Choosing the path of recovery is a big decision that changes a person’s future. While there can be many positive benefits of peer support during treatment and throughout recovery, sobriety takes hard work and courage. There are daily struggles.
Just as it is with any other type of struggle in life, it helps to have support. Friends who are supportive can make any of life’s burdens seem lighter. To fully appreciate the importance of peer support in recovery, it helps to understand what it is, how it works, and the benefits it produces.
What Does Peer Support Look Like?
Peer support often involves support from people with similar backgrounds in the context of addiction recovery. The peer may be a friend, someone from a group meeting, or an individual who works for an addiction recovery organization. Since it can involve multiple types of people, it usually includes several activities as well.
Peer support may include group therapy for addiction, 12-step meetings, mentorship, or something else. While it may start in an addiction treatment facility, it continues beyond there. For example, many people voluntarily attend 12-step meetings for the rest of their lives. Those meetings give them a safe space to share their experiences, help others and build strong bonds.
The purpose of peer support is to inspire hope and promote healthy connections. As a result, people who participate can feel more empowered. The person giving support to the individual who is newer to sobriety can also experience rewards. Helping people provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
In a peer support program, the goals often center around understanding, validation, and acceptance. Because the individual or people providing support have more experience, they can assist in creating new routines, goals, and strategies. For example, mentors may help people who are new to recovery learn how to make actionable, step-by-step plans. When people take all the necessary steps and stick to their goals, they experience the benefits of recovery.
Along with having a peer support network, positive lifestyle changes can provide incentives to stay in recovery. In treatment, people learn valuable strategies for changing behaviors, dealing with triggers, and more. Peer support programs reinforce those concepts to help people utilize them in their daily lives.
What Are the Benefits of Peer Support in Addiction Recovery?
Most people who have been in recovery for a while can think of many benefits that are specific to their lives or situations. However, there are several common benefits of peer support that most people experience.
Just as it helps kids to have role models as they gain more life experience, it helps people who are newly sober to have mentors as they gain more recovery experience. Being new to the process, they will face many types of challenges. Mentors can share their own experiences of dealing with those challenges. Also, peer mentors can be there for people who are newly sober if they just need to vent. A mentor can offer advice, reassurance, and encouragement.
Not Feeling Alone
When people try to get sober on their own, they may miss out on many benefits. Feeling alone is hard for anyone. However, with the combination of withdrawal and starting a new life, feeling alone is even worse. With support from like-minded peers who understand, a person may have more motivation to continue in recovery.
People who have peer support are more likely to stay in treatment or continue in recovery. Having a social aspect to an overall treatment strategy helps people stay engaged in their recovery plans. Some people need ongoing treatment even after their initial rehab experience.
For example, someone who has anxiety and drug addiction still needs to treat the anxiety. That may involve ongoing outpatient therapy. Without treatment for a co-occurring disorder, a person is more likely to relapse. However, those with and without co-occurring disorders are more likely to commit to recovery when there is a peer support element.
In any type of social group, there is some form of peer pressure. When it comes to addiction recovery programs with peer support, the pressure is positive. People feel a stronger sense of belonging to the group when they abstain from substances.
A sense of belonging involves a desire for acceptance and approval from peers. This form of peer pressure is also more positive because of the group culture it creates. As a result, people tend to feel more invested and interested in the well-being of others.
As they develop a sense of belonging, people also tend to be more accountable. They know that a close-knit group of peers is more likely to notice if they relapse. If people stop coming to group meetings or fulfilling other obligations, group members notice. Also, setting goals and sharing them with the group can create a stronger sense of purpose to reach goals.
Reduced Relapse Risks
With more accountability and motivation, people are less likely to relapse. While some may relapse once or multiple times, they are more likely to get up and try again with peer support. Peers check on them, encourage them and ask how they can help. However, someone without a peer network may not have that vital help and encouragement. It may be easier for that person to return to destructive habits.
Making new friends is a great benefit of any peer support structure. Some people build lifelong bonds with the peers they meet during recovery. Friends may also be people who can help find better jobs or make other life improvements.
Why Is Peer Support Important?
The key reason why peer support is so vital is that it helps people stay in recovery. When people get sober, they often leave their old social groups. They no longer spend time with people who use substances, and they feel alone without a support system.
Why is peer support important, especially for those who are newly sober? In many cases, people who use substances may be alienated from family and friends. Those relationships may recover with time and effort.
However, a person who is starting recovery needs immediate help. Breaking the addiction cycle involves starting a new life, and that requires support and the right tools. Although peer support is valuable for all people in recovery, it is especially important for anyone with a mental health disorder.
Peer support is also important because it produces the benefits discussed in the previous section. Depending on the type of program, there are other reasons why peer support in recovery is important. It can provide valuable information, emotional support, and affiliations.
Those connections have other benefits as well. For instance, participating in a sober living structure offers peer support. In addition to receiving emotional support, people learn helpful life skills. They may learn about job hunting, budgeting, parenting, and more.
With the friendships people develop, they can also build a help network. For instance, a person may need childcare assistance, help with grocery shopping, or rides to work. Those are just a few of the many potential examples.
Why Is Aftercare Important?
Aftercare programs provide support after a person finishes addiction treatment. Although people learn important strategies and tools for overcoming addiction, life is still challenging. They may need help putting those strategies into action.
Also, they may encounter complex situations that leave them wondering what to do. Trying to adjust to a new life with new approaches to problems can feel overwhelming. In addition to these reasons for aftercare, there are many others. Ultimately, it can help people maintain sobriety with the personalized support they need and deserve.
How Casco Bay Provides Valuable Peer Support in Recovery
Casco Bay Recovery is committed to helping people learn how to overcome addiction. Along with individual therapy, we offer therapeutic peer support programs. We introduce people to group therapy, which is led by a therapist and includes peers who also struggle with addiction. Participants also experience 12-step programs. Casco Bay Recovery treats people who are addicted to opioids, alcohol, benzos, or other substances.
Our facility also focuses on developing an aftercare strategy for each person to reduce relapse risks. Since we know that a comprehensive approach is vital, we offer dual diagnosis, MAT, and other treatments. Also, we focus on improving the mind, body, and spirit with supplemental therapies like holistic therapy, yoga, and more.
Learn More About the Benefits of Peer Support for Addiction Recovery in Maine
Casco Bay in Portland is here to help if you or a loved one is struggling with substance addiction. Choosing to ask for help is a hard decision, and it is one that many people in Maine must make alone. However, the good news is that you have a support system as you take the next steps.
In treatment, you connect with therapists, mentors, and peers who have had similar experiences. We structure our programs to help people learn how to maximize the benefits of peer support in recovery. If you want to learn more about our peer support programs or any other treatments, we are happy to answer your questions. Please contact us to learn more.