Today there are approximately 23 million adults in recovery from addiction in the United States. For any one of these individuals, there could be something that goes awry in recovery. Perhaps their sponsor relapses or their family moves away or perhaps they go through a challenging heartbreak. These are situations that could threaten a person’s sobriety and make them vulnerable to relapse. Yet, when a person has a strong support system – family, friends, and professionals on their side – then the likelihood of relapse is small compared to having no support at all.
When a person has others to go to when feeling distressed or tense and they feel supported, they are less likely to fall into the declining cycle of relapse. For instance, when a person has support around them, such as attending a 12-step meeting on a regular basis, that person gives them an opportunity to hear the stories of others, relate to their challenges and successes, and experience hope. Through support, a person may find validation for the reasons why they’ve had a difficult life thus far. A network of friends and family also significantly boost a person’s feeling of being supported and in turn enhances their ability to face stress. Rather than turning to drugs or drinking when life gets challenging, they can turn to the relationships in their lives.
Even if a person appears to have no one in their life, one way to gather a community quickly is by attending an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. The AA community is a group of people, all working towards sobriety. Along these lines, a person can attend a support groups, which would also provide feelings of community, acceptance, and support.
Individuals to Include in Your Support System
- family members
- friends/acquaintances from 12-step meetings
- friends/acquaintances from support groups
- case manager
- drug counselor
- spouse/significant other
If you’re in recovery and you’d like to start working on building and strengthening a strong network of support, here are some tips to do that:
Ways to build and maintain a strong support system in recovery
- Stay open to relationships from a variety of people.
- Reach out to someone you don’t know at an AA meeting or in your support group.
- Regularly do things you love that involve other people.
- Explore the online sober communities for new connections there.
- Move into a sober living home.
- Stay in touch with old friends whose friendships may be supportive.
- Consider joining groups that your friends and family enjoy and participate with them.
- Continue to be a good friend, family member or co-worker so that you don’t break trust or lose friendships you already have.
- Remember holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. This can sometimes bring friendships closer when friends see that you’ve remembered them.
- Stay positive in your relationships.
- Limit the time you spend with negative people or those who may put your sobriety at risk.
- Lend a helping hand to others from time to time.
- If you can, get together with others in person as a way to keep your friendship alive.
- Show your gratitude to those who come to your aid.
These are suggestions for building and strengthening a network of support. Doing so can keep your recovery strong and keep relapse at bay.