Community support can play a vital role in helping recovering addicts stay sober. The Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery in 2012 noted that peer-based support and social networks have been involved with addiction recovery for more than 150 years, and the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment in 2009 argued that social support is a primary mechanism for motivating change. Local support can include group meetings, recovery sponsors, recovery partners, counselors and rehab centers, and most communities provide help in several important ways, including the five listed below.
1. Fight Against Addiction Stigma
Stigmas are negative associations rooted in misconceptions and misinformation. As an example, a common stigma suggests that addiction stems from poor character and lack of will power when it is actually a chronic brain disease involving neurobiological changes.
Even recovering addicts can feel shame and insecurity when stigma abounds, and it can create unhelpful negative pressure. Many schools, churches, health centers and community organizations help by educating people on addiction, fighting negative stigma and encouraging addicts to be forthright about their disease.
2. Addiction Recovery Accountability
The community-reinforcement approach (CRA), as described by the Alcohol Research & Health journal in 1999, provides several examples of how individuals can band together to support each other’s recoveries. CRA elements include strategies to help addicts initiate abstinence, develop motivations to stay sober, analyze substance-use patterns, identify high-risk triggers, instill healthier coping skills and include friends and family in the recovery process.
Many communities utilize these principles without adhering to a specific program like CRA, by providing accountability, expanding the support network and getting more people invested in recovery.
3. Therapeutic Sober Activities
During the early days of recovery, the absence of substance use can feel like a big hole in the person’s life, but positive hobbies and activities can provide fulfillment and stability. Some activities even have indirect therapeutic benefits. For example, studies in several clinical journals confirm the potential benefits of interacting with horses, drum circles, adventure sports and artistic dancing.
In some cases, therapists oversee these types of activities to affect positive personal change. Whether from a church, treatment center or recovery group, positive activities are readily available in most communities, and recovering addicts should make every effort to participate in them.
4. Mental Health Services for Addicts
Community support typically extends to mental health services as well, which is important for recovering addicts. The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment in 2006 found that 40% to 42% of addicts have co-occurring mood disorders, and the association between addiction and bipolar disorder is particularly high according to the Schizophrenia Bulletin in 2007. To facilitate a lasting recovery, ongoing mental health treatment can be essential, and most communities provide varying levels of support.
5. Active Recovery Support
Many public and private buildings allow groups like AA to use their space for regular meetings, and several organizations provide counseling, financial aid for treatment and free mental health screenings.
Most communities have programs to assist individuals at all stages of substance abuse and recovery, and addicts should take advantage of these resources. In terms of staying sober, these services can be especially helpful to recovering addicts experiencing struggles or setbacks.