiful life we have keeps on going.