Addiction is often misunderstood

Being in the midst of addiction is incredibly difficultóand though we all learn about substance use disorders in schools and from popular culture, itís much different to go through one yourself.  So different, in fact, that people who think they are supporting you may not be providing the help you need.

If your close social circle doesnít get how demanding addiction is, itís okay to look elsewhere for help.  Even though they may mean well, having loved ones misunderstand you can actually be more painful than helpful.  Seemingly small things like the dismissive language often used to discuss addiction can be discouraging and even degrading.  Negative emotions donít help anyone, especially those struggling with addiction.

If you feel that the people closest to you donít fully get your struggles, there are other places you can go to find support.  Here are some of the best places to find a caring ear.

Talk to someone whoís been there before

Most of us know someone who has struggled with excessive substance use and gone through a recovery program.  These individuals have a much clearer picture of what youíre going through than non-users, and they may be able to offer the empathy and advice you need in the moment. 

In fact, having the support of someone else whoís battled addiction is considered so helpful that itís part of 12-step programs.  Even if youíre not yet ready to enroll in AA or seek treatment, speaking to someone who knows what youíre going through can help you make sense of your addiction and plan your next steps.

Visit a therapist or mental health professional

Oftentimes those dealing with addiction are also struggling with mental illness.  In fact, mental illness and addiction may feed off each other, with mental health downswings triggering even more substance use which in turn amplifies the symptoms of mental illness.  Itís a tough spiral to escape, and many people lack the personal experience to understand how difficult this situation truly is.

Regardless of whether youíre dealing with mental illness on top of your addiction, seeking out a trained therapist may be the solution you need.  On top of extensive schooling, many therapists have helped others through addiction and have a deeper understanding of the struggles you are facing.  To ensure that your therapist has the relevant experience to help you through your addiction, reach out to local treatment centers such as Windward Way that employ licensed and credentialed addiction specialists.  

Attend a recovery group

AA, NA, and other 12-step-based groups provide a support system for anyone looking to fight back against addiction.  Groups are home to a diverse membership in all different stages of their sobriety journey.  That means youíll be surrounded by those who have been where you areóand may have other similarities with you as well. A quick online search can help you find a group, and most locations have multiple meetings, so you can shop around to see which one makes you most comfortable.  You may even find a phone-or internet-based meeting group that is a more convenient and workable solution.

If AA-type programs arenít for you, there are plenty of other options.  It is possible to work the 12 Steps if youíre not religious, but you may feel more comfortable secular organizations such as LifeRing and SOS.  Other new alternatives include SMART Recovery, Moderation Management, and Refuge Recovery.  With the many options available, youíre sure to find an option that is compatible with your worldview and spirituality. 

Ask a spiritual or community leader for guidance

Spirituality can be a large part of recovery, even outside of 12-step programs.  Attending church, synagogue, or another tradition of worship provides you with a strong social group and a set of values that can help guide you during recovery.  This is true of all traditions, from Christianity to Buddhism to Lakota Spirituality.

You may also find relief confiding in a spiritual leader.  Much like therapists, those who lead religious groups are likely experienced in helping their community through struggles including substance use disorders.  Their guidance may help you find the strength and motivation to seek recovery.

If you do not regularly attend religious services, community groups can play the same role in providing a strong social network and caring leaders.  Confiding in those you look up to and gaining their support can help you build the confidence to take bigger strides toward sobriety.

Reach out anonymously

It can be freeing to discuss difficult situations with someone who doesnít know who you areóespecially if friends or loved ones have given discouraging or hurtful responses when youíve opened up to them.  Thankfully, the internet makes it easy to find a group where no one truly knows who you are.  You can vent, ask questions, and find support without having to share your face or even your full name. 

There are many online support groups, from method-specific forums run by the recovery groups discussed above to more general addiction help groups such as those found on and The Tribe.  You may also be able to find recovery discussions on your social platform of choice.  Joining twitter hashtags, recovery-focused subreddits, or their equivalents on your preferred social media can help you find support and encouragement from a community you already feel a part of.

For those who prefer a real-time one-on-one conversation, an addiction hotline can connect you with a trained agent who understands what youíre going through.  These services also help you learn more about addiction and connect to treatment centers if you are looking for more comprehensive help.

You donít have to feel ashamed of your addiction Addiction is hard, and asking for help is even harder.  Unfortunately, many of those who have never experienced a substance use disorder just donít understand what youíre going through.  At Ethos, we provide mentors, a recovery-focused family, and referrals to outside treatment providers that can provide further help.  If you are tired of feeling misunderstood, reach out to us today, online or at (323) 942-9996.