Addiction is most often rooted in surviving trauma. For millions of us, seeking recovery is, therefore, a two-fold pursuit. Developing skills and resources that increase a sense of personal safety are vital to the pursuit of addiction recovery.
The traumas of childhood abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault often leave a person feeling broken, ashamed, and deeply insecure. Whether one is seeking treatment or doing their best on their own, building a foundation of support and accountability is vital to improving stability and reducing instances of relapse.
There are a number of pitfalls regarding gathering support. The most common misperception is that in order for supportive others to be effective, they must know the whole story of what we seek to overcome. This simply is not the case. We have a right to privacy. People with good intentions may ask for the whole story, but we are free to set boundaries regarding what they will understand and how they will support us.
We’re free to ask for support in making life changes, overcoming anxiety, or working through past losses while also explaining that we are not comfortable sharing the details of what created these needs. I have found that the best support comes unconditionally and that our loved ones simply accept that we need help in general ways (being available to us, offering encouragement and reassurance) and in specific ways (helping us pragmatically with things like babysitting or transportation to attend treatment or self-help meetings.
For a lot of us, our families of origin are unhealthy and unable to provide the support we need. Many of us have found comfort in kinship. Rather than wait for our relatives to change, we developed close friendships and relate to these folks as family. Others of us find support in 12 step communities and/or religious and spiritual communities.
It is not important where these folks come from. It is simply vital that we have them. There is no one size fits all recipe for a support system. We need at least a few folks who understand what we’re going through. are willing to be available, and ideally, we will have at least one person we can call at 2am if need be.
We are people who struggle to ask for what we need. The most common apprehension of soliciting support is the fear that we will burden those we love. This is almost never the case. It is almost always a lie we tell ourselves because we are afraid to ask. People offer support not to be nice but because they get to feel good about supporting those they love. The only caution we offer is that graphic details and stories of abuse do have the potential to unnerve others and we suggest that these be shared with those who have expertise in supporting survivors of trauma.
Many of us feel intense discomfort with receiving support. We are people who tend to fear vulnerability. We are very good at giving support and generally very poor at receiving it. We have found it helpful to bring this out into the open. Rather than hide our discomfort, we can name it. If we do not explain why we are uncomfortable we run both the risks of pushing supportive others away and/or making them believe they have done something wrong when in fact they have done something lovely. Being open about our true feelings prevents miscommunication, misunderstandings, and missed opportunities.
I remain convinced that 90% of what is wrong with the world could be remedied if folks were to simply say simply and directly what it is that they want, feel, and need.
No one recovers alone. Please allow yourself the support, encouragement, and accountability needed to transform your life.