Do you want recovery?
It’s a long road back from addiction. The drug of choice can be alcohol, street or prescription drugs, or addictive gambling, spending, sex or eating. Although the faces of addiction are many, one outcome remains the same: all persons in recovery need the support of others. And these others need to be intimately familiar with what it means to be an addict.
What are Recovery Support Services
Recovery support services are designed and delivered by people who, themselves, have experienced both substance abuse disorder and recovery. They know what it’s like to be an addict, to struggle with the daily pressures and stress, to overcome the guilt, sadness, confusion, to try to find a job, rebuild careers, relationships, and self-esteem.
The purpose of recovery support services is to provide hope to those in recovery and to help them stay in recovery, thus reducing the likelihood of relapse. With their powerful message of hope, combined with the experience of others who have been successful in their recovery efforts, these services extend the clinical reach of treatment and go directly into the lives of people who most need them.
Types of Social Support and Recovery Support Services
Backed by considerable research that recovery is enhanced with social support, different types of social support have been identified. Some of them include: emotional, informational, and affiliational support. Community support projects have found these types of support useful in organizing community-based recovery support services.
Individuals in recovery don’t have a single need. They have many needs. They may need assistance in finding a job, thus requiring a job referral service (informational support). But their confidence level may be at all-time lows, so they also need emotional support, perhaps in some type of coaching on interviewing skills, how to dress appropriately, follow-up tips. They may also need help locating child-care in order to find that job or clothes for when they get the job or help with transportation to make it back and forth to work. Each and every situation has very unique needs that are new and stressful for those beginning their journey in recovery.
Some examples of services include:
How It Works
Recovery support groups have a leader, who provides support to peers (those seeking help to establish or maintain their recovery). In the interaction, both the leader and peers receive mutual support and their recovery gains strength in the process. The leader may have different titles, such as recovery guide, coach or mentor, resource specialist, or services interventionist.
The role of the leader, however, is very clearly distinguished from that of a 12-step sponsor, treatment counselor or other professional. This is because the intent of the recovery support services is to enhance the recovery process by not duplicating other services in the community.
Sometimes questions come up that are not the purview of the peer leader. It’s important to note that the leaders do not diagnose, give advice or provide therapy. For example, a peer may be worried about completing the 12-steps and ask the peer leader for help. The peer leader will respond that this is an issue they need to work out with their sponsor, not the peer leader. Similarly, in the instance where a peer has questions about recurring symptoms or whether or not a medication needs to be changed. The peer leader will tell the peer that this is something they need to take up with their doctor or nurse.
In early recovery especially, the peer leader, acting as mentor or coach, spends a great deal of time with the peer – typically more than a 12-step sponsor. That’s because the peer leader often has a more extensive knowledge about what’s available in the community in terms of employment, housing, educational and social services and community health services. The peer leader is involved in helping peers make appropriate choices about which recovery path will work best for them – not encouraging the peer to choose the path that worked for the peer leader. Similarly, the peer leader will typically not urge the peer to follow any particular path of recovery. Again, the intent is to encourage the peer to find the recovery path that will be in the peer’s best interest – and one he or she can follow.
How Individuals Benefit from Recovery Support Services
The benefits of recovery support services are both tangible and intangible. They vary from individual to individual. Some people in early recovery attest to the fact that these services helped them remain in recovery, whereas a simple reliance on 12-step meetings or sessions with a counselor did not. To that end, recovery support services fulfill their mission: to help people strengthen and remain in recovery.
Here are some other benefits:
- Safe place to socialize – Participants in recovery support services know they have a safe place to socialize with others who are also in recovery. This gives them a sense of belonging, of community, and a pressure-free opportunity to interact with others.
- Sharing personal stories and problem solving – Group support activities often have an educational component as well. During such group interaction, peers have the opportunity to share personal stories as well as solve problems. The group may consist of individuals with a shared substance abuse disorder, or HIV/AIDS, or those re-entering society following incarceration, or those who with the same cultural or religious background.
- Enriching spiritual values – Some, but not all, peer group activities that are led by a peer leader have a spiritual component – in addition to educational and group support. This provides participants with an opportunity to enrich their own spiritual values – whatever they may be.
- Learn new skills – Outside experts are often brought in to demonstrate and teach new skill sets to group members. The range of skills may include credit counseling, how to budget and manage finances, job skills training, how to prevent relapse, and effective conflict resolution.
- Place to practice new social skills – Recovery support groups offer participants a nonthreatening environment in which to practice some of the new social skills they have learned.
- Providing service to others – It’s common for participants in peer recovery groups to want to give back to the community, to help others as they have been helped. After all, the peer group leader is someone who has also been in recovery – and chose to help others. This example inspires many group participants to do likewise. Most often they work as volunteers giving back to the community that supported them in their recovery.
- Services available at different stages of recovery – The adaptability of recovery support services is that they are available at different stages of the recovery process. Such services may precede a person’s entering into treatment, and may facilitate or motivate the individual’s desire to change. Recovery support services may accompany treatment, thus providing a connection to the community during treatment. Services may follow treatment, offering a better relapse prevention. Many people who do not enter treatment because they cannot afford it or do not wish to can avail themselves of recovery support services.
- Leadership development – During participation in peer recovery support groups, members are also building upon their leadership ability. This gives them a foundation to be able to help others by either directing the service program or by providing support to their peers.
- Promotion of shared values – Self-direction, empowerment, choice, giving back to others, keeping recovery first, being a leader, participating, being authentic, and including all cultures are shared values that are promoted during recovery support services.
- Always available – Recovery support services are one means of providing an invaluable, continuously available support following treatment. This safety net for individuals who have completed treatment helps them in their goal to remain in recovery and begin the necessary steps to achieve their dreams.