It’s a long road back from addiction. The drug of choice can be alcohol, street or prescription drugs, or addictive gambling, spending, or eating. Although the faces of addiction are many, one outcome remains the same: everyone in recovery needs the support of others. And these “others” need to be personally familiar with what it means to be an addict.
Having a strong sober support network can significantly reduce the odds of relapse, or the length of relapse if it does occur. Sober support networks are a vital component of recovery in order to prevent relapse and maintain and improve emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. Recovering addicts that do not have a good sober support network often become depressed, withdraw from social interactions, and eventually return to drinking and/or using drugs in order to self-medicate their emotional pain. Consequently, understanding how support networks can benefit a recovery program and what types of networks are available is essential for people who are battling addiction.
Having a strong support network will help you to stay sober by giving you people who demonstrate such qualities as reliability, loyalty, caring, and friendship. You’ll also be able to demonstrate those same qualities yourself. Being as dependent as those in your support network will do you a lot of good. It will help you to affirm your recovery, and feel better about who you are becoming. Here are a few tips to follow in order to experience some of the benefits of a strong sober support network.
Know What You’re Looking For!
First of all, we should say that anyone that is still currently drinking or using isn’t going to be a good sober support person. Leaving that person in their addiction can be hard to do, especially if you’ve known them for a long time. But, if you want to make the most of your recovery, then avoiding the risk of temptation, or avoiding high risk situations, is an important first step.
It’s safe to say that we’ll be building our support network to include others in recovery. Going through treatment or meetings or other supportive activities we may have met some candidates, but our new network should not only consist of people with the same amount of recovery as us. A strong sober support network consists of others that can teach us through their example.
Know Where to Look
Knowing what to look for won’t make those people appear, we have to go looking for them. Some easy ways to find sober supportive people may be message boards or online communities, but we’re definitely going to want to find others that we can meet face-to-face.
Luckily, there is no shortage of AA or NA or other 12-step meetings out there, along with SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, and many others. Going to one meeting or event is not enough. It’s best to go to several different meetings or events in order to find someone that identifies with what you are going through. Living in a world in which you feel like you’re the only person who knows about what you’re going through or trying to do it alone, can be a very lonely way to live.
It might also be obvious, but a bar or our old dealer’s house may not be the best place to find strong sober friends or people to add to our sober support network.
Develop the Right Mindset
With your support network consisting of others in recovery, your honesty and integrity may sometimes be tested. Sometimes, even people with more recovery time than you may not realize that they are struggling. When you see that a person is acting differently and may be heading in the wrong direction, we need to be both honest and assertive enough to let them know what we see. With our own experiences, we already recognize the signs of a relapse, and it’s beneficial to trust our instincts when this happens.
And remember, just because you do the right thing doesn’t mean that it’ll be appreciated in the short term. This is where patience comes in. If that person comes to realize that you were making an effort to help in their recovery, then they will come to respect you for it. They will value you as a member of their own support network.
Another thing that can help get the mindset right is “Service Work”. Being available to help do volunteer work of some sort in the community also helps us get our minds right. Weather it’s volunteering at our local food bank or shelter, or helping at a recovery based meeting, this helps us get out of our own mind for a short time and allows us to focus on helping others.
It’s Not Going to Happen on its Own
So now we know what kind of people would be good for our support network and what people wouldn’t. We know where to find them and where not to find them. But now comes the hard part. The part where you make the connections and put yourself out there by asking for the help you need to stay sober.
You won’t always need to go out of your way to do this, some people will offer it to you freely, especially at recovery related and/or 12-step meetings. But in some cases, you can’t just sit around waiting for others to come to you. One of the simplest ways to meet people is to walk up to someone in recovery, stick out your hand to shake theirs, and introduce yourself. This can be scary when we’re new in recovery, because it’s new. It’s something we haven’t done sober before. But, once you’ve done it a couple of times, you’ll realize it’s easier than what you thought.
This is especially helpful in finding a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who can walk you through what they did to stay sober. A sponsor can also be one of the most important members of your sober support network. By reaching your hand out to meet others, you can easily find someone that you can identify with, someone you feel you can trust, and someone you can respect.
Trusting someone doesn’t come easy to an addict and alcoholic, but if we’re going to build the strongest support network that we can then we need to trust others as well as start trusting ourselves. Trust that you can be successful in recovery. Trust that you’re worthy of the contacts and friends that you’ll make, and the help you receive is worth the effort. Trust that you deserve to be happy and that good things will happen.