addiction recovery

Why the "Whys" No Longer Matter For Me In Sobriety by Rose Lockinger

WHY.png

Why was always one of my favorite questions. That three-letter word encompassed so much and it allowed me to sit and ponder all of life’s mysteries to unhealthy degrees and avoid doing anything to improve my life.

If something went wrong in my life, rather than hunker down and attempt to change or accept the situation, I would sit around and ask why is this happening to me or why do people have to act this way? In doing so I was able to feed my growing self-pity and shift blame and responsibility away from myself to others. This allowed me to never really have to take a look at myself because I was a victim of “why” and so I stayed sick in my addiction and my thoughts.  It also allowed me to not accept for many years that I did indeed have a problem with addiction.

Needless to say this was not a very successful game plan for life and most of the time I walked around baffled by other people and the world. The thing that is interesting as well is that each time that I asked why, it would lead me to other questions and I would never actually arrive at an answer. There would just be questions upon questions until eventually everything boiled down to meaningless nothing and with my mind a blur with questions I would reach for the bottle or a pill.

This changed however once I got sober. I was introduced to the idea that I didn’t have to question every little thing in life. I didn’t need to know why something was the way it was. I just need to either it accept it or attempt to change it, as the Serenity Prayer says

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

This sort of thinking was radical for me but to be honest it was a much-needed reprieve for my constantly overworked mind. Learning that life was far too complicated for me to be able to comprehend and understanding that it was not my job to decipher all of life’s mysteries brought me a measure of peace that I never had before in my life.

Growing up I was raised in a pretty religious household, but yet the things that I was taught about God didn’t really sit well with me. Due to the difference in personal beliefs and a series of events that jaded me towards religion, I would constantly question whether God was real and if he was, why he would let my life be such a mess. I would look to the universe and attempt to figure everything out and in failing to do so my mind would become fractured in a way, as I couldn’t seem to comprehend the vastness of existence.

It sounds funny writing those words now and I see how asinine of an endeavor it truly was, but at the time question why we were here, and really needing an answer was of paramount importance. It was a sort of subconscious obsession of mine that needed to be fulfilled and the further that I got into my addiction the more I pondered the whys of life.

When I first got sober and told my sponsor about this, she could relate and understood what I was talking about, but she also informed me that I didn’t need to figure everything out in order to live a happy and full life. She told me that all I had to do was have faith that I was not the master and commander of the universe and everything else would take care of itself.

Being still a little skeptical I decided to give it a try and you know what, my life changed dramatically. I gave up questioning God and what he was doing and started to have faith that life was unfolding in the manner it was supposed to. I began to realize that there were too many moving parts in the world for me to be able to comprehend them all and so I stopped asking why and started just living.

I also stopped asking why I was an alcoholic and an addict. This was a huge shift for me. I came to see that there was a solution in the 12 Steps and because of this it didn’t matter why I suffered from the disease of addiction, because I had a solution out of it.

For many years the question, why I was the way I was, plagued me, but finally surrendering to the idea that this may be beyond my ability to know allowed me to focus on moving towards a solution to my problem, rather than getting wrapped up in all of the alternative versions that could have be possible.

So like the title of the post says, the whys no longer matter to me in my sobriety. I am no longer really concerned with why people act the way they do, or why sometimes terrible things happen in my life. I just try to focus on the fact that I have the ability to handle whatever comes down the pike and that there is a reason for everything. Many times this reason will not be apparent to me and that is okay as well. All I have to do is try to accept my situation and move forward.


Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

I Don’t Want To Do A 12 Step Program: What Are My Options?

Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous will be the first to tell you that they do not have a monopoly on recovery. They merely offer one solution for getting sober that has proven pretty effective for many people. That being said there are people who do not want to participate in a 12 Step program or have found that the 12 Steps just don’t seem to work for them. There arealternatives to 12-step programs that work. Many times these people can feel at a loss because they may have been lead to believe that if they can’t get sober in AA or NA then there is no hope for them. This, however, is not the case and there are a number of other options for getting sober if you do not want to be involved in a 12 Step Program.

Options For Getting Sober Without The Steps

 In the early 20th century renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung expressed the fact that in order for someone to overcome their addiction or alcoholism, something needed to occur that would result in a complete shift in thinking. Jung went on to say how often times therapy alone was not sufficient for this shift to take place, but something else, something along the lines of a spiritual experience, needed to take place in order for the shift to occur. For those who are opposed to the idea of spirituality in any sense of the word, try to keep an open mind and think of it as a change of the psyche, which is what all of these alternatives to AA or NA propose in one form or another.

Traditional Therapy

Often times traditional therapy is not enough to get someone sober because the element of relating is not there, but there are some cases where therapy has gotten people sober. If you are opposed to the idea of going to 12 Step meetings then check out therapy and see if this method of treatment will work in allowing you to overcome your addiction.

 Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery was started in the early 90s as a Christian support group for people suffering from alcoholism and addiction. Rather than using 12 Steps, it has 8 principles which it follows, that adhere to the beatitudes. Even though the program is somewhat based on the 12 Steps, it is in no way associated with AA or NA and its usage of the bible may make it useful for someone who is Christian. There are currently over 10,000 churches that offer Celebrate Recovery so finding a meeting near you should not be too difficult.

 SMART Recovery

Smart Recovery uses the ideas of cognitive behavioral therapy in order to allow its members to re-associate certain environmental and emotional influences that may have caused their alcoholism or addiction. By doing this the program allows its members to create healthier patterns of actions and thoughts, which break the cycle of addictive behaviors. The program employs the latest scientific and psychiatric research and although it is based on abstinence only, the program is not opposed to having members who are not sure if they want to quit completely. The goal is to empower its members and this is done by following a 4-point program consisting of:

  1. Building and maintaining motivation
  2. Coping with urges
  3. Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  4. Living a balanced life

Secular Organizations for Sobriety

Secular Organizations for Sobriety was started in the 1980s by a former AA member who felt uncomfortable with AA’s insistence on turning the will over to a higher power. He felt that by taking personal responsibility for his drinking and removing this notion from the idea of God, it would be more beneficial to his sobriety and life. There is no real structure of this program besides the idea of taking responsible for your actions and a few other suggestions as well.

Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety for formed in the 1970s by a socialist named Jean Kirkpatrick, who felt that what women needed in order to get sober was different from what men needed. Her approach differs from AA in that she views alcoholism as something that develops out of emotional problems, rather than alcoholism being the underlying cause behind other issues.

 LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is an offshoot of Secular Organizations for Sobriety. Some members of SOS disagreed with the structure of the program and so they decided to start their own program. LifeRing Secular Recovery has three principles, which are centered on the ideas of sobriety, secularism, and self-help. In many ways, they are similar to SOS and they have grown quite a bit over the past 10 years.

 Religion

Finding sobriety through your chosen faith is a way that many people who do not go to AA or NA finally get sober. In fact, besides AA or NA, this is probably the most popular method of getting sober. The support that can be found in the church, synagogue, or mosque, coupled with a spiritual influence can be exactly what is needed in order to overcome addiction or alcoholism.

If you are at a point with your drinking or using where you feel that you need to make a change but do not want to go to a 12 Step Program, then seek out information on one of the alternatives above. Just because you do not want to go to AA or NA does not mean that you do not have the option to get sober. There are many people who felt exactly like you do and they were able to find their own niche in recovery. Hopefully this information was helpful to you and I hope that in the end you find exactly what it is that you are looking for. 

 ***

Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

 

 

 

How Social Media is Revolutionizing the Recovery Community

Technology is an amazing thing. Advances in just the last 50 years have given us Star Trek level gadgets and the internet has opened up new frontiers in the realm of communication, education and employment. The advances show no signs of slowing down, and who knows where we’ll be in another 50 years?

Another recent invention that has revolutionized the way we communicate and connect with one another is social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and recent additions like Snapchat are now firmly rooted in our society.

How Social Media Impacts the Recovery Community

As a recovering addict, I’m well aware that anything can become a problem, and the internet is an especially tricky realm. Internet addiction is real, and social media is sometimes seen as a barrier to connection; a cheap replacement for face to face interaction.

That aside, I’m going to talk about the positive aspects of social media, because there are plenty. Specifically, I’m going to talk about how social media and hyper-connectivity have benefited recovery. I’m going to talk about how social media is helping to connect people in recovery and how it’s even helping to combat stigma.

My Experience w/ Social Media & Recovery

Currently, I belong to three different Facebook groups that are recovery-oriented. One is a group specifically for women in recovery, the other is a support group for mothers. Another is one that provides support for those in recovery or struggling with addiction.  An advantage of this group is I have seen posts where people are searching for drug detoxes and treatment. Often individuals in recovery can provide them with suggestions based on personal experience with a center.These are private Facebook groups that are not visible in my feed. I do realize that social media does present some privacy and anonymity issues, however.

A good majority of my Facebook friends are in recovery. On any given day I will see numerous posts talking about recovery topics. I also follow a few people in recovery on Instagram and Twitter, and I’ve watched convention speakers on YouTube.

Since I moved to Virginia, I was able to keep up with my recovery friends via Facebook, and Facebook messenger. I’ve even face-timed with my previous sponsors a few times. 

While I think most people will agree that social media recovery is no substitute for face-to-face recovery, I do think it’s an important tool, especially for those who are isolated by either geography or other reasons. For example, although I am lucky to live in a town that although small offers at least 2 different meetings a day.  I know for many this is not always the case. For the person who lives in a more remote area, or who lives in a town with few meetings, it’s difficult to stay connected to recovery. But with social media, it’s possible to “plug in”  to a robust, active and welcoming community of like-minded individuals who are available for support regardless of where they live.

If you think about it, this is truly amazing.

Other situations that may make it difficult for a person to get to meetings or otherwise interact in person may include both physical and mental health disabilities. For the person who has barriers to regular meeting attendance or support, social media tools can provide the lifeline that may keep them clean and sober one more day. Tools like Skype , Facetime and Google Hangouts can allow interaction with sponsors and support groups, and could even be used to host meetings and speaker events. The possibilities really are endless!

Which Social Media Channels are the Most Recovery-Friendly?

While any social media platform can be used to encourage interaction among the recovery community, Facebook is probably the most versatile and commonly used. Facebook allows for the creation of private groups and events. My recovery community is fairly active, and regularly puts on parties, get-togethers, volunteer events, recovery birthday celebrations and outdoor activities. These are often announced via Facebook events.

Staying Balanced

While social media can be a useful tool in recovery, it can also be detrimental. It shouldn’t be used as a substitute for in-person interaction. It’s all too easy to do. I’ve been guilty of limiting my interaction with friends to “Facebook stalking” many times. In other words, I see that my friends are doing well, I “Like” their posts and I send them birthday greetings, but I haven’t seen them or talked to them on the phone in months. Still, it feels like we are connected because of our online interactions.

This is dangerous, because recovering addicts can easily become isolated and not realize it. Lulled into thinking that I am staying connected, I may go days without picking up the phone or seeing someone in person. Not good. I need to make eye contact with my friends. I need to hear their voices and I need their hugs. Social media is wonderful, but it’s not a substitute.

Squashing Stigma

Finally, another way that social media and the internet is helping addicts, both recovering and non, is by playing a role in ending addiction stigma. Social media puts stuff out there. It raisesawareness. Thanks to social media, people have access to information they never had before. In the past, all you had to rely on for information was radio and television media, books and your known circle of people. Now, we have access to an endless supply of people’s experiences, opinions and discoveries. People, including public figures, are coming out online to talk about their personal addiction and recovery experiences. There are blogs, there are educational journals, there are websites devoted to addiction and recovery topics. The list goes on, but the point is that we have access to information that previous generations didn’t. Information is power, and it breaks down barriers and helps to raise awareness and end stigma that comes from a lack of good information. This is the power of social media. We can spread the word and help end misinformation, lack of education and stigma through our stories. We can reach out to the still-suffering addict in ways we never could before.

What ways can you utilize social media in your recovery? How can you reach out, stay connected or spread the word? 


Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

 

Healthy Sex In Recovery: What Does It Mean?

by Guest Blogger, Rose Lockinger

Sex is a complicated issue and there is a lot of variability as to what is normal.  Prior to drug addiction or alcohol addiction, people may struggle with sexuality; what constitutes healthy sex, and what their feelings about sex are. There are many reasons that contribute to this confusion around this issue: perhaps sex wasn’t talked about at home, perhaps sexual abuse occurred, or perhaps sexuality was considered immoral or “dirty” due to religious or cultural beliefs.

Sex in Addiction vs. Sex in Recovery

Addiction has a significant impact on our behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs about sexuality-- for many reasons. Sex is often used as a means to support addiction, or a way of getting others to give the addict drugs, and drug use can lead to erratic behaviors, which can lead to sexual violence and abuse.   It is common for addicts to feel guilt and shame around drug use, sexual behaviors, and habits, which can lead to body issues and low self-esteem.  They also lead to a lack of boundaries and fear of intimacy, which adds to the confusion and frustration. By the time a person gets into recovery, sex and sexuality is often seriously distorted.

What Happens When You Get Sober?

When someone gets sober issues around sex and sexuality are not automatically resolved, and for some, may seem more difficult to cope with. Let’s look at some of the reasons why.

Sober Sex Can Feel Scary

It is not uncommon for people to become sexually active around the same time they begin using alcohol and drugs. This is partly because both tend to occur in adolescence, and partly because drug and alcohol use often leads to premature sexual activity. The problem is that the person who becomes an addict may rarely or possibly never experience sex when sober, which is why sober sex can lead to feelings of awkwardness, inadequateness, and intense fear.  

Trauma and PTSD are real issues

A recent study stated that up 70% of people entering treatment for substance use had experienced trauma, and many in early recovery have experienced trauma and PTSD as a result of sexual violence.  If left unaddressed childhood sexual abuse and other issues may lead to continued substance abuse. Sexual violence can range from sexual assault at the hands of strangers and acquaintances, to sexual violence within a relationship. When entering recovery trauma creates challenges to staying sober, but can also contribute problems in new relationships. It is strongly advised that individuals seek support in order to heal from their past experiences. Some treatment centers offer EMDR which helps with PTSD and trauma.

Lack of boundaries creates bad relationships and unhealthy sexual relationships

Boundaries are a common issue for newly recovering people. Active addiction creates unhealthy and unsafe behaviors that don’t just go away when you stop using. Some examples of poor boundaries include:

  • Having unprotected sex
  •  Engaging in sexual activity when you don’t really want to
  • Using sex as a means to gain love, affection and approval
  • Engaging in sexual behaviors you don’t feel comfortable with because you feel     unable to say no
  •  Alternately, it also creates abusive and predatory behaviors, such as: Coercing, intimidating or manipulating people into having sexual relations
  • Not taking no for an answer
  • Ridiculing, spreading rumors, bullying or other forms of sexual harassment Using sex to manipulate or control people

 Using Sex as a Substitute

Addiction isn’t just about drugs or alcohol. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways. It’s not uncommon for the newly recovering person to quit using and then find other ways to feed their addiction. Common replacements include food, shopping, gambling, working, exercise...and sex.

Acting out sexually has consequences. It can create additional guilt and shame, damage self-esteem and create wreckage.

Difficulty with real intimacy

Most people long for a romantic connection, lifelong love and meaningful relationships. The problem is that many of us are ill-equipped to actually create these things. It takes time to undo years of damage, and to learn the skills of communication, respect, honesty and openness necessary to actually have those relationships. Yet, we tend to barrel, head first, into relationships that we have no idea how to manage, searching for our soulmate, only to be disappointed time and time again, or worse, to end up relapsing over heartbreak or unhealthy or abusive relationships.

Real intimacy is a challenge for addicts who have repeatedly been hurt, who have built up sturdy walls to keep themselves safe, or who don’t know how to have a real, honest relationship, because they don’t even really know what that looks like.

So, what does healthy sex In recovery look like?

This isn’t an easy question to answer, because each person is different and has a different story, different needs and different values.

At its most simplistic, one could say that healthy sex in recovery is consensual sex that doesn’t violate either party’s personal values, that doesn’t manipulate, harm or cause wreckage. In other words, a real, adult relationship based on love and respect, not fear-based self-centeredness. But how does this happen? It takes work, and patience.

Doing the work necessary to allow yourself to get to a place where healthy relationships are possible is not easy, but it’s so worth it!

Consider temporary celibacy

This is something that is strongly advised in early recovery. We are told to “avoid relationships.” Some people take this to mean “avoid relationships, but casual sex is fine.” The idea of being celibate, even for a brief time, is often met with alarm. We want what we want, and we want it now! Fear of missing out tends to drive many recovering addicts to act without regard to consequences. Impulse control also plays a part. But, there are huge rewards to reap when you take a break from sex, and romantic relationships, including:

  •  You get a chance to actually work on yourself.
  •  You are less likely to harm yourself or others.
  • You are more likely to maintain long-term sobriety.
  • You are more likely to attract a quality relationship when you do decide to start dating again
  • You will quickly find that exercising these boundaries increases your overall self-esteem, self-worth and self-trus t.

And, here’s the deal: You aren’t going to miss out on anything. Sex, relationships and love will still be there, so don’t worry.

Work on you!

et help for yourself. Yes, participating in recovery, working steps and the help of a sponsor and support group can work wonders, but there are some issues that do require some outside help in the form of therapy. If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, or have other unaddressed trauma, or behavior patterns that you just can’t quite shake, know that they won’t just fade away with time. Do yourself and any future partners a favor and get some help.

Figure out what you want

If you have never entertained this seriously, it’s time to. What do you want? Often, people get so hung up on trying to be everything to everyone else and trying to please others that they never even bother trying to figure out what they want, what they need and just as important, what they don’t want. Take your time and explore this.

Don’t compare yourself to others

This is a dangerous trap. What seems to work for someone else may not work for you. Take the time to find out what makes you happy. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Some people are more naturally open and free with their bodies, some are more reserved. Some don’t get as emotionally attached, and some do quickly. Some people aren’t interested in monogamy. One person may be excited about the prospect of finally exploring their sexuality, while the next person may benefit from a period of extended celibacy in order to give their attention to other areas of their lives. Some may need more time to heal, and some may bounce back quickly. You are an individual, and it’s important that you respect your journey.

Be kind to yourself

Learn how to be content and comfortable with yourself. Do things that inspire confidence, self-worth and self-trust. Don’t depend on outside validation from others, it will never fulfill you.

Here’s the good news: Healthy sexual relationships when you are in recovery will be a completely new experience and worth waiting for. You are completely present in the moment.  It’s also important to note, that wow, you will be able to feel the whole process both physically and emotionally. You can have the open, honest, satisfying and intimate connection you’ve always been searching for.  First you have to work on you, get the healing you deserve and need, so that your past does not become your future again!


Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram.

 

 

 

 

Shannon Egan Celebrates 5 Years in Recovery

Five years ago I crashed my parent’s car into a ditch and ended up in jail with my 3rd DUI-- and with that I became a convicted felon. Today, I am a public face and voice for recovery in my community and the National Recovery Movement, and I’m so honored to carry the message in order to#SquashStigma and infuse hope. However, after publishing my first addiction memoir, No Tourists Allowed, I was reminded that I am not just a woman in long-term recovery, but much more. 

Prior to my felony, I was writing about sexual and reproductive health issues in emergency settings for the UN Population Fund in NYC, which required an in-depth understanding of how the ‘culture of silence’ surrounding sex further exacerbated life threatening situations for families and communities around the world. I was an avid reader and researcher, and I had dreams of traveling the world, and writing many books that empowered readers and challenged the status quo in creativity, spirituality, sex, addiction, religion, and so forth. 

At five years, the time has come for me to live a more balanced and authentic life. Besides working for USARA and advocating for recovery nationally, I want to take my creativity and sensuality (gasp! 😱) to the next level through #Cosplay, and develop more networks outside of the recovery community. 

This year, I will publish my second memoir, Sex, Drugs & Recovery (which picks up after Africa and takes place in NYC), and in 2017, I’ll publish a third: Girl Gone Global, which will feature a variety of travel stories and humanitarian issues that didn’t make the first two. One day, I hope to go back out into the world and wander for a while (with my cats in tow, won’t that be interesting!) 

I hope you’ll join me in the quest to live more authentically--despite the judgements of others. I believe it’s an opportunity for individuals to practice tolerance —if they’re awake—and gain a deeper understanding of the concept of multiple pathways in all things. 

As Steve Jobs put it, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” 

💫 As for me, I choose to live my life boldly and with great passion. 💫

Thank you for sharing the journey with me, Shan. 

 

Changing the Face of Addiction by Creating Positive Memes on social media

On October 1st, 2015 I posted a picture of myself on Facebook holding a sign that read:

I'm a convicted felon in recovery. Forgive me my past. Allow me my future.

This photo was accompanied with a public statement about why I was going to the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally, a history-making day, which took place on October 4th, 2015, in the effort to face addiction in the public arena. At the rally, tens of thousands of people showed up and 700 partners joined together for the first-ever rally and concert on the National Mall in Washington DC.

We called it: the day to end the silence. In a united front, with many faces and one voice, we shouted: NO MORE SHAME. NO MORE STIGMA.

My post read, “I’m going to UNITE To Face Addiction in order to spread the message that recovery is possible. I’m a convicted felon, but I deserve a second chance. We all do. Today, I have nearly five years in long-term recovery, and I’m not just sober, but I’m happy, healthy, and thriving both professionally and personally. My life has been transformed from an experience of shame and darkness to one filled with love, forgiveness, and acceptance. I speak publicly about my experiences and write about them in my book No Tourists Allowed in order to drive the National Recovery Movement forward and to create a positive conversation around addiction and recovery throughout the world. No more shame. No more stigma.” –Shannon Egan, Salt Lake City, UT. 

Today, I have 5 years in long-term recovery and I work at USARA as the Development and Communications Director. USARA is a Recovery Community Organization (RCO) located in Utah, and we advocate, celebrate, support and educate on behalf of addiction recovery and Utah’s recovering community. For my job I run our social media campaigns and I’ve seen firsthand the power of social media and how it can connect individuals in long-term recovery--and those currently seeking recovery from drug and alcohol addiction-- to their local recovery community. It’s also a powerful way to spread the message of recovery, eradicate shame, and stigma, advocate for change, and promote and strengthen the National Recovery Movement.

For example, in one day my ‘felon’ post went viral with over 1,000 Likes, 800 shares, and hundreds of supportive comments. The meme was spreading like wild fire and this is a good thing because it had a positive and powerful message: we make mistakes, but we recovery, end of story! Here's some tips on how you can help be apart of the change! 

Social Media: a Tool for Advocacy, Celebrating Recovery Community, and Promoting the National Recovery Movement:

  1. Share your successes: Always remember to choose content and photos that inspire and encourage as opposed to content that spreads fear and panic—no more posts about scary overdose epidemics! Yes, this is happening, but we don’t want to paralyze with our messaging. We want to empower, and the most effective way to do this is to spread hope. We must start eradicating the stigma by highlighting our personal successes—no matter how big or small. Tell your story!  My felon post is a great example of this.  #NotAnonymous #OurStoriesHavePower
  2.  Recovery focused hashtags: Hashtags are integral to the way we communicate online. Plus, they can be a fun! The same hashtags can and should be used for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The pound sign (or hash) turns any word or group of words that directly follow it into a searchable link.  As individuals in recovery, we need a way to connect our messaging to one another so we can create a stronger and more unified network.  In order to turn our content into a searchable and powerful link, we must use one hashtag for all our posts, and that is: #NationalRecoveryMovement. Some other key hashtags America’s recovery community is currently using are: #FacesAndVoicesOfRecovery, #NotAnonymous, #WeCanRecover, #RecoveryAdvocates, and #OurVoicesHavePower
  3.  Create a powerful and positive meme. Then, watch it go viral!: My felon post went viral for two reasons: 1) the message was short, sweet and struck a chord with our target audience: people in recovery; 2) The message itself was visual (instead of just text). While at the UNITE to Face Addiction rally I put the same message on a poster, and many people stopped to take their picture with it. Why? Because they had a similar story and the message meant something to them. They wanted to pass the message or meme along. Don’t know what a meme is? It's an important word in the world of social media and according to the Urban Dictionary, a meme is a: pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means. Here are a few pictures of people borrowing my sign at the UNITE rally: 

4.  Highlight your family and friends who are in recovery: use your social media platform to celebrate the recovery milestones and contributions of your recovering friends and family. Keep the content brief (2-4 sentences max!) and always have a positive, fun picture to go with it. Include the hashtag: #NationalRecoveryMovement. Here’s a few examples of how we celebrate Utah's recovery community. Click on the picture to blow up the text:  

Post a Fun, Recovery-Focused Selfie or Photo: The power of the selfie cannot be denied, especially since Facebook and its fans adore it. So, let’s jump on board and have some fun with it, shall we? Selfies and people-focused photos are essential ways to promote important concepts online, such as:

  • recovery community
  • fun in recovery
  • volunteering for recovery, service
  •  recovery community centers
  •  all pathways to recovery
  •  recovery-focused services and people
selfie2.png

Hopefully it's clear that as people in recovery, our social media platforms have the power to heal or harm, and paralyze or empower our communities-- and in a big way! With strategic social media messaging and visuals, we can play a critical role in offsetting the sensational and demeaning portrayals in the mass media of people caught in addiction’s downward spiral. Just remember, social media is about SOCIAL networks. Therefore, there must be an element of fun in your posts in order to promote social engagement. Without the ‘fun’, you will not be successful.

So let’s get our hashtag and selfie on, shall we?  

***

Shannon Egan is the author of No tourists allowed: Seeking Inner Peace and Sobriety in War-Torn Sudan. She’s also an international freelance journalist and advocate for the National Recovery Movement. Despite training as a writer on humanitarian issues for the United Nations, Shannon prefers sharing her personal stories of addiction and recovery to infuse hope in those still struggling and spread the message that recovery is possible.   

EX-MORMON SPEAKS OUT ABOUT UTAH'S ADDICTION AND RELIGIOUS CHALLENGES IN NEW BOOK

International journalist, author, and addiction recovery advocate, Shannon Egan of Salt Lake City, debuts her first memoir: NO TOURISTS ALLOWED: Seeking Inner Peace and Sobriety in War-Torn Sudan. Her story is set in Khartoum, Sudan where Egan worked as a freelance journalist for IRIN News of the United Nations from 2004-2006. Following this, Egan wrote for the United Nations Population Fund in New York City and reported on issues that affect women and young people during humanitarian crises, such as sexual and reproductive health, and gender-based violence. 

Despite her success, Egan struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for nearly fifteen years. Her book is dedicated to the person still struggling with addiction. She hopes that by sharing her story readers will find purpose and meaning in their own struggles and know for themselves that recovery is possible. 

"Today, I have nearly five years in recovery, and I'm not just sober, but I'm happy, healthy, and thriving both professionally and personally.  I've come a long way considering that in 2011 I woke up in a jail cell for the third time in my life with a horrific hangover, still slightly intoxicated, and refusing to believe that I had an addiction problem," Egan says. 

Egan currently works as the Development and Communications Director for USARA, Utah’s statewide Recovery Community Organization, and as a Recovery Advocate for the National Recovery Movement in order to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction as well as barriers to sustaining long-term recovery. 

She says she left for Africa at the age of twenty-five in order to escape Utah's unique religious culture where oppression and persecution against non-Mormons is still very prevalent; Utah is the only state with a Mormon majority and a majority population belonging to a single church. In Salt Lake County alone there are over 500,000 members, four temples, six missions, 174 stakes, the Tabernacle Choir, the Mormon Prophet, and most of his twelve apostles--all packed into 740 square miles. 

Egan grew up in a Mormon household and says as a young person her desire to  seek God differently than the predominant religion caused great heartache. "At times, fear-based messaging, manipulation, and control were used to promote religious dogma in attempt to get me to conform. After years of being bullied and ostracized 'in the name of God' I turned to drugs and alcohol in order to cope. 

"This is not just my story but the story of many. Through my work for Utah’s recovery community I come across many individuals who are suffering from similar wounds. Our addiction recovery rooms are  filled with Mormons and ex-Mormons hiding in shame and secrecy because they've been broken by religious persecution and are afraid to speak out."

As of 2014, Utah ranks fifth out of all fifty states in the number of opiate-related overdose deaths. This number is higher here than the national average and increasing exponentially: in Utah, more people are dying from drug-related deaths than car accidents and firearms.

"By sharing my story, I hope to facilitate a positive conversation around addiction and religion throughout the world, and specifically in Utah, where a substance use epidemic is wiping out my family, friends, and community members at an alarming rate. It’s time for our community to address these issues lovingly, compassionately, and in support of our spiritual differences." 

No Tourists Allowed is a story of self-discovery leading outward. From her fight with alcoholism to the global media system that often puts in jeopardy the lives it wants to protect, Shannon sings of despair and celebration, relapse and recovery, and learning, finally, to love the unlovely. 

Egan is available for interviews and appearances. For booking presentations, media appearances, interviews, and/or book-signings contact author@shannonegan.com