The Value of a Tribe in Recovery

In this episode, Mia will lead a self-reflective discussion focusing ono her own personal journey through the obstacles of recovery, and the value of a tribe for support through the recovery process.


Prakash Chandran (Host): The journey to sobriety requires courage, perseverance, and most importantly, a strong support system. For many in recovery, a tribe of like-minded people can provide the encouragement, guidance, and accountability necessary to overcome the obstacles that come with addiction. Joining us today is Mia.

She's here to provide her insights on the value of a tribe in her recovery. This is My Miracle Radio, a podcast by Sierra Tucson Alumni Relations. I'm your host, Prakash Chandran.

So Mia, thanks so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your time. You know, before we get into the details about the value of a tribe and what a tribe is, I'd love for you to just share a little bit about yourself and your recovery journey.

Mia: Sure. I went to Sierra Tucson for treatment in 2005. And I went there really to get off of opiate pain medication that had become really a catastrophe in my life. I was there for a month and and I left and I really still struggled with relapses of various addictions for, for a few years. So for me, the tribe has, has made a big difference. And I'll elaborate on that, I guess in response to your questions.

Host: Yeah. No, no. I mean, we can start to get into it, but you know, just thinking about after going to Sierra Tucson and being on your own, I imagine that being in that isolation, it's easy to kind of resort back or revert back to what is comfortable and what is normal. So, you know, when we think about a tribe, we think about support, but I'd be curious as to what your definition of a tribe is.

Mia: Yeah. Well, you, you hit on a lot of the qualities in your intro. A tribe is support, it's accountability. For me it's really important that it's a group of people that I feel I connect with on a kind of a higher level. There's got to be an authenticity there. I also feel like it, it looks like a lot of different things because a tribe to me can be virtual.

It can be distant. It can be, it needs to be also local and in-person. So the variety is important. Because if I rely on just say for example Zoom meeting support group members, and, and I have something going on immediately in my environment, I need, I need people close by that I can go and sit with and talk about things with.

So it's a variety of like-minded people that I trust and that understand that life is a journey and there's good and bad and I want my tribe there for the good and the bad. So the hard times and the joy.

Host: I am curious as to when you kind of felt like you needed to have or build a tribe around you. Like, you know, was it right after treatment and you kind of mentioned that you were relapsing a little bit. At what point were you like, you know what, I need that accountability, I need that support system and then what steps did you take to start building that?

Mia: Well, that's a great question. Because I didn't realize that I needed a tribe right outside of treatment. I for some reason that message didn't stick. I thought I could still do it on my own. And I still needed to learn that, that important value in my life and so years kind of went on me trying to do it on my own way, on my own.

And I reached a point where I was just really tired of it, sick and tired of, of being sick and tired. It that also coincided with a physical move to a new house in a different community. And it was a brand new neighborhood and everybody was new and the feeling of community in that neighborhood was palpable and...

Host: Did you, did you move to this new community because you felt like you needed something different, or did it just happen to be you were moving and then you felt that there was new community around you?

Mia: Yeah, it just happened. We were moving anyway and I didn't expect the feeling of community that, that was there when we arrived. Kind of caught me by surprise and I liked it. And I realized then, that was my big aha. It's like, okay, I do better when I'm surrounded by people, number one. And then so I kind of overdid it. At first it was like, oh, people, people, I, I just thought it was going to be so good for me that I just took in every person around me. And then over a few years I kind of have been learning to refine that and choose my people and you know, it's all been such a lesson I've had to really learn the, the skill of boundaries because I let so many people in at first, it's like, oh, maybe I need to really select my tribe.

And then let's see. I had a little bit of a relapse in 2018 and really, really, I knew by that point that I needed my tribe and I reached out to Sierra Tucson. I knew, knew, still maintained, contact with a couple people there and said, Hey, I need something, what's available. And they directed me to some in-person groups, support groups here in town and that was the beginning of, of a really deep recovery tribe that really shifted things to another level. And then, then COVID hit.

 Everybody's story has, has a little exception for COVID. And so we, we lost the in-person groups but Sierra Tucson, they're just amazing. And all of a sudden we had these Zoom groups and we had three meetings a day if we wanted to go to them.

And by this time I, I had gotten clean and I was doing pretty well. So, so COVID was kind of a hit. But the Zoom meetings for me, it became yet another level of tribe because I was connecting with people all over the world, literally, definitely all over the country. And I had people who were going through the same thing as I was, and we connected deeply in that group.

And as COVID started to lift, these were good friends. And so we since have all, many of us have gotten together in person. And so that experience, you know, I call it the silver lining of COVID for me. Because that experience brought me friendships and, and members of my tribe that I wouldn't have otherwise had. So that was really powerful.

Host: Yeah. You know, I, I do think that there is something to like the realization that you aren't alone in the journey. Like there is someone else out there that looks like you, is in the same stage of life, that is going through the same struggles and being able to connect with those people and to commiserate in a way that would potentially not otherwise be possible, especially during the time of COVID. I imagine just like grew such a bond and a friendship and something that's going to probably last for a long time. I mean, would you agree with that?

Mia: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Those people today, this is kind of an interesting time because I recently had another relapse and the first person I told about it was my therapist. The second was this group of people that I met through the Zoom groups. And I am not sure what it would've looked like if I didn't have those people. You know, you talked about accountability. I was like, well, I can't continue to lie to myself and to them. So I need to be honest about it. And if I hadn't had well, Zoom was, the Zoom group was a huge part of it. But tribe in general, if I hadn't had the people around me I don't think it, who knows where I'd be today, really.

It got me back on track really quickly because I felt accountable. I, I went and sat at an AA meeting and heard the message that I needed to hear from another person in the room that changed my path. That was like, oh, okay, I really cannot do this. So it's, tribe's been really powerful for me.

Host: You know, if someone is listening to this and you know, maybe they may consider themselves a little bit of a loner and they're going through some of the same struggles, what would your recommendation be around trying to find their people and that support system for themselves?

Mia: That's a great question. I would say just be fearless. Just put yourself out there. Even if it at first feels a little bit uncomfortable that feeling goes away. And even if it, it feels like, well, maybe that's not for me. Oh, I'm not a Zoom person, or I, you know, whatever the excuses that we make for ourselves, just throw them out and just do it. And you learn along the way. Even if they're not people that you necessarily are going to be best friends with, there's still value in all those connections.

Host: And then as you, cause you know, you kind of went through this stage where you were letting a lot of people into your life and then you started curating them down a little bit, or in terms of like building your true tribe, right? Like making sure that you curated the relationships that were most valuable. How did you think about that and how can others think about that curation, once they want to narrow in on the people that are most important to them.

Mia: Hmm. Well, that was, that was a real learning experience for me. It was, it has been difficult at times. But what I realized was that I didn't have safe boundaries and I was letting people into my inner circle that maybe were not healthy for me. So I had to learn it. I, I had to go through it and experience setting some uncomfortable boundaries.

You know, I don't know if some people maybe can do these kinds of things just by being told to be careful. I'm not one of those I have to figure it out on my own. But it's valuable. I mean, I, I look at the learning of the boundary setting as a huge tool in my life today. That, and so the tribe that I have today, it fits my needs.

It's comfortable and it's safe. But it took work to get it. I, I really, I had to set some tough boundaries and say to some people, you know, I need some distance or, or whatever the boundary was. I had to dig deep and, and just do it to take care of myself.

Host: Yeah. Well, you know, I can tell just in the short amount of time the amount of growth that you have had as an individual; in terms of just trying to foster connection, building that tribe around yourself for that support and accountability. And also then figuring out a way to gain inner strength to say like, I now have a value system around how I want to operate.

And some people that were in your tribe before may not be the best for you anymore. People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. And that is okay, like there are going to be friendships and connections of people that maybe you needed them in the beginning, but over the course of a season, or your life, you really have to curate the people that are going to be around that lift you up in the best way that you want to be lifted up. So it's really sounds like you're kind of at that stage where you are fostering relationships around you where they are lifelong friendships and people that really just add value to your life.

Mia: Yes, I, I absolutely would agree with that. And I'm better at picking now because of my experiences with setting boundaries and I, I'm learning to listen to my whatever it is inside my, my gut, my intuition, my connection with my higher power. If I listen, I, I feel whether the person is right for me. And that's kind of new. I mean, it, it's a product of, of experience with people. So that's another, another benefit of the journey.

Host: So Mia, just as we close you know, I truly appreciate you sharing this journey with us. After everything that you've been through, if there's one thing that you know to be true, that you would like to leave with our audience, what might that be?

Mia: Hmm, that we can't do it alone. Any of it. That we need each other. Human beings need human beings.

Host: Mia, I think that is the perfect place to end. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us and your definition of what a tribe is.

Mia: Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

Host: For more information, you can visit sierra This has been My Miracle Radio, a podcast by Sierra Tucson Alumni Relations. My name's Prakash Chandran. Thank you so much for listening and be well.