Treatment for addiction puts a great deal of emphasis on individual growth. Therapy and treatment structure focus on helping clients develop the life skills and behaviors to support sobriety long-term. While it is important to gain a sense of independence and self-accountability in recovery, there is only so much a person can achieve on their own. While you may be more capable of handling multiple things at once, it is easy to become overwhelmed and stressed, which may put you at risk of relapse. That is why a strong support system is critical to life-long sobriety.
Substance abuse is often used initially as a means of connecting with others. Many perceive it as a way to remove barriers, overcome social anxiety, and better relate to others. Over time, however, substance abuse can become less of a social assistant and more of a burden. As addiction develops over time, you may find yourself withdrawing from others, becoming more isolated, and noticing that people who were around may not be there much anymore. Substance abuse patterns can create conflict and tension in relationships, causing them to deteriorate over time. When a person finally enters treatment, they must cut ties with their enabling peers as part of the recovery process, but this may make them feel more alone than ever.
Research shows that over time, a healthy support system enriches the recovery experience and improves long-term outcomes. From building healthy relationships with peers in recovery to mending relationships damaged by substance abuse in the past, developing healthy relationships with others can significantly reduce the risk of relapse.
The Importance of a Strong Support Network
Healthy relationships are critical to successful recovery. Family therapy is often a necessary part of someone’s recovery journey. Having a group of family and friends that support your journey and help you through difficult times can have a significant impact on your experiences. Having a strong support system means:
- Facing challenges with greater ease: It can be easy to become overwhelmed or stressed when challenging situations arise. In the past, you may have used drugs or alcohol as a means of coping or escaping stressors, but in sobriety, you must find better ways of overcoming difficult situations. A strong support network can be helpful during trying times. They can help you talk through difficult topics and may be able to provide support to make the situation feel more manageable.
- Reducing social anxiety: Because drugs and alcohol are often used to reduce social anxiety, being in new social situations can be a trigger for relapse. Having friends or family with you when going into new social settings can help alleviate anxiety by ensuring you are not alone.
- Holding you accountable: Family and friends are able to hold you accountable in your recovery. If you begin to fall back into old behaviors and patterns, they are able to observe it and bring it to your attention. Loved ones can provide valuable insight and identify a potential problem developing before you even realize it is happening.
- Supporting your growth: Your friends and family can help empower you to continue moving forward in your recovery. Having people who support you in recovery can help you overcome difficulties and keep you on track. Feeling supported and encouraged by others can give you the extra boost you need to keep going even when you feel discouraged.
- Improving self-esteem and confidence: The support of your friends and family can improve how you view yourself and your progress. Your loved ones want to see you succeed and can help you achieve your goals. As you progress through recovery, your view of yourself will continue to improve.
Tips for Building a Strong Support Network in Addiction Recovery
Establishing a strong support network should be a part of your recovery plan. Going through recovery alone will inevitably lead to negative feelings, becoming more withdrawn, and feeling sadness or loneliness. All of these emotions increase the risk of relapse, but rebuilding your support network can take time. Relationships that have been negatively impacted by substance abuse need time to heal, but allowing it time to recover will help it become more robust than ever before.
In order to strengthen your support network, it is important for communication to be a two-way street. While it is important to hear your friends and family out, it is equally important to share how you feel and what you need with others. Some tips for how to strengthen your support network include:
- Be frank about what you need: Information about substance abuse is plentiful, but that does not mean that it is all true or accurate for your situation. In order for your friends and family to understand what you are going through, you must be clear and communicative. It may not be easy to be honest about what you need and how they can help you move forward, but it is often critical to the healing process.
- Be specific in expressing yourself: If you are looking for support from your friends and family, it is important to be specific in your request. Be sure to think through what you want to say before you say it. It is important to be mindful and express yourself clearly with others. If your thoughts or feelings change over time, you should be prepared to express that as well.
- Be patient: Making changes to behaviors is never easy. It will take time for you and your friends or family to make these changes, especially if you have a long history of difficult interactions. In some cases, it may just take more time for someone to get where they need to be.
- Reach out: Try not to disappear on your friends and family after asking for help. Communication is a two-way street and sometimes you may need to push yourself to stay connected. Some days may be more difficult than others, but those times are when it is most important to reach out.
- Express gratitude: Making these changes is not always easy, and sometimes, it can be difficult to know if you are on the right path. When you notice your friends or family making the effort, it is important to express your appreciation. Positive reinforcement helps you teach your loved ones what you need and compliments can go a long way in making someone feel appreciated.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.