The Importance of Having a Peer Support Community In Recovery

Positive social interaction is instrumental in maintaining abstinence from alcohol and drugs. In isolation, individuals are more susceptible to relapse, may experience worsened symptoms of depression, and are much more likely to quit rehab early. While there are many challenges associated with rebuilding your social life during and after treatment at a rehab center, it’s well worth the effort to do so.

The Challenges of Starting Over

During alcohol and drug rehab, it’s often necessary to let go of old relationships and make some major changes in your social life. This isn’t always easy and friends and family may not always support your decisions. For example, you may experience some of the following situations while rebuilding your social life:

  • Friends or family members may criticize you for your decision to seek treatment.
  • Old drug dealers may try to reach out and contact you.
  • Old friends may attempt to verbally, physically, or emotionally harass you.

Additionally, you will also face a number of other unique challenges while you’re in drug and alcohol rehab, such as acclimating to physical, mental, and emotional changes, learning how to openly communicate with others and admit that your past behaviors were unacceptable, and moving past the overwhelming guilt and shame that you may have carried with you into drug rehab.

Although dealing with all these changes while letting go of old relationships can be difficult, forging new, healthier ones is essential to the maintenance of your ongoing sobriety. Building intentional relationships with people who will support your recovery goals and keep you accountable is a key aspect of long-term, lasting change and will make your recovery journey all the more enjoyable.

Although these challenges require a strong commitment and time to overcome, the advantages of building a support community in recovery far outweigh the risks of returning to old harmful relationships.

The Impact of Community Support on Quality of Life

While the addiction treatment programs at our alcohol and drug rehab center are designed to help you overcome your addiction, our main goal is also to improve your overall quality of life by helping you achieve lasting change.

Personal relationships play a large role in your overall wellness and how you perceive your quality of life. While substance abuse decreases your quality of life, research has shown that community support can help improve it by providing the following benefits.

  • It gives you something to lose. – One study found that when individuals in recovery feel like they have something to lose, such as friends, health, employment, or personal freedom, they are more likely to stay motivated and maintain their sobriety.1 The knowledge that a relapse could harm or destroy an important relationship is a great reason to stay sober.
  • It helps with stress management. – Social support can also improve your ability to manage stress and utilize coping strategies.1 Whether you are facing the day-to-day stressors of life or are coping with the death of a loved one, a peer support community can help you process these things in a healthy way.
  • It provides hope. – Some days in recovery may be more difficult than others, but a support group can offer hope when you feel depressed and beaten down. Your peers also provide a judgment-free outlet for open communication about any personal issues you may be dealing with.
  • It gives you role models to follow. – In recovery, it’s important to have role models who have succeeded in living a substance-free life. These people can provide wisdom, advice, and encouragement at times when it’s needed most. Research has also shown that while general support is more important for overall well-being, those individuals’ attitudes toward substance use and recovery are better predictors of you own substance use.1 Therefore, if you network with individuals who have maintained long-term sobriety and speak to that, you are more likely to practice the same belief due to the evidence that is a result of their beliefs and actions.
  • It gives you strength during difficult times. – You’ll have to fight through difficult times both during and after your drug and alcohol rehab. Having peer support in these times is essential to maintaining your sobriety, especially in times when you feel like giving into your cravings and triggers.
  • It reduces your risk of relapse. – Individuals who attempt recovery in isolation are much more likely to relapse. One study found a significant reduction of relapse in clients who participated in a peer support community program. The same study also found that a community program focused on self-determination can have a significant impact on recovery from addiction.2

 

Finding Opportunities to Build New Relationships

Clearly, peer support communities have a large impact on the recovery of individuals in alcohol and drug rehab programs. Whether you’re in the beginning stages of your recovery or you’ve been sober for several years, there are always opportunities to build new, healthy relationships within a peer support community. Here are a few ways you can get started.

  • Invest in a long-term alcohol and drug rehab program. People who stay in treatment longer have significantly better outcomes than those who drop out early or attend short-term treatment programs.3 While a short-term treatment program may be cheaper and more convenient, a long-term program is more likely to provide you with lasting results.
  • Join a local recovery group. After you’ve completed your inpatient treatment, consider joining a local recovery softball league or volunteering with a group of other individuals in recovery. This will expand your recovery circle while also providing additional opportunities to build healthy relationships and engage with others who have similar life experiences and struggles.
  • Consider relocating to a new city or state for treatment. Relocating to a new place for treatment is often the best way to get a fresh start. Not only will it be more difficult for old friends and drug dealers to influence you, but you also won’t have to deal with the tempting triggers and memories associated with your home.
  • Continue your treatment with an intensive outpatient program or sober living program. If you’ve already completed an inpatient program at a rehab center, continuing your treatment with IOP or sober living is a great way to maintain your sobriety. This type of community support will provide accountability, support, and continual personal growth and development throughout your recovery journey.
  • Become a peer mentor for someone else. It’s likely that someone mentored you during the early weeks and months of your recovery. These types of relationships are essential for long-term and lifelong recovery. Becoming a mentor for someone else will give you the chance to share your story, encourage others, and help someone else find freedom from addiction—just like you did.

If you’d like more information about peer support communities at an alcohol and drug rehab center like Nova Recovery Center, please call to learn more about our programs today.

 

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1852519/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18844242
  3. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2013/427817/