Recovery from an addiction can be isolating, especially for men. Choosing to reside in a sober living brotherhood gives you the opportunity to develop healthy relationships with other men, and the brotherhood that develops can have a far-reaching impact on your long-term recovery.
Here’s how your relationships with other sober men can strengthen your recovery.
1. They help you express your emotions.
The open-minded, healing-oriented nature of a sober living brotherhood makes it easier to express emotions that may be difficult to convey. A major hurdle faced by some men in recovery is “normative male alexithymia,” a term coined by psychologist Ronald F. Levant. Literally, this means “without words for emotions,” and it’s a common phenomenon.
According to Levant, many boys learn early on that they’re not supposed to express feelings of vulnerability or caring. These feelings get suppressed, and by adulthood, many men are truly unaware of their emotions. They’re unable to describe them with words.
But learning to feel emotions, express them and cope with them is central to recovery for many men. Your relationships with other men who are in recovery give you the opportunity to practice these essential skills, which will serve you well in your future relationships with both men and women.
2. You share similar experiences.
Men are less likely than women to open up about difficult experiences, such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse or childhood neglect. But these experiences are common among people in recovery from an addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, two-thirds of all people in treatment for a substance use disorder and 80 percent of those seeking mental health services have a history of childhood abuse or neglect.
Many men in a sober living brotherhood share these and other profoundly traumatic experiences. Knowing others share similar experiences makes it easier to talk about them and express the emotions that come with them. It also helps to normalize these experiences and reduce feelings of isolation they often bring, and it gives men the opportunity to share coping skills and strategies.
3. They help you redefine manhood.
The societal expectations about what makes a man a man are deeply flawed, and this, according to research, may account for why men are three times more likely to abuse alcohol than women—and far less likely to ask for help.
A large body of research shows that men of all ages and ethnicities have more trouble than women asking for help, and they often feel weak and emasculated when they do, due to their skewed, learned beliefs about “real” men.
But the truth is, no man is the Marlboro man. All men are vulnerable, and all men are fearful of something. None of us are, to our core, unemotional, undefeatable or an island completely unto ourselves.
The men of the sober living brotherhood know this, because it has been—and continues to be—an overarching theme in their lives and an important topic of conversation in treatment and recovery. It’s a topic that only other men can understand, and it’s an ongoing conversation that helps every member of the brotherhood redefine what he thinks makes him a “real” man.
This higher level of self-awareness and self-acceptance goes a long way toward improving your chances of long-term recovery. It also helps you develop healthier, more honest relationships down the road.
Living with other men who are in recovery can be very beneficial to your own quest for long-term sobriety, offering opportunities for fun, socialization and relaxation that may not be easy to find in a different living situation. A sober living brotherhood can help you hone the skills you need for successful sobriety while enjoying a high quality of life and enjoyable, healthy relationships.