How To Engage Your Support System In Early Recovery

Chemical dependence, or addiction is a well-known struggle for many. If you’ve misused substances you know it may take a “rock bottom” experience before realization of your addiction sets in. If you have a sense that your use has bridged the gap from relaxation to necessity listen to the voice in the back of your head and stop justifying: it’s possible to turn yourself around before things get even messier. Research shows successful, long-term recovery depends heavily on the quality of one’s support system. It’s even safe to say it’s impossible to recover alone. Below, are some tips on engaging friends and family as you acknowledge your addiction. Engaging your support system respectfully and honestly will help you preserve important relationships and ensure you don’t drive away the people who care for you most.

1. It’s likely friends and family already know

While it’s generally advisable to stay away from assumptions, you may find some solace knowing that your loved ones likely know something has been “off.” When you approach them to share that you’ve acknowledged your addiction rest assured that you probably won’t be dropping an unexpected bomb.

2. Be sincere and take ownership

It is important that you act mature and transparent when engaging your supports. For example, blaming your use on stress, another mental illness or your family history feels defensive to the listener even if there is some validity to your difficulties. Everyone has their struggles they wrestle with and addiction is yours. Remind yourself of this simple truth. Your addiction doesn’t make you a lesser person; in fact your insight and honesty make you all the wiser. Instead of this: “Well, you know how hard work has been for me and how much I was exposed to alcohol growing up, I guess it’s not a shock to you that I think I drink too much…” Try this: “Addiction is something I’ve finally acknowledged is a problem for me. It’s taken some time, but I’m telling you because I know I’ll need your support along the way.”

3. Set boundaries

Addiction often gets in the way of healthy relationships. Acknowledge who in your support system is “safe” and share only with them. Truly supportive people will be sober, stable and trustworthy. As difficult as it may be, you must set boundaries with friends who still use or encourage you to so. Your response doesn’t have to be lengthy it can be as simple as: “I need to take care of myself and I’m slimming down my contacts. You won’t see me for awhile.”

4. Share your plan of action

Remember the old adage actions speak louder than words? It’s not uncommon for addicts to be master manipulators and smooth-talkers. If you’re honest, you’ve probably hurt some of your support system through deception or false promises. If it’s applicable, acknowledge and accept that your words may hold little weight. Turn a new leaf and show you are committed. “I know my words won’t mean much without a plan of action. Here is what I’m going to do: _______Will you help keep me accountable?”

Using these tips or a variation will help keep you connected to a quality support network and most importantly, help you maintain sobriety for the long-haul.

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