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What is the impact of a good, supportive environment on substance abusers?

Apr 18, 2022

“It takes a village” when it comes to supporting those we love through a substance addiction. Family members, friends, group therapy participants, therapists, etc. Every one of these people has a special role to play in the life of a recovering drug or alcohol abuser. Our readers shared some of the reasons why they think a great support network is a critical factor in addiction recovery.

Edith Matos

Edith Matos

Edith Matos, Hotline Director for Drug Helpline.

Encourages the Abuser to Get and Stay Clean

A substance abuser’s environment can have a significant impact on their behavior and addiction. If someone is struggling with addiction, it is important to create a supportive environment that will encourage them to seek treatment and stay sober. Substance abusers are more likely to relapse if they are exposed to negative influences or triggers.

Furthermore, the right environment can help substance abusers recover by providing them with the resources they need to get clean and stay clean. A supportive environment can also help reduce relapse rates and provide a sense of community for those who are struggling with addiction.

A positive environment can help an individual recovering from an addiction to feel supported and loved. This type of environment can provide emotional stability and a sense of security, which are essential for the individual’s healing process. It helps individuals learn how to cope with difficult emotions and triggers healthily. They can also develop positive relationships and learn how to trust again.

Increases Connectedness, Ability to Cope

When someone struggling with substance abuse has a supportive environment, it significantly increases their ability to obtain and maintain sobriety goals through three main substitutions:

Autonomy for Accountability
There is often great shame in substance addiction. People struggling will often try to keep it a secret in fear of how they will be perceived by friends and family while simultaneously downplaying the legitimacy of problematic use. As they pull away from vulnerability and move toward denial and shame, many become increasingly alone in their addiction.

Community changes this by placing the substance abuser into a setting where everyone is in the same boat. When you bring together a group of people who all share the same experience, it becomes a breeding ground for empathy. The fear of rejection and judgment that fuels loneliness is effectively replaced by understanding and connectedness, giving individuals the support they need to be accountable for their behaviors and habits.

Behavior for Betterment
By definition, substance abusers will continue to utilize their substance of choice despite detrimental effects. Whether it’s alcohol, cocaine, opiates, or prescription drugs, their use becomes so excessive that it inhibits their daily functioning and eats away at resources such as time and finances.

Cultivating a social support network redirects the focus and energy that substance abusers place on their addictive habits. It requires effort to participate and actively engage with others and many programs even provide the opportunity for volunteer work.

Substance abusers can effectively build a new routine to replace their maladaptive ones while also contributing to others. In turn, these practices serve to better themselves on the road to recovery.

Coping for Community
People struggling with substances often do so in order to manage stressors in their life, whether it’s trauma, physical and emotional pain, or mental health issues. Alcohol or drug use becomes a way for them to escape experiencing that pain every day and provides temporary respite from symptoms, all the while breeding a whole new set of problems.

Engaging in the community provides a more sustainable outlet for coping with life’s challenges. Through support groups and accountability partners, substance abusers become aware of the underlying factors contributing to their use and learn how to navigate them through appropriate interventions.

Josiah Teng

Josiah Teng

Josiah Teng, MHC-LP, Mental Health Clinician at Vivid World Psychology PLLC.
Joseph Gardzina

Joseph Gardzina

Joseph Gardzina, CEO of ADAPT Programs.

Reduces Loneliness, Shame

According to studies, a good, supportive environment makes recovery easier. It is what will help individuals stay away from a relapse and remain sober. Rebuilding a damaged life is not an easy task and the people around you are what matter the most.

A reminder that you are not alone
It’s important to remember that when one person in the family or friend circle develops a substance abuse issue, it affects everyone. Dealing with the addiction can cause stress to everyone close to the person and strain normal routines and habits.

One of my recovered patients told me that it was because of one of his family member’s kindness and support that he could recover from addiction. What is most important to remember is that it is a slow process and the damage cannot be undone immediately. The first step is to be kind. Being kind will come with being empathetic and in order to be empathetic, you need to understand what the affected person is going through. Educate yourself about addiction and see things from their perspective.

Communication is key
Everything you say to the person must be carefully thought out. You need to understand they are in a vulnerable position and you need to say things that are not hurtful even if you are frustrated. An example of this is that you should avoid saying, “Shame on you for being addicted” and instead say “It’s okay that you’re going through this, you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. I know you can work on getting out of this. How can I help?”

Finally, it is essential to celebrate every victory in this rebuilding process. Think of it as a trek. Everyone involved is struggling along the way but even if a small distance is covered, it brings you closer to your final destination.

Higher Chance of Recovery

The impact of a good supportive environment on substance abusers is they have a higher chance of recovery. Oftentimes addicts think that no one cares about them and their issues, this only contributes more to their addiction. This sense of loneliness does not make them feel positive or supported. When they feel supported and loved by people that want them to succeed this only adds to their drive to not only quit their addiction but to live and live fruitfully. Knowing that someone feels their pain and understands them can make all the difference in curing addiction for good.

Tim Connon

Tim Connon

Tim Connon, Founder of ParamountQuote Insurance Advisors.
Michael Baldicaña

Michael Baldicaña

Michael Baldicaña, Web Content Specialist at Stayyy.

Support Should Be Targeted

A supportive environment is a key component to recovery. It’s the environment that can make or break the success of a substance abuser. These environments need to be tailored to the needs of the individual. This means that there should be an understanding of what they need and how they will benefit from certain resources. The environment should also be supportive, but not too nurturing as this could lead them back into their old habits.

Minimizes Triggers

For any substance abuser to be able to make a clean recovery, they must be able to stay within an environment that supports them, both mentally, physically and emotionally. This is because as human beings, our direct environment will always have a direct impact on our mental wellbeing.

And for addicts, the key to maintaining sobriety often falls on minimizing triggers that could contribute to a potential relapse, such as stress, conflict, or even depression. And this means ensuring that they remain within a positive environment that provides them with emotional and mental reassurance and this often means having around the right people, be it family and friends, who behave and respond in ways that are conducive to their recovery.

And this often means keeping the type of people around who are available to talk whenever they have a difficult time, encouraging them to be more active, providing help and support when needed, etc.

Kathleen Ahmmed

Kathleen Ahmmed

Kathleen Ahmmed, Co-founder of USCarJunker.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors' statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.