• The Importance of Having Supportive Friends During Recovery

    The Importance of Having the Supportive Friends During Recovery

    For many individuals, accepting help from others is exceptionally difficult. We all like to believe we are strong, independent people who can take care of ourselves.

    For an addict, accepting support can be exceptionally tough. The mantra of many people suffering from substance abuse is “leave me alone!” This form of denial can be harmful to a treatment and recovery program. By pushing others away, the addict avoids confronting their addiction. They avoid dealing with both the symptoms and underlying issues of their destructive habit.

    Regretfully, for many, the shame of their harmful obsession plays a central role in preventing an addict from reaching out for support. Unconsciously, the drug abuser encounters self-deprecating emotions such as:

    • feeling like a failure
    • becoming hopeless
    • believing they are unlovable
    • convinced they do not deserve to be happy

    If these feelings of shame continue and are not addressed, depression and low self-esteem may set-in. These emotions put up barriers and prevent an addict from reaching out to others for assistance.

    Unwavering Support

    Many experts involved in the discipline of addiction believe that when the addictive person understands the negative consequences their abuse has on their family and friends, they may become more motivated to enter treatment and work to live a substance-free life.

    Addressing the shame and emotions of disgrace always requires a safe environment. A support network that allows the addictive individual to become vulnerable in one of the first steps in recovery.

    A positive social support system is essential in discovering and choosing alternative behavior outside the addiction. An addict cannot forgive themselves without support and understanding from others. In fact, even the beginning recognition and acceptance that there is a basic need for treatment requires a solid and persuasive group surrounding the addict.

    The role friends, counselors and family play in the rehabilitation, treatment and recovery stages will lay the foundation for the journey toward sobriety and allow an addict to confront their new reality of life without drug dependency.

    Ideally, this process may include:

    • One-on-one counseling sessions
    • Group therapy
    • Frequent attendance at Alcoholic Anonymous or Narconon meetings
    • Inclusion of family members in recovery sessions
    • Temporarily residing in a sober living home

    According Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “there are four major dimensions that support a life in recovery [1]:

    1. Health
    2. Home—having a stable and safe place to live
    3. Purpose
    4. Community—having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope

    There are situations where people with drug or alcohol addiction are not able to form a support network on their own. Group therapy can help. Spending time with people who understand exactly what you’re going through can be very healing and beneficial from the shared experiences of the group members and learn what others have done to stay sober.

    The Importance of Human Contact

    An increasing database of research points to the need for bonding, assistance and encouragement from others to support a successful and long-term recovery.

    Bruce Alexander, a researcher for over 40 years focusing on addictions advocates that altering addictive behavior requires the human beings have to bond and form connections.[2]

    Professor Alexander’s original research with when placed in stimulating environments and the ability to became socially involved, drugs were actually rejected in place of contact with other animals.

    His work has been repeated over the years and is further promoted in a new book by Johann Hari.[3] Using Alexander’s hypothesis, Hari promotes the concept that if we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find, whether it is the seductive sound of a slot machine, the sniffing of an inhalant or the poke of a needle.

    Therefore, a critical focus for successful recovery is human connection and a consistent supportive network of individuals. People really do need other people.


    [1] http://www.samhsa.gov/recovery

    [2] http://www.brucekalexander.com/

    [3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html



    Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and Examiner.com.

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