Addiction may be marked by feelings or acts of isolation, but it is not a disease that stands separate from the families, friendships, workplaces and more in which it is present. In other words, one person’s addiction impacts the communities that surround her, and these communities in turn affect addiction recovery, so addiction is everyone’s problem, not just the addict’s. There are many levels and types of community, and each one can support long-term recovery and encourage overall wellness if it has the right mindset.
Society has greatly emphasized the negative impact of peer pressure and how it can encourage early and continued drug use, and rightly so. However, not as much emphasis is placed on the positive, healing aspects of peer communities even though they have as much of a role to play in recovery as negative pressure does in continued drug use. Recovery often involves people leaving behind negative relationships and communities, but, without positive alternatives, this task can seem like an impossible step. At this point, when recovering addicts need new connections, positive peer communities come in to play. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration explains that someone “in early recovery is often faced with the need to abandon friends and/or social networks that promote a substance use disorder, but has no alternatives to put in their place that support recovery. Peer recovery support…can help such peers make new friends and begin to build alternative social networks.” In other words, a community that supports recovery provides an alternative to the social relationships and settings that contributed to substance abuse. Furthermore, these former communities may encourage relapse if recovering addicts do not find adequate replacements for social connection.
Support groups and recovery communities are some of the most well-known resources for finding and maintaining sobriety. They work best in conjunction with professional treatment or as part of a system of continuing care after intensive treatment ends. Large support groups are communities in and of themselves while smaller groups offer options for connecting to the larger recovery community. Community Mental Health Journal explains that “self-help groups are based on the premise that individuals who share a common behavior they identify as undesirable can collectively support each other and eliminate that behavior and its consequences. They learn to accept their problem and to share their experiences, strengths and hopes.” As support groups provide a community of understanding, people feel free to talk about their struggles, which they may uncomfortable discussing with people who do not share those problems.
Furthermore, support groups also offer real-life feedback and advice for moving forward. Community Mental Health Journal continues the aforementioned that when they argue that “mutual, honest sharing affords participants a forum where often stigmatized habits can be discussed in an accepting, trusting environment. It also provides a source of strategies to cope with the behavior and an opportunity for more advanced members to become role models to others.” Support groups create a real community that offers long-term recovery support, and they offer connections to other resources such as options for employment or education.
Becoming a role model (often referred to as mentoring) is one way that a recovering addict can give back to the recovery community through volunteer work. Volunteering has many benefits for recovery, including the development of yet another healthy, positive community. People who are interested in helping others, both within and outside of recovery-related settings, are typically those with healthier outlooks on life, a greater understanding of the struggles of others and more interest in pursuing active, sober lives. Independent reveals that “79.4% of people in long-term recovery have volunteered in community groups since beginning their ‘recovery journey[s].’” The connection between giving back and staying clean is clear: volunteering provides multiple sources of community and social support. Giving your time to other people offers healthy, rewarding ways to fill your free time while allowing volunteers to bond with one another and the communities they serve.
Addiction is lonely while recovery is anything but. A life in recovery is filled with friends, family, peers and community, and it is a rewarding life that only gets better and easier over time. The good and ease of a drug-free life comes from multiple internal and external sources, and Community Mental Health Journal shares that “higher levels of support derived from a greater number of people or sources were associated with less substance use.” In response, find professional treatment, peer support and family therapy to begin a lasting, healthy recovery. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now to gain immediate access to a wide community of supportive professionals. Our admissions coordinators can help you find the resources that match your personality and personal recovery needs. There is no wrong time to begin your journey to recovery, so call now to get and stay clean as soon as possible.