There has always been a stigma attached to the need to see a therapist. Whether…
The Healing Power of Support Systems
Humans are not designed to live alone. From the earliest of times, they banded together in tribes and groups for mutual support, sustenance and community.
Modern life and technology have led to an epidemic of isolation. This is especially a challenge for people with addiction and/or mental illness, who can quickly spiral into their illness without support systems or support groups to help lift them up.
People with addiction often find themselves in toxic relationships with people who do not love and support them. Or they become loners, closed off from the rest of the world. Establishing a support system that includes support groups is a key to surviving and thriving.
A support system may include a number of people, including:
- Supportive family members
- Sober friends
- Therapist or mental health counselor
- Addiction counselors
- 12-step sponsor
- Therapy group
- Recovery support group (12-step, SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery)
Benefits of Support Groups
When going through a crisis or grappling with addiction, people need other people in order to heal. That’s why support groups are so powerful. Research has shown support groups can encourage people in all manner of endeavors, from exercise and grief to addiction recovery.
- Education and awareness. Listening to the stories of other people who are going through similar challenges can help you learn more about your own difficulties and gain insight into your own behaviors.
- Feel less alone. Many people struggle silently with their pain. And they truly believe that they are the only ones dealing with certain issues or feeling a certain way. Support groups help you see that you are not alone and that other people have gone through the same or worse. It can make you feel, if they can get through this, maybe I can too!
- Increase self-esteem. When immersed in an experience with people going through the same kind of emotions and situations, you may become more accepting of your own problems. This is especially true as you develop admiration for others who are in similar situations. It helps you like yourself, too.
- Compassion for self and others. Self-hatred and shame often underlie addictive behavior. It can be hard to forgive yourself for things that you did and said when in the worst part of active addiction. And you most likely lost your ability to empathize for a period of time. In a support group, you learn to support others. This increases your capacity for compassion and empathy. Along the way, you’ll develop compassion and empathy for yourself, which is the first step to healing.
- Stress reduction. It is a powerful and healing experience to share your story and reveal your truth. Humans find healing when others bear witness to their pain. Just speaking the things that frighten you most, or things you’re most ashamed of, can help you move beyond being stuck in these feelings and fears.
- Acceptance. When lost in addiction, people feel alienated from family, friends, co-workers and others. Support groups can make you feel like you have a tribe. They can give you a place to land and a place to go to when things are rocky. You’ll develop a sense of belonging and a sense of family, especially if you don’t feel that connection with your own family of origin.
So many people with addiction have felt unlovable and unloved. Support groups can help you feel loved. Having a network of people who care can help you realize you are never alone.
“What Does It Mean To Feel Loved?” – Sage Journals
“Consider Giving the Gift of Presence” – NPR.org
“The Value of a Support Group for Medical Professionals with Substance Use Disorders” – Sage Journals
“Religiosity and Participation in Mutual-aid Support Groups for Addiction” – Science Direct
“How Do People Recover from Alcohol Dependence?” – Taylor & Francis Online
“The Meaning of Suffering in Drug Addiction and Recovery from the Perspective of Existentialism, Buddhism and the 12-Step Program” – Taylor & Francis Online