How does a strong support network help in your recovery?

Once someone has made the choice to seek treatment for an addiction, they have surmounted the largest single obstacle on the path to recovery. However, recovery is not a short-term goal; it is a journey back to the self, back to a life rich with experience and challenge. The path of recovery takes an individual through some very difficult emotional terrain, and it can often have a very isolating effect. The sense of loneliness can represent one of the biggest obstacles to the goal of coping with an addiction. Therefore, a network of support is crucial for the individual in crisis. For him or her to know that he or she is not alone may make the difference between failure and success.

Support Mind, Body, and Spirit

It’s often the case that many people who fall into addiction are seeking to dull emotional pain or escape an emotional hell. If that’s your story, then you know all too well how difficult breaking the pattern of escape can be. Confronting the reasons behind addiction can often be extraordinarily challenging, because they prod at memories we’d rather forget, and behaviors we wish to leave behind. Not only do we seek distance from the behaviors of others, but from our own. Addiction has complex emotional and intellectual underpinnings, and more deeply, touches upon guilt, shame, anger, and sadness. What makes a substance abuse very seductive in the first place is that it often becomes integrated with our memories; it is an entrenched pattern of behavior as well as a matter of chemical dependence that enables us to detach ourselves from the pain.

A strong network of support offers relief. It is comprised of individuals who can help to shoulder the burden and also to keep you going strong when you feel you’ve exhausted the last of your ability. While this support system during recovery may include members of your family and close friends, there’s no rule that says you have to turn to them first. There may often be complex emotional tensions between you and these people who are closest to you, which can hinder the initial healing process. What is important to remember is that, when you are able, you should include these people in your recovery process. It may not be immediately, but let them know that you acknowledge their desire to see you heal, but that you need some time.

The Comfort of Strangers

Because close family and friends may actually be connected to issues that feed the addiction behavior, an individual may elect to construct a support network of caring strangers—new friends, mentors, fellow wayfarers on the path to recovery. There is often a sense of solidarity to be found among those who have already made or are making the journey from a place of addiction to a place of healthy self awareness.

Family members and close friends may feel shut out because they don’t understand what a recovering individual is going through, especially if they are committed to helping you realize your potential and making a successful recovery. What may be helpful for them to know is that, while you may need to put some distance in the relationships that existed during your addiction, it doesn’t mean you don’t love them. At the same time, family and friends should know that one way to show love and support may be to give some space; however, that doesn’t mean drop out or disappear from their lives. Rather, give them breathing space, even as you voice your concerns and love. Let them know that you will be there when they’re ready, and that you’ll be there when they need help for recovery. Maintain contact with honesty, but don’t try to smother them with help.

The importance of a support network cannot be overlooked for the recovery process; it is a vital aspect to overcoming addiction. It allows a person to work through issues that led to their addiction, as well as to cope with the complex emotional and psychological causes of the addiction itself. At its simplest, a support network is there to help a recovering addict resist the temptation of reusing and relapsing.

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