10. Your Support System


#1

Here we’ll cover:

  1. Why call in support?
  2. Three kinds of support teams
  3. Who to invite
  4. How to invite
  5. Action: Invite!

1. Why call in support?

It doesn’t matter whether we build a two-person or ten-person team. What matters is we’re not on this journey alone and we have support.

Recent research confirms that a community-based approach to treating and recovery is more successful that the old more isolated paradigm. In the old paradigm the person was pathologized; or treated as if they were psychologically abnormal or unhealthy. This older approach also emphasized the need to confront the person about their behavior. Recent research, shows a more solution-focused paradigm is more effective for recovery.

Being solution-focused; means a shift towards focusing on solutions that can help shift behavior along the recovery path rather than focusing only on stopping the undesirable behavior.

An international advocacy movement now exists that is built on five principles we know to be helpful, and highlights the value of community.

Here are the five principles

  1. Recovering from addiction is a reality in the lives of millions of people.
    What we hear when we read this:
    It’s not impossible and there is cause for hope!

  2. There are many paths to recovery—and all are cause for celebration.
    What we hear:
    It’s not a one-path-fits-all! If one route to recovering doesn’t work for someone, they haven’t failed! There are more options and all of them are valid and cause to celebrate.

  3. Recovery flourishes in supportive communities.
    What we hear:
    No (wo)man is an island. The people who recover tend to have supportive community backing them up. We need each other’s positivity and knowledge-based support! If you don’t have back-up now, don’t be discouraged. You can find it and we can help.

  4. Recovery is a voluntary process.
    What we hear:
    No matter how much others want a person to heal, it only works when someone wants it. Often what stands in the way is believing it’s actually possible. This is where knowledge and evidence-based support is key.

  5. Recovering and recovered people are part of the solution; recovering gives back what addiction has taken, from individuals, families, and communities.
    What we hear:
    We’re in this together!!
    This isn’t about the healing of one person, but the healing and inspiring of families and communities!

2. Three kinds of support teams

There are many different kinds of support are available to us, here we focus on three main kinds. Each of them are important and helpful.

  1. Support for your loved one

When we build this team, we’re making sure that the person we’re concerned about knows this is a community effort. They are valued enough for people to come together and educate themselves in order to walk beside them on this journey. There is a place to fall, to be held compassionately accountable, and to be celebrated.

  1. Support for yourself

Please decrease your chances for burnout and unnecessary frustration! We know how hard this path can seem at times, and we know how vital it is to have people in your corner. It can be helpful to lean on people who are committed to staying positive and knowledge-based with you. Let’s keep creating optimal conditions for positive change; it begins with you!

  1. Sharing information

When we share evidence-based information, it grows awareness in the community at large, even if we only share with one person. Change the way we think and we can change the world.

When we share information, we are creating a healthy place for conversation.

Sharing information is especially important because research shows that:

When we engage in conversation with someone who is commiserating with us and / or sharing their stresses or negative perceptions, our stress levels increase,

And increased stress levels are not conducive to affecting the changes you hope for.

On the other hand, engaging in supportive, positive conversations decreases our stress levels!!

And decreased stress levels are very conducive to affecting positive changes.

3. Who to invite

Now let’s start to think through the first two kinds of support who from your network is a good fit for each.

The first helpful thing to remember is to keep your scope broad.
Sometimes we can forget that there are people out there who care and would want to walk with us or the person we’re concerned about on this journey. If you or your loved one has stepped back from some close relationships lately, consider whether any of these people might be ready and willing to play a supportive role if given the chance.

The second helpful thing to remember is that we want to choose people who are willing to focus positively on solutions and remain open to evidence-based information, even if it bumps up against perspectives they’ve held.

As you consider the following lists, jot down your own list of who might fit into each category. It’s a starting point. Don’t overthink it.

Just write down who comes to mind first when you open up to wider possibilities.

  1. For your loved one
    a. Family (outside of immediate family, are there cousins or more biologically-distant relatives who would fit here?)
    b. Lifestyle (friends / colleagues / buddies from extracurriculars before or during substance use but that existed outside of it),
    c. Health (doctors, medical team of any kind, sponsors if they’ve ever participated in 12-step recovery),
    d. Other aspects of their lives we may not know about where there is or was community? (church, community involvement)

As you read this next list below, jot down your own list of who might fit into each category. It’s a starting point. Don’t overthink it.

Just write down who comes to mind first when you open up to wider possibilities.

  1. For yourself
    a. Family (outside of immediate family, are there cousins or more biologically-distant relatives who would fit here?)
    b. Lifestyle (friends / colleagues / buddies from extracurriculars before or during substance use that existed outside of it),
    c. Health (doctors, medical team of any kind, sponsors if you’ve ever participated in 12-step recovery),
    d. Other aspects of their lives we may not know about where there is or was community? (church, community involvement)

Now, go back through your lists and put a star beside the people you’d want to share some of what you’ve learned with. Choose the ones who might be open to deepening or widening their opinions and perspectives. Don’t forget to be generous with believing in people’s potential!

Now that we know who to invite…

4. How to invite

First, we prepare.

As with most things, a little preparation goes a long way.
You may want to consider these things before having a conversation:

  1. What do they need to know about the situation?
  2. What do you want to say or share?
  3. What would you like from them? (I’d love for you to consider supporting my loved one in these ways… I’d love your support for me in these ways…)

Make some notes now, or set a specific time for later, to write down what’s important. This way, you’ll be direct and concise when you reach out to them. As we know, it’s easy to get caught up in loads of details that may not actually serve the purpose, which right now is broadening or strengthening our support system.

Next, we consider, and commit to accept, ahead of time that people have their own reactions and perspectives. This means they may think very differently than you do. Leave space for it.

As we’ve addressed, our society hasn’t historically been the most compassionate towards addiction or people struggling with addiction. Boatloads of bad information and punitive measures have ruled our collective perceptions about why addiction happens in the first place and how people should handle it. We know that isn’t working.

We know that the war on drugs has actually been a war on people who are already suffering from feeling isolated and alone. We’re ready to stop perpetuating that cycle.

It might be challenging for yourself or others, but stay focused – if only internally, on what new research is shining light on and how thankful you are to have an international movement with researchers and concerned, compassionate humans who are determined to bring light to this darkness.

And finally, prepare the person or people you’ll be reaching out to.

Let them know that you’d like to have a conversation, and that coming into it with an open mind and heart will yield the best results for everyone.

For example:

“Hi! I’d love for us to plan a time to get together or hop on a call. A lot is going on here and I want to bring you in the loop. I have one request, and that is that you keep your mind and heart open when we’re talking. I know that probably caused some curiosity, so let me know a time that works for you and we’ll make it happen.”

Now you’re ready…

OR

“Hi! I’d love for you to join me here at We the Village. A lot is going on here and I want to bring you in the loop. I have one request, and that is that you keep your mind and heart open when we’re talking. I know that probably caused some curiosity, so let me know a time that works for you and we’ll make it happen.”

Now you’re ready…

5. Action: invite

Take Action!

You can start with just one person. By adding one person to your support system you take a huge step toward change with just a little effort.