There are a number of components involved in recovery from addiction, a crucial one is having the right support in place. Michael C. Clemmens, in Getting Beyond Sobriety: Clinical Approaches to Long-Term Recovery, explains, “Addicts live much of their lives in isolation and tend to bear their experiences either by toughing it out or by having someone else take over. Support is a middle mode where the environment and others are an interested but differentiated part of the field.”
An addict having support in place doesn’t mean that somebody can wave a magic wand and instantly cure them of their addiction. Recovery can be a lengthy process, and the work that goes into it is still their own fundamental responsibility. What support does mean is that the addict is not alone on their journey. Support in recovery can help to decrease the addict's feelings of isolation and loneliness by showing them that there are people who care for them and are behind every step of the way, cheering them on.
Importance of Support in Recovery
Let’s now look at what benefits a recovery support system can have on a person who is recovering from addiction. The first thing to note is that a support system is broad in scope; on the one hand, it can refer to family and friends, on the other hand it can refer to an organized support group.
Looking at the latter of the two, one of the main benefits of a support group is the commonality between the members. Mayo Clinic explains that “the common experience among members of a support group often means they have similar feelings, worries, everyday problems, treatment decisions or treatment side effects.” People in recovery can sometimes feel judged by and inferior to other people who haven’t undergone what they have, which can have a crushing impact on their self-esteem. Being surrounded by others going through the same thing allows them to feel that they are among equals and fosters a sense of belongingness and inclusion. This, in turn, can help a person to be more willing to open up about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Not only do support group members have that relatability with one another, but they are also united by a shared purpose. They are all there to attain the same goal: to reach a stage where they can live free of substance and alcohol abuse.
The importance of peer support in recovery cannot be underestimated, and a person should surround themselves with others who will have a positive impact on them. Some people going through recovery might naturally feel like they have nothing in common with their former peers and therefore, will easily distance themselves away from them. Others might find the distancing harder and may still gravitate toward their former fellow addicts, particularly if they have known them for a long time. However, being around addicts when trying to recover is a recipe for disaster! Those individuals could easily lead one back to addictive behavior, especially if they helped them get there in the first place.
Largely among adolescents, peer pressure is a strong motivating factor for drug use. One needs to ask themselves, are the people around me encouraging me towards sobriety or substance abuse? A support system is a source of positive peer pressure, geared to lead people toward success.
What is Good Addiction Recovery Support?
Good addiction recovery support is when an addict can open up about their struggles and challenges, past and present, and know that what they have said will remain confidential. In the context of a group, this will mean that a non-disclosure policy is in place, or if the individual is confiding in a friend, they will know that they can trust them and what is said remains only between the two of them. This social support can counteract shame, isolation, and secrecy - things that may have contributed to the addiction in the first place. Bringing a secret to light can minimize its potency, and describing something with words helps make it feel more defined and manageable. Having the knowledge that they are respected and their privacy won't be breached gives the addict a sense of safety and security.
How to Find Support Systems in Recovery
Research suggests that abstinent social networks are one of the most important predictors of substance abuse recovery following treatment. The most well-known peer support groups are:
These groups are member-led and involve participants sharing their personal experiences and feelings as well as their coping strategies. There is also Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) which composes of a theory-based curriculum. It is important that the support be consistent, and most groups meet on a weekly basis. Individuals on the road to recovery can discuss with their therapist which option would be best for them, considering factors such as what is available locally.
How to be a Good Support in Recovery
If you know a loved one struggling with addiction, you will want to know what you can do to best support them. Of course, part of being a good support involves providing valuable information and offering good advice. Still, even if you don’t have the knowledge to give helpful advice, your presence alone can be a great source of strength. The knowledge alone that the person going through recovery has someone who cares about them and is willing and available to listen to them without judgment can be immeasurable.
Top tip when it comes to being helpful is to be informed. You need to understand the addict’s behavior both with regard to past addiction and present recovery. Research the area of alcohol and substance abuse without relying solely on the addicted person’s account of a situation.
Understanding an addict's behavior and thinking will help you to understand what type of assistance actually helps, what doesn’t, and how not to get harmed yourself. Being informed will also allow you to put your prejudices and preconceived notions aside and differentiate between fact and fiction. The more you learn, the more you’ll understand what your loved one is experiencing, and the more you can effectively help.
Providing support can also include concrete assistance, such as driving the addict to their 12-step meeting or helping them look for a job when they are able to return to the workplace. While you might want to wave that magic wand and make your loved one’s journey to recovery instantaneous, remember to retain perspective. This means not blaming yourself for any relapses the addict has or taking on too much emotional strain. The ultimate responsibility of behavior change is not yours; it’s theirs. In addition, the healthiest way to respond to an addict might sometimes require tough love. You might need to make a decision that would seem coldhearted under normal circumstances.
Find Support in Your Recovery
Support systems in recovery give addicts a listening ear, encouragement, understanding, compassion, and shared problem-solving. They also provide an enhanced sense of meaning, purpose, hope, and optimism about the future. Contact Avenues Recovery to learn about the support we offer to help you or a loved one live a life beyond addiction. Leaders in addiction rehabilitation, Avenues Recovery can build your unique treatment plan so you can embrace sobriety and freedom without looking back! Join the ranks of those who have found quality support while in their recovery.