For decades, researchers have identified that social support is vital for sustained recovery. Here are a few research examples:
- A 1991 study of individuals with substance use disorders (nicotine, alcohol and opiates) showed that, regardless of substance, abstinence-based support was a strong predictor or relapse risk.
- A 2007 study found that people who attended Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) after completing treatment were more likely to be abstinent from alcohol at 1, 2, 4 and 5 year follow ups (there was also a strong correlation between frequency of meeting attendance and likelihood of abstinence).
- Results of a 2016 study indicated that Network Support (treatment designed to increase individuals’ support for recovery and decrease their support for drinking) was more effective than cognitive-behavioral therapy in helping individuals with alcohol use disorder achieve abstinence.
Humans are inherently social creatures. Even if a person is considered an introvert, the need for love and belonging still exists. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, for example, includes love and belonging along with basic survival requirements such as food, shelter and safety. More specifically, social connection helps those in recovery by:
- Preventing relapse by boosting motivation for sobriety through a shared purpose
- Providing encouragement to strengthen a network of recovery support (vs. support for addictive behavior)
- Promoting openness and sharing of emotions (rather than “stuffing” and hiding feelings)
- Encouraging a greater sense of agency (the feeling of “being in the driver’s seat”/more in control of behavior)
Social support for those in recovery should advocate for/be accepting of the recovery lifestyle. Twelve-step programs like AA and NA, for example, provide a “built-in” social support as members share their personal experiences and work toward values-based living. People in recovery can also enhance their social network of healthy friendships by taking a class, participating in a meetup, engaging in recovery groups on social media, joining a gym…the possibilities are virtually endless!
Social connection plays an important role in treatment at First Step Recovery. If you are in need of support in your recovery journey, contact us today!