Here at South Orange County Detox and Treatment, we are featuring “Loyalty” in our continuing Word of the Week series. Typically, when one thinks of loyalty, associations to a romantic partner, close friends, or even the country in which one lives are some of the presumed allegiances. Simply defined, loyalty is the unwavering support of a person, group, cause or idea. As we are focusing on recovery, I want to put a different spin on the way we generally conceive of the idea of loyalty. Namely, I want to look at the importance of loyalty in relation to one’s principles and convictions, loyalty to our fellow addicts in addiction, and finally, loyalty to the friends, family, and those who have selflessly devoted their time and energy in order to help us heal while guiding us down the path to sobriety.
Remaining loyal to the ways in which we go about treating ourselves and others is a crucial part of establishing a newfound pattern of behaviors and thoughts that is necessary to anyone who wishes to truly experience growth and contentment throughout their recovery process. If you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t apply any amount of loyalty to, what could’ve been considered to be principles prior to using, during your drug and alcohol use. This is no surprise, nor should it be, as we are all keenly aware that in order to survive while in active addiction, it is an unspoken requirement that any loyalty to pre-established conceptions of what it means to be virtuous are thrown out the window as quickly as possible. We know the drill; wake up, pray to god that we be relieved of this life that so closely resembles hell, and then get on with our business of copping by ANY MEANS NECESSARY. If you are reading this, chances are you already know that we no longer have to live like this if we don’t want to. The operative phrase in that sentence, however, is “if we don’t want to”. If we choose to not take seriously the importance of being loyal to our convictions and what we know to be true, right, and good, we are really being disloyal to ourselves, our loves one, and our creator who yearns for our realization that we are eternal, interconnected, and unified by the principle of love.
I believe, as a community that supports recovery, we also need to be loyal to one another. This means making gossip, judgements, jealousy, and pride anathema inside and outside of the rooms. This means consistent empathy and understanding for those who are walking in a different pair of the same shoes as we are wearing. This means removing condescending or dominating language with other addicts as we are no better nor worse, but probably just in a different position that could easily be reversed. Finally, it means showing loyalty to anyone who is willing to give a shot at a new life in sobriety a try. In this context, loyalty to the community is integral because the success of it is dependent on the quality of our connection to one another. As I recently heard Russel Brand state so poignantly, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.” If we take this notion seriously and understand that the opposing force that most effectively combats our disease is meaningful connection with others, we can see with clarity the importance of loyalty of this kind. I want to leave a quote from Mark Twain where he is pleading that we foster righteous convictions, and remain fiercely loyal to them as the only means for real change as a lack of loyalty in this respect facilitates the atrophy of our integrity. “Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world… and never will.”