Updated on 03/29/24

Content reviewed by Nicholas G. Glines

Social support is having a network of relationships, such as family, friends and other peers, that cohesively contribute to an individual’s positive well-being. We all turn to our social support systems in times of need to help cope with feelings of emotional distress. Our social support systems provide physical and emotional comfort and allow us to feel less alone in our experiences.

Substance use is often an isolating experience. Social and emotional feelings of loneliness are risk factors for both initial substance use and ongoing substance use. When people become addicted to alcohol or other drugs, they tend to gravitate towards groups of people that prioritize substance use in their lives above nearly all other things. This social pattern perpetuates the cycle of addiction and makes it more difficult for a person to seek treatment, even when they realize their need for it.

Social support plays a vital role in addiction recovery. It can help people seek treatment, stay engaged in therapy and sustain long-term recovery. It is essential to recognize the value of social support in recovery because it encourages individuals to understand their place in their community as they become sober and maintain recovery.

Social Support Influences Addiction Treatment Entry

Although the stigmas have come a long way, there are still prominent misconceptions surrounding those who struggle with addiction or seek out treatment. One common misconception is that individuals with addiction choose to continue to use substances repeatedly. We know that addiction is a chronic and complex brain disorder that requires treatment. Still, these misconceptions and stigmas bring intense feelings of guilt, shame and distress to individuals already struggling with addiction.

One of the most valuable things regarding social support is how it influences an individual to seek treatment. No matter how generalized some stigmas or misconceptions seem to be, social support has a more significant impact on the choices that we make in our lives. Many people have had to plan interventions for their loved ones struggling, and although it may seem daunting at first, most often come to recognize the positive impact it made on their lives. If a person has limited social support or their social support influences their drug use, they are less likely to enter treatment or experience positive treatment outcomes later on.

Social Support Influences Addiction Treatment Engagement

Another valuable factor of social support is greater treatment engagement and positive treatment outcomes. Nearly all treatment facilities encourage participation in both individual and group therapy sessions. While individual therapy can help change harmful patterns of thought and behavior, group therapy sessions help provide perspective and social support.

During recovery, individuals may experience many obstacles and setbacks. Withdrawal symptoms, triggers, cravings and other uncomfortable circumstances are common for those in recovery. Although these challenges may seem isolating, group therapy allows patients to discuss their challenges, which will likely be similar from patient to patient. Talking about challenges helps validate personal experiences and distress, emphasizing that there is not one person going through these obstacles alone. Validation helps instill courage and motivation for patients to face the challenges that lie ahead for them during treatment and long-term recovery.

Social support also helps patients experience a sense of belonging, which is especially important after feeling isolated by the effects of substance use. A sense of belonging is an innate human characteristic. We have a natural desire to be a part of something bigger than just ourselves. Treatment and recovery allow patients to engage in self-discovery while connecting with others that want to do the same.

Social Support Aids in Long-Term Addiction Recovery

Not only is social support essential during treatment, but it may be even more important in sustaining long-term recovery. Treatment helps patients build a solid foundation of support that they can lean on long after their stay is through. These solid foundations may consist of other peers in rehab, mentors, sponsors and mental health professionals. They will likely consist of close friendships and family members outside of rehab, particularly those who have been supportive of recovery from the start.

When a person completes a treatment program, it does not mean that their treatment journey is over. Individuals in recovery should always remain engaged with continuing treatment or support groups to help keep them motivated in their long-term recovery. These support groups can reinforce the benefits of treatment while providing necessary social support to all people, no matter how long they have been in recovery.

For a person to experience successful long-term recovery, they must acknowledge the crucial role that social support plays in their ability to achieve and maintain sobriety. If there are ever moments where a person feels isolated or lonely, it is a cue that they must reach out and lean on their social support systems to avoid relapse.

New Hope Ranch is an addiction treatment center that believes that social support is a driving force in recovery success. We offer many unique treatment programs precisely to fit our patients’ needs, including different levels of care, veterans programs and even first responder programs. To learn more about the importance of social support in recovery or our facilities and programs, give us a call today at (737) 600-8565.