November 25, 2022

The Importance of a Support System During Recovery

Read time: 8 minutes

Starting the journey toward recovery is a significant change. You may have been living with addiction for a long time. Now you are ready to disrupt the negative pattern and start anew. Substance abuse makes us adapt our lives to accommodate the drive to use substances, and these changes are generally to our detriment. The ability to reclaim your life and return to things you value is one of the greatest rewards of recovery. Keeping these benefits in mind is important for the perseverance needed to commit to treatment. Another motivating factor is having a support system to lean on.

Choosing a Support System

When we are undergoing major events in our lives, it is natural to want to be surrounded by people we trust. For example, when we get married, we often invite the people most important to us to participate in the ceremony. It is common to have housewarming parties when we move because we want our friends and family to take part in that transition. While we enjoy celebrating with others, we also turn toward our loved ones in times of need. Funerals, for example, are opportunities for a community to come together in solidarity.

If you are attempting to recover from substance abuse, that same level of support and community is warranted. The process of developing a support system should be intentional, as it can contribute to your success in recovery. Not every friend or family member will be equipped to help you in this time in your life, and it is important to determine who will contribute to your well-being.

When choosing people to share your journey with, there are many aspects to consider. It is important to find people who care for you and want the best for you. They should trust in your ability to recover and be committed to helping you get here. People who can hold you accountable in a respectful way while recognizing that they cannot make the changes for you are an essential addition to your support system.

The Importance of Feeling Understood

Recovery is messy. There are peaks and valleys, forward progress, followed by backtracking. When we learn new skills, we cannot be expected to immediately become experts, and the same concept applies to learning to cope with the urge to return to substance use. This environment is not the place for fair-weather friends who will write you off in the event of a relapse. You are inevitably going to make mistakes during recovery, and being surrounded by people who understand that and help you get back on your feet can keep you going.

Often addiction strains our relationships. Our behavior can cause us to lose important people, and we have to work hard to get them back. There are people who might not be receptive to the idea of supporting you in recovery. That is a painful reality, and even though those relationships do not have to be lost forever, they have the right not to walk this road with you. Some people may want to help but have their own complicated emotions to work through to best support you while respecting their own needs. In these situations, family therapy can be an important resource.

Forms of Support

Support can come from people outside of your family and friend circles. There are many support groups — like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) — available to those in varying stages of recovery.  Some groups are faith-based, while others are secular. Participating in these groups can have unique advantages that come from discussing recovery with peers. As caring and well-intentioned as our friends and family can be, there will always be an understanding they cannot provide unless they have gone through what you are experiencing.

Peers who have shared experiences can help us feel less isolated and remind us that we are not the only ones carrying this burden. Those who are further along in the process can offer insight, guidance, and encouragement. This is why many groups utilize sponsor relationships, where a person more experienced in recovery is partnered with an individual just starting the process.

The Benefits of Asking for Help

It can be difficult to ask for help. We want to be in control and fix our own problems, especially when we are worried about how others will view us. The benefits of having a support system on your side will outweigh this discomfort. In addition to improving morale and reducing isolation, social support can have a significant impact on the success of substance abuse treatment.

Those who are supported by their family often have a greater willingness to address their substance use and make changes. This is often the greatest roadblock to receiving treatment, and once it is removed, so many opportunities open up. Once in treatment, individuals backed by a support system have reduced substance use and also are more likely to work toward a goal of abstinence. This effect is most pronounced with family support and participation in groups that utilize the 12-Step model.

How to Be Part of Your Loved One’s Support System

If your loved one is starting the path to recovery, you might be wondering how best to support them. In a time of upheaval and change, you can provide much-needed consistency. Offering encouragement during difficult times and celebration during good times can help your loved one feel unconditionally supported. Reminding them of their goals and holding them accountable without guilt or shame is motivating and empowering.

Sometimes we recognize our loved one needs help before they do. In these situations, an intervention might be an appropriate course of action. With the help of a professional, you can pave the way for your loved one’s recovery and help them feel supported throughout the process.

Additionally, it’s vital to take care of yourself during this process, too. Your mental health can benefit from attending Al-Anon meetings as a loved one of someone struggling with addiction.

Our loved ones help us enjoy the good times and endure the difficult ones. This is no different when you are recovering from substance abuse. Having people who are able to support you can make a difference in your recovery as you navigate uncharted territory. A team of people who care for you and believe in your ability to live free from substances can motivate and encourage you while holding you accountable when you need it. In addition to family, friends, and peers in recovery, a licensed clinician with experience treating substance abuse should be part of your support system. Family-Centered Services is well-equipped to partner in your care. Learn about our services by calling (509) 991-5822 today.