What Are Support Systems in Recovery, and How Can They Help?

Race car drivers have pit crews. Athletes have coaches and trainers. Surgeons have nurses, technicians and assistants. Chefs have prep cooks, sous chefs, kitchen assistants and managers. Take a look around and it quickly becomes apparent that support systems are vital to the success of nearly any venture – and recovery is no exception. If your goal is to stay clean and sober over the long-term, having a solid support system in place will be critical to your success. 

Support Systems in Recovery are Vital

Comprised of people including friends, family, 12-step groups, sponsors, therapists, mentors, counselors, and others, a recovery support system is a network of people that can help guide your journey and build the framework that aids your progress. These individuals provide advocacy, encouragement, assistance and empathy as you transition out of a life ruled by addiction and into a life of independence. They are a source of strength when you feel tempted, and they can provide advice when confronted with new challenges to your sobriety

What Are Support Systems
What Does a Recovery Support System Look Like?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a recovery support system, because everyone’s journey and history are different. Some people have family and friends standing by, while others (many others), need to build their networks from scratch. When committing to sobriety, some former addicts are faced with the realization that the people who have been there for them in the past are not there for them now. On the other hand, sometimes former addicts must make the painful decision to cut loved ones out of their life because the relationships are abusive, coercive, triggering, or otherwise unhealthy. 

Whether it’s because critical relationships were damaged by the addictive behavior, or because the critical relationships were a cause of the addictive behavior, the hole left behind when an important person is no longer in your life can be significant and the loneliness it brings can be profound. Being without the people who have guided and supported you (even if it was toxic), can leave you feeling isolated and depressed. That’s why it’s important to fill that gap with new relationships—healthy people who will advocate for your recovery and be a positive influence on your behavior.

What Are Support Systems
Mare’s House Provides Built-In Support

Here at Mare’s House, we believe that a solid support network is necessary for lasting recovery. As a transitional living home for women aged 18-35, a lot of what we do is help our residents learn how to build the relationships they need to be successful. All of our residents must regularly attend a 12-step program and secure a sponsor. In-house, we provide nutrition counselors, therapists, mentors, and physical fitness instructors. As our residents grow in independence, they are required to obtain jobs, adding another layer of support in the form of supervisors, co-workers and friendships built outside of the sphere of recovery. 

Our residents live two to a room and share common living spaces with their remaining housemates. Living communally helps our residents to develop close bonds as they provide and receive support from one another. As they navigate the highs and lows of co-habitation, our residents are guided by our mentors and house staff, who help them develop critical skills along the way including communication, conflict resolution, responsibility, accountability, and trustworthiness. 

The transitional living experience provides an opportunity for residents to learn how to develop and maintain healthy relationships – skills they can take with them and use for the rest of their lives. The helpful, knowledgeable people they interact with form a framework of support that they can rely on to help them acquire the tools necessary for long-term success.

How Can You Be a Source of Support for a Loved One or Friend in Recovery?

If you have a friend, relative or loved one who is on the recovery journey, and you want to provide support to them along the way, there are a number of ways to help. 

  • Be Empathetic

    While it’s true you may not understand exactly what they are going through, everyone experiences challenges and hardships. Having empathy means channeling those experiences to better understand what another person is going through. By imagining what your loved one is going through as if you were going through it yourself, you may be able to understand better what they need from your friendship. 

  • Keep Your Boundaries

    Your friend or loved one may still be learning the importance of respecting other people’s boundaries. Because of this, it’s important to be firm, but kind, when they push you into uncomfortable territory.

  • Respect Their Boundaries

    On the other hand, your friend may feel insecure and look to you for guidance. Whether it going to a party where there will be drinking or consuming drugs or alcohol in front of them, being a good source of support means not pushing them to do something they are not –and may never be—ready for.

  • Be a Good Listener

    A lot of people in recovery suffer from the after-effects of past trauma. Being trusted with information related to a traumatic past is a big responsibility. Keeping that sort of information out of the gossip channels is a way to help your friend learn how to trust and provides a model for trustworthy behavior.

These are just a few of the many ways you can be a healthy source of support for a friend in recovery. Another, perhaps more painful way for you, is to let the relationship go, if it’s in your loved one’s best interest. Sometimes a toxic dynamic is insurmountable, no matter how much you love someone. In this case a break may be necessary – whether that break is temporary or permanent is circumstance dependent, but if it will contribute to a successful recovery, gracefully letting go may be the greatest act of friendship you can ever perform.

Mare’s House Supports Our REsidents in Recovery

We’re here to help young women in recovery build the skills they need for a lifetime of successful sobriety. We support our residents with job skills development, financial literacy, therapy, physical fitness, arts programs and outdoor excursions. Our aim is to provide opportunities for personal enrichment and fulfillment so that our residents become fully invested in their own success. 

Find Out More About Recovery at Mare’s House