The Many Ways Social Support Can Lift Up Your Recovery

Many people who begin their journey to recovery feel alone. Their friends and family are deeply hurt by the pain that addiction caused them, and the people they’ve been spending their time with don’t support their recovery because they condone the abuse of these substances. If this is the type of circumstance you’re in right now, you have to remember that the feeling of loneliness and lack of support is only temporary; in fact, there are so many people in recovery and you are now part of the recovery community.

As humans, we crave social interactions and support. We need people around us to share our problems with, create memories with, plan out the future with, learn from and more. Time and time again, research has shown that this lack of support can lead to isolation and depression, making us even more prone to relapse, self-harm and suicide. No matter where you’re at in your recovery journey, there are people you can rely on and connect with – sometimes all it takes is finding them or opening your heart up to those connections.

Cut Off Ties

Upon entering rehabilitation, you likely felt nervous, scared and apprehensive. It’s change, after all – and who is truly comfortable with change?! One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is that desire to cling on to those of the past – in an effort to feel more at ease, you may want to call up someone who used to abuse drugs with you and you likely spent a lot of time with this person. In those moments, it can feel like a real connection, a real friendship is there – but what most people find is that instead of this real connection, there is only a commonality: using. What many people find is that recovery doesn’t hold the space for these types of relationships and so those friendships fade away.

In 2015, a study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology sought to explore how social groups change once a person enters recovery. They found that people typically undergo an identity transition from a person with an addiction to a person who is in recovery. The relationships we have in our lives often reinforce the identity that we hold of ourselves, which is why previous social connections brought together by substance abuse no longer fit. In fact, it’s the cutting of these ties that opens up more opportunity for new connections that promote and support your recovery – and these can truly lead to lifelong friendships.

Developing New Connections

Recovery is a rollercoaster ride filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, achievements and standstills. During this transition period, you’re going to find other like-minded individuals who are discovering themselves underneath all of the substance abuse, trauma, mental illness and pain, too. As a 2014 study published in the journal PLOS One emphasized, 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can further promote these kinds of connections and there is much more depth and strength than can be drawn from with people – from group discussions, activities and other recovery workshops, these budding relationships are formed.

In 2017, researchers from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center spoke with 33 people who had severe alcohol use disorder (AUD) and had been in recovery to find out exactly what type of connections benefited their recovery the most. Overall, these are the types of social support most of them found:

  • Spiritual leader or church community members
  • Partner/spouse/significant other
  • Someone from their healthcare team
  • Friend
  • Family member
  • AA sponsor or people from group meetings

Overall, these types of relationships seemed to help participants in 3 major ways, providing emotional, appraisal, instrumental, spiritual and informational support:

  • Rebuilding support network
  • Isolation
  • Adding to existing social network to further uplift recovery and sobriety goals

One individual shared his experience with feeling more comfortable with his social support network. He stated, “I know how to go about situations now. If I need help, instead of picking up a bottle, I can call my sponsor or…go to a meeting.”

Trust In Your Journey

You see, the people we meet in life may not be whom we’d expect to become part of our social support during recovery, but that’s the very point of opening your mind and heart up to receive these connections as you navigate your journey. The people who add so much value to your life will lift you up, help you to feel stronger on your bad days, remind you of why you started recovery, cheer you on when you find success, listen to you when you’re upset, guide you in the right direction sometimes and so much more. You may not know it yet, but the people who become your advisers, your best friends, your companions in addiction recovery – they are the ones who know what you’re going through the most because they’ve been there and taken similar steps that you’re taking now. Let go of what’s been bringing in negativity to your life and open up for much more positivity to come.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.