From Isolation to Connection: Why Social Support Matters in Recovery

Steve Trevino
June 21, 2024

We all need love and support from the people closest to us. This need is even greater for those in recovery. Addiction has a way of pushing people away from their friends and family. The secrecy, defensiveness, withdrawal, aggressiveness, etc. that come with addiction often sever relationships. Even in recovery, there’s stigma, isolation, shame, guilt, and all sorts of emotional barriers that make it hard to rebuild these connections. But as someone on the road to recovery, it’s very important to overcome these barriers and tap into the power of social support.

Social support is more than just having people around you; it’s about creating meaningful connections that can make a big difference in your recovery journey. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), social support is one of the most critical components of effective addiction treatment. 

What Is Social Support?

Social support is the help and encouragement that you get from your social network as you work towards a successful recovery from substance abuse. This network includes family, friends, colleagues, and broader community members. It may also include your counselor or therapist, 12-step sponsor or coach, members of peer support groups, or a spiritual advisor (if you believe in a higher power).

These people play a huge role in providing the emotional, practical, and motivational support you need during your recovery journey.


Importance of Social Support in Addiction Recovery

Recovery is challenging. And with so many triggers, you need people to cheer you on and encourage you to stay the course. Let’s have a look at how relationships with these people can impact your ability to maintain sobriety: 

It Empowers You

Strong social support can empower you and boost your confidence, which is vital in recovery. You need all the confidence to face the challenges that come with recovery. You must constantly believe you’ve got what it takes to overcome any obstacle.

This self-efficacy helps you stay on track and makes you less likely to relapse. And on days when you feel low and less confident, your support system kicks in and cheers you on.

It Improves Your Emotional Well-Being

Emotional well-being is critical in recovery. Supportive relationships give you a safe space to share feelings and reduce loneliness. Even in group therapy and peer support meetings, you can share experiences and learn healthy coping strategies from others, which can help you heal emotionally. The last thing you want is to keep your emotions bottled up, as this can lead to relapse.

It Helps Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Recovery comes with stress and anxiety. So it’s a good feeling to know there are people you can count on and trust. The more people you have in your support system, the more resources you have available to face your obstacles.

For example, when you feel shame or guilt about your past habits, you can turn to your peers in Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous for real-life experiences and coping skills. And when you need a hug, you know there’s a loved one ready to shower you with lots of them. 

It Balances Your Expectations

When you were in an active drug or alcohol addiction, you likely spent a lot of time with people who validated your harmful behavior. But in recovery, that changes. You have to leave behind the old habits and people who still live in that life.

Instead, it’s essential to surround yourself with individuals who support your long-term addiction recovery journey. This involves actively participating in 12-step programs, seeking out new and enjoyable sober activities, and spending quality time with friends who are also committed to sobriety. 


By engaging in these positive practices, you'll be able to adopt empowering beliefs and cultivate healthy behaviors that can reinforce your recovery from addiction. Embracing a supportive community and a constructive lifestyle can significantly enhance your chances of maintaining sobriety and achieving lasting well-being.

It Makes You Happier

A strong support network plays a crucial role in enhancing your overall happiness and well-being. Positive social interactions stimulate the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain, fostering a deep sense of belonging and connection. Whether through online support groups or in-person meetings, these relationships can significantly enrich your recovery journey, making it more enjoyable and less isolating.

Moreover, having loved ones involved in your life means you don't have to face every challenge alone. They can provide practical assistance, such as taking you to the hospital if you're experiencing physical health problems or ensuring you have a safe place to live. These seemingly small acts of support can alleviate major stressors, allowing you to focus more on your recovery and personal growth. The reassurance that someone is there for you can make a world of difference, turning sometimes daunting obstacles into manageable tasks.

It Keeps You From Isolating

Most importantly, social support keeps you from isolating. Isolation can be a major hurdle in recovery – but loved ones can encourage you to stay engaged and involved in social activities. Drug abuse recovery groups can also help you overcome the fear and shame that come with addiction and make it easier to integrate with the rest.

What Types of Social Support Groups Are Available Today?

Here are some examples of support groups that you can join depending on your needs:

12-Step Programs

12-step programs are based on the principles outlined in the 12 steps, emphasizing personal accountability, spirituality, and mutual support. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which provides a supportive community for individuals recovering from alcohol addiction, was the first to use the program. The other group that is known to use the program is Narcotics Anonymous (NA), which is similar to AA, but focuses on individuals struggling with drug abuse.


Non-12-Step Programs

These programs provide alternatives to the traditional 12-step approach, often focusing on self-empowerment and evidence-based practices. An example is SMART Recovery. It stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. It uses cognitive-behavioral techniques to help individuals manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to addiction. Other examples include Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS), Women for Sobriety, etc.

Family and Friends Support Groups

These groups are for your loved ones. They are designed to help the people around you understand addiction and offer better support. Common examples include Al-Anon for families and friends of people struggling with alcohol abuse and Nar-Anon for loved ones of those dealing with drug addiction.

Medical Support

Even in recovery, you may still need to seek medical advice and support occasionally. Your caregiver can monitor your progress and recommend treatment if required. For example, if you are struggling with relapse triggers, they might recommend sober living or outpatient care to bring you back on track. And if you relapse – which is a normal part of recovery – they will get you back to treatment, which involves behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment.

At More than Rehab, we understand the value of a strong support system. That’s why we always emphasize family involvement in treatment. We also have programs to help you transition back to your life smoothly. Contact us today if you wish to learn more about how we can help you recover. 


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About The Author: 
Steve Trevino
Steve Trevino is married to Julie, his high school sweetheart and they have two daughters. He is the founder and executive director of CrossCentral Church and Recovery Center. With experience in both non-profit and for-profit treatment, he has helped thousands find freedom from addiction through residential programs, recovery workshops and consulting around the world.

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