We're constantly saying to people trying to overcome an addiction you can't do it yourself. What do you need, what is helpful, what is not, and how can other people support you?
Let's look at what kind of recovery supports are available and what you need to look for. We're also going to identify who will be part of your recovery support network.
On an individual basis, what do you need from the people around you?
There are five categories that you need in a support network. You most likely won't have one person that can do all of these. This is why you need a few different people in your life that serve a few functions.
One of the things you need is someone that can serve as a sounding board.
You need someone you can bounce your thoughts off of and help you sort through stressors and think through problems. Someone that you can talk to freely without feeling judged. The person who does this for you will need to have a few unique characteristics. First and foremost, you have to see this person as wise.
You need to be able to trust this person's judgment and respect their thoughts and ideas. So that when they give you feedback or advice, or they're helping you solve problems, you trust their opinion, but you also need to feel safe with this person. This means you need to feel like this person understands you and not judge you. If you don't feel safe and worried about being judged, you're probably not sharing everything with them. They're not going to be a solid sounding board if you're not giving them all the information.
Another thing that you need in your recovery support system is accountability!
Accountability is a crucial factor in early recovery. Who is it that's going to hold you accountable and check-in with you? Who will call you out if you're not doing what you need to do in your recovery program or your relapse prevention plan?
This person has to have a unique balance of toughness and softness. They have to be brave enough to call you out and push you just a little bit, but they also have to have a way of pushing you that won't make you defensive or send you over the edge. You may need to train your accountability person.
You're going to have to be able to tell this person what you should and shouldn't be doing and how to call you out if they see you getting off track.
Another thing you're going to need in your support system is you're going to need somebody to be a cheerleader for you.
You'll need someone that can effectively cheer you on and make you feel good about the choices that you're making. The most effective cheerleaders can see what you're doing right. Specifically, they're able to point out, "That was a pretty wise choice that you made the other day," or "I can't believe you successfully navigated that difficult situation." This will make someone a more effective cheerleader because it's more objective, believable, and specific.
Another role, as far as having in your recovery support system, is a person who can run interference for you.
For example, if you have to go to a social event that's going to be high risk, you need someone that you can give "the look" to or the secret code, and they know how to get you out of a situation. I like to call it your recovery wingman. The recovery wingman has to know enough about what's going on. They're aware of your social circle, so they're a person that could show up with you at a family or work function.
You need to be able to bring this person places and for them to successfully navigate that for you. Especially because early on, these social functions may make you feel anxious. This person is there to help keep you at ease, get you out of a situation and keep people away from you that you don't want around.
Another role you need is who I'll call "the truth-teller." This person needs to be able to help you see where your blind spots are.
It can be slightly different than the accountability person. The "truth-teller" is an essential role because when addiction is in the equation, you can't always trust your thought processes, and addiction WILL lie to you.
This role is a difficult one to take on because they take on the "bad cop" role. You need to carefully pick this person because you need to have a solid relationship with them and trust them enough to be able to hear critical feedback.
Who is it you have in your life that you trust on that level that you would trust their judgment more than your judgment? Who can say these things to you directly but with kindness, and you know that they're looking out for your best interest?
When you think of who can serve in these roles, it can be anyone, your counselors, sponsors, coaches, mentors, religious gurus, friends, or family members. Not every person can serve every role or function but think through who you have in your life and then ask that person to serve that role.
They'll feel honored that you asked them to be in that role for you. You might need to give the person a little training on what's involved in that particular function, how to say things to you in the right way, or what to watch out for you because only YOU know where you can be sneaky, and they won't want to feel intrusive.
If you have a counselor, they're licensed and trained on how to help you. You might still have to guide that counselor on what specific things are helpful for you and what is not. One of the questions I ask new clients within the first 10 minutes is, "what they've done in the past? What's been helpful, and what's not?" I'll say, "go ahead and tell me right now what's not helpful, and we'll skip it." Because even as a counselor, yes, I'm trained on how to help people but you know you best.
You may also need a more specialized type of help. I'm generally referring to if you know that part of your recovery needs to involve digging through past childhood trauma or dealing with ongoing mental health issues, this is where you may need a specially trained counselor.
They're going to be able to get into the deeper areas that your friend can't or even your sponsor can't. If you feel like you may have those issues, you'll need a professionally trained person like a psychologist or a counselor like a therapist.
If you know that you need this kind of support and don't already have a counselor, I suggest looking into Better Help. It's an online counseling program with real licensed clinical professionals. Better Help has licensed clinicians all over the world.
One of the best things about using Better Help is they're so easily accessible because they do it through an online platform which means it's a lot easier to get connected to the help you need quickly. If you've tried finding a new mental health provider in the past, you know the process can be daunting.
Better Help will match you up quickly, and you can go onto their website anytime, day or night, and begin the process. Once you get assigned a counselor, you can start messaging back and forth, and you're going to have access to virtual sessions, chat, messaging, and emailing. Better Help does a great job of removing all the obstacles and gives you quick access to the help you need, and it's also pretty affordable.
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