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The Importance of Having a Peer Support Community In Recovery

Updated on October 12th, 2020

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.

What Are Some of the Challenges of Starting Over After Addiction?

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.

Why Are Peer Support Groups Important?

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 peer support can help improve it in many different ways. Here are some of the main benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction.

  • Peer support groups give 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.
  • Sober support in recovery 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 healthily process these things.
  • Social support in addiction recovery offers 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.
  • Having peer support in addiction recovery 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 your 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.
  • A sober support network can give 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 in to your cravings and triggers.
  • Peer support in addiction recovery 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

What Is the Evidence that Peer Recovery Support Services Are Helpful?

Although many people who directly engage with peer recovery support services experience positive life improvements as a result, their individual testimony isn’t the only proof that peer recovery support is an effective way to improve rates of sustained recovery.

A literature review published in 2014 contained a summary of evidence for the effectiveness of peer recovery support for people with substance use disorders. The authors of this study found evidence that the individuals with substance use disorders who engaged in peer recovery support services experienced:3

  • Improved relationships with peer recovery support providers and social support people
  • Increased treatment retention and satisfaction with treatment
  • Decreased rates of relapse

How to Maintain Sobriety After Treatment for Addiction

  • 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.4 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.

90-day drug and alcohol rehab programs offer extended time in a supportive, safe, and sober environment so clients can truly focus on their recovery with very few distractions. These types of programs are ideal for people with severe addictions but can also be highly beneficial for individuals who have tried to get sober multiple times prior without success.

Many long-term rehab programs also have appropriate staff to client ratios and use a wide range of evidence and research-based treatment methods. These factors can help ensure that you receive comprehensive and individualized support for a better chance at achieving genuine, lasting change and lifelong recovery.

  • Join a local recovery group. After you’ve completed your inpatient treatment, consider joining a local recovery support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. There are also many non-12-Step community support groups like SMART Recovery and LifeRing. You may also consider getting involved in sober recreational activities by joining a sober softball league or volunteering with a group of other individuals in recovery. These activities 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.

Finding a Houston drug abuse or alcohol abuse recovery peer support program may seem like a daunting task, but if you are enrolled in a residential drug rehab program or IOP, the treatment staff can help you locate local groups. You may also ask your private counselor, therapist, or doctor for recommendations on how to find peer support for alcohol abuse and drug abuse.

  • 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.

However, if you choose to go this route, it’s important to remember that a change of scenery alone isn’t enough to permanently modify negative behaviors. Wherever you are, you will have to face difficult emotions, challenging life circumstances, and deal with cravings and triggers. Being actively engaged in a recovery support group and comprehensive addiction treatment program will provide valuable assistance as you adjust to your new sober lifestyle in a new city.

  • 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.

IOP and sober living programs offer peer accountability in addiction recovery as well as opportunities to connect with sober individuals with similar shared life experiences. These types of addiction treatment programs are also flexible so you can also attend school, go to work, and maintain your responsibilities at home.

  • Become a peer mentor for someone else. Someone likely 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://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24838535/
  4. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2013/427817/
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