Completing an addiction treatment program doesn’t mean that you’re finished with your recovery. The challenges of recovery don’t end when you leave the treatment center, and developing a strong support network is essential for long-term success.
Addiction can be an isolating disease; you may think you can handle it on your own, but you’re far more likely to relapse without a solid network of support. A few simple tips and guidelines can help you build your own support network to make your recovery journey easier.
Support groups have been proven to be helpful in recovery; in fact, studies have shown that people who regularly attend 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are more likely to stay sober after treatment. (Moos, Timko, 2008)
These groups and programs also provide a wealth of opportunities to make new, sober friends. Don’t give up if the first couple of groups you try aren’t an ideal fit: Most cities have numerous support groups to choose from, and you may need to visit a few before you find the right one for your needs.
Therapists, counselors, doctors and other professionals can play a valuable role in your support network, but they can only help you if you’re honest with them. It’s natural to feel a bit reluctant about sharing details of your addiction and recovery; however, you can’t get the maximum support from the professionals in your network unless you tell them the full story.
Be honest and open, and you’ll be able to rely on these professionals to get you through challenging periods in your recovery.
Your family members can be a tremendous source of support during recovery, but they can’t be the only members of your support network. Substance abuse is a “family disease” (Gifford, 2013), and your loved ones may have their own issues to resolve: Codependency and anger are common issues among family members of an addict.
In some cases, family therapy and support groups geared toward family members can help open up the lines of communication and heal the damage caused by addiction.
When you’re building a support network, it’s important to look for people who have had success with long-term recovery. This may require you to distance yourself from friends you drank or used with in the past.
These people provide too strong of a link to your past, and they offer too much temptation for you in the early stages of recovery. It’s not easy to cut off old friendships, but paring down these relationships gives you the opportunity to build healthy new friendships that support your recovery efforts.
It’s clear that a reliable support network can provide invaluable encouragement and motivation after you’ve completed addiction treatment. Long-term recovery is possible when you surround yourself with supportive friends, family and professionals. Having trusted people to talk to and reach out to for help makes it easier to handle any bumps on the road to recovery.
- Moos, R., and Timko, C. Outcome Research on 12-step and Other Self-help Programs. Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2008. http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/providers/sud/selfhelp/docs/4_moos_timko_chapter.pdf
- Smith, M., Saisan, J, and Segal, J. Self-help Groups for Drug Addiction. Helpguide.org. 2015. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/self-help-groups-for-drug-addiction.htm