Stop Isolating: The Power of Support in Recovery
Guilt, shame, and secretiveness are significant symptoms of addiction. When a person is in active addiction, isolation is incredibly common. In some cases, the habit of isolation came before the addiction began. In these instances, people who are isolated will sometimes turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with their loneliness or make it easier to relate to others. As addiction progresses, these people will have an increasingly difficult time interacting with other people, especially when sober. Unfortunately, this compulsion only leads to more loneliness and isolating behavior.
During active addiction, the drive to get high or drunk and escape from reality is incredibly strong. The longer a person is addicted, the less they are able to feel a connection with other people. Compounding the issue of isolation in addiction is the fear, guilt, and shame that accompanies the addiction cycle. Avoiding others and the strong urge to be left alone take over. But after a person enters rehab and achieves sobriety, these self-isolating habits can be tough to break. Remaining cut off from others, though, undermines the recovery process.
How can Someone Overcome the Habit to Isolate?
To achieve and maintain sobriety, a person has to overcome the compulsion to self-isolate too. During inpatient or outpatient rehab, a part of the recovery process is learning how to build relationships and reach out to others for support. One of the most effective ways to maintain sobriety and deal with stresses and triggers is to partake in support groups and group therapy sessions.
During these sessions, people in recovery can share their experiences with those who are going through similar struggles and victories. People who attend and often lead support groups have been through the same exact problems and situations. But to get all the benefits of support groups, a person has to break their initial urge to self-isolate. This is why attending individual therapy is so helpful for people in recovery. Some people in early sobriety aren’t aware that what they are doing is isolating behavior. An experienced addiction counselor can give the patient valuable insight into the situation and help them develop positive coping skills instead.
These coping skills typically involve techniques for building relationships. After all, a supportive person can’t help someone in recovery if they have no idea the person is struggling in the first place. Learning when and how to ask for help is the first step toward overcoming self-isolation habits.
How are Support Groups Run?
Support groups are typically offered to those in recovery for addiction by non-profits, hospitals, private clinics, and community organizations. In some cases, recovering addicts will run independent support groups, free of association with an official organization. In most cases, support groups take place within a community, while it’s possible for those who live in remote areas or who don’t have access to transportation to participate in online support groups.
The format for a support group will vary, depending on the organization. It’s possible to meet face-to-face in a hospital or church. In some cases, teleconferencing or internet-based settings are offered. Usually, a layperson will run a support group meeting. Some support groups are run by therapists, social workers, or healthcare providers. While most support groups focus on communication and encouragement, some support groups offer educational opportunities and guest speakers, such as doctors, clinicians, and social workers, who are invited to talk about the group members’ shared needs and concerns.
Is a Support Group the Same as a Group Therapy Session?
Support groups and group therapy sessions are two different things. Group therapy is for a specific mental health issue or addiction issue where there are several patients in attendance. A licensed therapist or psychologist must lead a group therapy session. Support groups are not as formal or as specific. While a group therapy session may deal strictly with issues related to alcohol abuse, a support group could deal with general addiction issues.
What are the Benefits of Having a Support Group?
Support groups give people in recovery the chance to share similar thoughts, feelings, fears, and treatment side effects or decisions with those going through the same thing. When someone participates in a group for support, they’re given the opportunity to be with others who share a common purpose. In these cases, support group attendees likely understand each other and are less likely to judge or condemn another member because they simply don’t understand or share their particular struggles. Other benefits of support groups include:
- Support groups reduce feelings of judgment and loneliness
- Attending a support group can reduce someone’s urges to isolate
- Support groups can help people deal with distressing feelings and mental health symptoms
- Support groups give people a chance to talk honestly about their feelings and struggles in an encouraging, understanding environment
- Attending regular meetings can help someone improve the way they cope with stress
- A support group can give someone the motivation to stick with their treatment plans
- Attendees may gain a sense of hope and control over their situation
- Attendees can improve their understanding of the disease of addiction
- Support groups give people access to feedback about treatment plans and options
- Attending a support group gives someone access to social, healthcare, and economic resources
Furthermore, studies have found the following benefits from surveyed support group participants:
- 77% feel an increased sense of belonging and connection with their communities
- 81% find personal support and make new friends
- 67% believe support groups aided explicitly in their recovery from adverse mental health conditions
- 85% found support groups increased their confidence and feelings of value
Support groups have been used for many years as a way to help people cope with adverse situations, mental health diagnoses, and the addiction recovery process. Human beings are social creatures. Social connections can reduce feelings of hopelessness and worry. When stressful situations arise, having access to a group of encouraging people who understand specific struggles can give those in recovery the motivation they need to stick with their treatment plans.
If your struggling with maintaining your treatment plans, Ethos Recovery can help. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment and support options.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.