• Maggie Madzorera

Finding support systems in recovery

Updated: Dec 14, 2019


Many people in recovery find it difficult to ask others for support because of the guilt and shame feelings that emanate from how they ill-treated others during their active days of addiction. Others think if they ask for help they are imposing, whereas others think they are expressing their weaknesses. Asking for support makes some people feel vulnerable. As an individual in recovery it is important to know you cannot do it alone, you need support from others throughout your recovery journey. Therefore having a strong support system is a vital component in your recovery which can minimise the risk of relapsing.


The importance of having support in recovery.

  • Support systems help you prevent isolation, you always have people to give you companionship.

  • Knowing you have someone to support you increases your self-confidence which is essential in recovery as it keeps you focused and motivated.

  • A strong support system helps you gain a sense of accountability to your goals.

  • Most people who are in recovery report a time where they become complacent, so in this time your support system will be able to make you aware of it, minimising the risk of relapse.

  • Support systems can also equip you with coping skills when you are having difficult times or facing certain challenges that might put you at risk of relapse.

Different types of support


There are different types of support system that people in recovery can benefit from. As a recovering addict, you are encouraged to have all the different types of support as they have different roles in the kind of support they offer you.


1. Social Support

Social support is mainly comprised of people who know you well, which is mostly your friends and family members. These individuals should be able to encourage you and at the same time being able to make you accountable. Social support gives you a sense of belonging, safety, and security.


Your social support can provide you with needed companionship and emotional support.


2. Support Groups

People in recovery are encouraged to attend support groups regularly. Attending support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcohol Anonymous enables you to share your journey with others who are facing similar situations. This gives you a sense of belonging and it makes you feel less isolated.


There are support groups were families/loved ones of a person in recovery can attend, which is the Al-anon and Nar-anon. Al-anon is for a fellowship program for families or friends with a loved one who is an alcoholic, and Nar-anon is a program for families and friends who have been affected by drug addiction directly or indirectly.


How to find a support group


Here are some ways to find a support group outlined by Healthwise staff:

  • Ask your doctor, counsellor, or other health professionals for suggestions.

  • Ask your religious leader. You can contact churches, mosques, synagogues, or other religious groups.

  • Ask your family and friends.

  • Ask people who have the same condition.

  • Contact a city, provincial, or national group for the condition. Your library, community centre, or phone book may have a list of these groups.

  • Search the Internet. Forums, email lists, and chat rooms let you read messages from others and leave your own messages. You can exchange stories, let off steam, and ask and answer questions. But these websites are often not monitored by professionals, so you may find inaccurate information, which can increase your anxiety.

Visit online.supportgroups.com for information on online support groups.


3. Therapeutic Support

Individuals in recovery sometimes do not feel comfortable to share some of their challenges/situations with neither their social support nor support groups because of fear of judgment or confidentiality. In these circumstances, it is advised to make use of your therapeutic support. Therapeutic support comprises of professional therapists who have expertise in helping people without judging and maintains confidentiality such as psychologists, social workers, psychiatrist, etc.


4. Spiritual Support

Many people struggle with the spirituality concept in recovery. When most people hear the word spirituality they associate it with being religious. “Spirituality involves the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than myself, something more to being human than sensory experience, and that the greater whole of which we are part is cosmic or divine in nature,” explains Dr Maya Spencer from RC Psych. Having spiritual support offers a sense of hope and it restores your self-worth and offers you a new sense of hope in your life.


How to build your support system


To build a strong support system, you need to first ask yourself what kind of support system you are looking for.

  • Make a list of all the resources available to you that you require support from.

  • From your list identify what kind of support you can get from those resources you have listed down.

  • Reach out to the people on your list and be open and honest to them about the kind of support you need from them.

If you feel you need more people in your support system, do not be afraid to take social risks and meet new people in your life. The best way for someone in recovery to meet new people is through volunteering, trying out new activities/hobbies and join professional or social organisations. Also making amends with people whom you have wronged during your active addiction days can widen your choice in building your support system.


Part of our program here @PRCRecovery is to assist the client and family with finding suitable support after discharge. This forms part of our detailed aftercare plan and is crucial to maintaining sobriety. For fellowship meetings, please visit www.aasouthafrica.org.za or www.na.org.za for your local meetings.

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