Addiction is a complex and powerful disease that can have an impact long after the sufferer is “clean” or has undergone detoxification. Some experts have suggested that the following recovery process is one that lasts a lifetime, especially in the cases of severe dependence. Therefore, recovery must take into consideration nearly every aspect of the individual’s life, including support systems in the form of family, friends, mental health professionals, and community groups.
What are Support Systems?
A support system is a network of people who provide a recovering addict or alcoholic with support and encouragement during the recovery process. Support systems may include friends and family, a support group, and a therapist or counselor. Close family may even be included in counseling or therapeutic treatments. When it comes to recovery, having a drug- or alcohol-free social network is also important. A true commitment to recovery may also involve cutting ties with previous friends or acquaintances who are still using drugs or alcohol. Finally, attending a support group may help a recovering addict to connect with group members who have experienced similar struggles.
Building Support Systems
Following recovery, cultivating a good support system can be one of the most difficult steps. A recovering addict may be ashamed of his or her behavior towards close family or friends and reluctant to ask them for forgiveness. Moreover, certain friends and even family members may not exert a positive influence if they themselves are suffering from addictions or abusing alcohol or drugs. It is crucial that the recovering addict recognize who may not be contributing to his or her health and well-being; however, this does not mean assigning blame. The recovering individual should move forward by choosing people that exert a positive influence and in some cases, this means making new friends, which doesn’t happen instantly. Those in the recovery process are encouraged to take classes, join a church, volunteer, or join a team of some sort.
Adjusting Support Systems Over Time
Moreover, once the individual has built his or her support system, it is likely to require maintenance and adjustment over time. When a recovering addict has gone through detoxification, changed his or her lifestyle, and is well into the recovery process, needs may change. The recovering addict may feel that her awareness and experience related to addiction have grown to the point that certain people can no longer provide helpful advice or information. In this case, the addict has outgrown his or her support network and must either transfer knowledge to them or seek new individuals who share a similar level of experience.
As an addict recovers, he or she may become too comfortable within his or her support system. It is important for recovering addicts to continuous push and challenge themselves by taking on new roles, for instance leading an Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting instead of just participating in them. Other recovering addicts end up creating resources, public speaking, starting new community programs, or volunteering to help others at various stages of the recovery process. Passivity can be dangerous – support systems must remain engaging over time, even as the recovering individual develops and grows.