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Future Health

Social Support During Recovery

December 17, 2018 

Overcoming an addiction is a life-long commitment. The road to recovery starts when the individual decides that they want a better, more productive life. Social and family support should be incorporated into any type of treatment for increased potential for success.

  • What does support mean?
  • Why is support important?


Support refers to a network of friends or family members who give positive feedback to one another and act as a "crutch" for emotional support during tough times. It can consist of your family, spouse, relatives, friends, co-workers, classmates or members of any community you belong to.

The strength of social support for influencing the behavior of others is outlined in many psychological studies. Social interaction helps by decreasing stress during tough times, such as recovery from addiction or an illness, and facilitates emotional feelings of belonging to something greater than oneself, such as a community. Researchers say that these social interactions and developed relationships can strip away stress and increase the ability of the individual to be content in life without the use drugs.

Social support also has been shown to help maintain general health, including increasing optimism and longevity even for individuals who do not have a substance abuse problem. This means that if individuals have a co-occurring mental disorder, the social support may benefit them in more ways than one.

While the individual develops new friendships with others who have quit "using" or are non-users, they gain a sense that they belong to a new social network that values a healthy lifestyle and helps them make smarter choices (and ultimately stay abstinent).

Positive social constructs have been shown to increases self-efficacy, which is the perceived ability of individuals to succeed in their endeavors. Higher self-efficacy means these individuals will show increased confidence and motivation, making them more likely to believe that they can succeed in recovery, which translates into a greater probability of doing so.

Support is particularly important during the first few weeks of recovery, research says. But the wrong support can be dangerous: individuals who associate with friends who are still “using” may actually work against them and may increase the probability of relapse.

The relationships that these individuals develop allow them to identify with others who are going through similar situations.

The tightly weaved communities that are formed in aftercare programs such as AA, NA and OA are intentional. Professionals and addiction counselors understand that an individual who is recovering needs to do at least two things: Talk about the problems they are experiencing during recovery, and learn from others who have past experience and success.

When individuals have the courage to stand up in front of a whole room of people and talk about their issues, they not only build character but also they encourage and inspire others to follow on a better path.

Modeling or vicarious experience refers to the ability of an individual to believe they can accomplish something if they witness someone else first accomplish a similar task: "if he can do it, so can I."; This is another reason why being involved in support programs helps increase motivation to stay abstinent. Vicarious experiences help the individual build self-efficacy, confidence, hardiness and motivation.

During sessions, individuals also learn to build humility, which is important for success in recovery. The skills they build during meetings help them accept the setbacks that everyone experiences during their lifetime. Once they can accept that they are human and that everyone makes mistakes, they are able to grow from the obstacles they face, and view them as a chance to better themselves.

Often times the individual will deny an obvious problem and tend to ignore the underlying issues. Addressing the addiction can be extremely difficult for a family member and often acts as a barrier that causes a no action to be taken. 

At FutureHealth we understand how hard it can be to confront a loved one, which is why we have organized resources for support when you're ready to help make a change.