What problems do African Americans face in recovery?
All people being treated for addiction to alcohol and other drugs have to face their own issues of self-identify. By working Step Four, you are asked to look at your true identify and face the things that have blocked you from spirituality. For the African American in recovery, the question “Who am I?” raises the issue of racial identity.
In early recovery, you may still feel guilty and ashamed of the things you have done to yourself and others while you were addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. But as an African American, you may also have to deal with both seeing yourself through the lens of society and trying to measure up to its standards. Many generations of African Americans have had to endure the hardships of racism, educational discrimination, and economic exploitation. Other African Americans feel physically unattractive. This negative self-image often comes from living in a country that is dominated by European ideas of beauty.
Whatever your personal situation, as an African American you’ll need to take time to examine the choices you have made in response to any societal problems in your life. To succeed with your ongoing recovery, you must develop a healthy concept of who you are and how you relate to your Higher Power and to other people.
As you grew up, you may have been taught to “push down” your emotions and pain; you may not have been allowed to express them freely. In response to this, you may have built up a wall of defense to block out emotional pain. This may make it more difficult to understand Twelve Step concepts such as “powerlessness” and “trust.” You may even view dysfunctional behavior as being somewhat normal. Now that you’re working on your ongoing recovery, it’s important that you identify and discuss your feelings with your sponsor and others in your support system.
You may go to AA meetings where many members are white. If you feel that your voice is not being heard, or you fear that your special issues are not being understood, don’t push these feelings down. These emotions are very personal and important.
Many of the people you encounter in meetings, support groups, and your daily routine may seem very different from you. But remember that all people have common values of family, friends, health, and education. All addicts are in the same situation: they hurt the people who love them, they allowed their lives to become unmanageable, and they need help from their Higher Power to recover.
Spirituality plays an important role in many African American families and provides comfort for social and economic struggles. Participation in spiritual activities allows opportunities for self-expression, leadership, and community involvement. Building bridges between these activities and the Twelve Steps is crucial for recovery.
Recovery Action Step
Think about some spiritual activities that you can engage in. Think about getting involved with a church or community center. Consider joining a meditation or prayer group. Check with local colleges or community centers for classes on spirituality or meditation.
List some ways you plan to participate in spiritual activities during the next few months. Share this list with your sponsor or recovery group.
Facing community challenges
Many people in the African American community have experienced significant problems with housing, health, education, crime, and employment. But these problems can’t be resolved in the midst of alcohol and other drug addiction. Using alcohol and other drugs may seem like an easy way to lessen life’s frustrations, but it only makes the situation far worse.
African American communities often have a high degree of commitment to family. Family unity is expressed through community involvement and service. to others. The best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your community is to work hard on your recovery, learning to practice the life skills that will enable you grow spiritually with increased pride in your identity.
What do you have to gain?
Working the Twelve Steps will help you learn how you fit into the universe, how to relate to your Higher Power, and how to relate to others. You will be able to choose your own path in the future, which will give you the power to be truly free and happy. You’ll learn to understand and accept different values, share common experiences, accept others simply as human beings, and respect yourself enough to expect the same in return.
Personal Recovery Story
“When I was young, my self-image was terrible. I wanted to go to college, to travel the world, but people in my family didn’t even graduate from high school, much less college. We had little money, and back then there weren’t many good jobs for girls with no education. I got pregnant at sixteen, got married, and was a divorced single mom by eighteen.
“By that time, I was drinking almost every day to mask the pain of facing the life I was stuck with. I wanted college, trips to Paris, opportunities. But I couldn’t find a job, and my husband abused me physically to control me.
“My life had started to spin out of control. I didn’t eat, only drank. I barely left the house anymore. My mom finally checked me in to a treatment center. “I’ve been in recovery for just over ten years. As African Americans, we have dealt with racism and sexism from whites and others. We have witnessed the struggles of amazing people from our own mothers to people like Martin Luther King Jr. We can rise above addictions, violence, self-hatred, and brutal poverty to make new lives for ourselves.”—Based on one African American woman’s view on recovery
How can you maintain your ongoing recovery?
Try to find a sponsor and a recovery support system of people whom you feel safe with and whom you can relate to. Remember, your self-worth is not based on how others perceive you; it’s based on your perception of yourself.
To maintain your ongoing recovery, you’ll need to keep working the Twelve Steps. You’ve worked hard in early recovery; now it’s time to protect and plan for your ongoing recovery. Remember to work the Steps, utilize your sponsor and sober friends for support, and go to meetings. These things will help you develop and maintain a healthy, happy outlook and enjoy the freedom and peace of sobriety.