Why Do I Need Community in Recovery?
Addiction is a disease. It is biological, environmental and emotional, and it is social. It is all these things, so it needs to be treated on all these levels. Treatment provides the physical support, the protective environment and the therapy needed to begin recovery, and treatment provides a supportive community of professionals and peers. It opens access to community resources and peer support that will be invaluable parts of recovery long after immediate treatment ends.
How Are Community and Addiction Related?
The influence of peer pressure on drug use and addiction development has long been highlighted, and the social aspects of ongoing addiction and recovery need to be giving similar attention and awareness. This shift is already beginning in the medical and addiction science fields, a shift that can be seen in newer, updated definitions of addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine considers a defining feature of addiction to be, “Disruption of healthy social supports and problems in interpersonal relationships which impact the development or impact of resiliencies.” Addiction was once seen as only a disease of physical dependence but is now understood as a complex interaction of causes and effects, many of which are social or communal in nature. Since disruption of social support and healthy relationships is considered a feature of addiction, it stands to reason that building a positive community and support system would be part of recovery.
How Does Community Benefit Recovery?
Community provides immediate recovery support, and it provides long-term benefits that improve all areas of life. The Journal of Health and Social Behavior shares, “health behaviors — such as exercise, consuming nutritionally balanced diets, and adherence to medical regimens — tend to promote health and prevent illness, while other behaviors — such as smoking, excessive weight gain, drug abuse and heavy alcohol consumption — tend to undermine health. Many studies provide evidence that social ties influence health behavior.” Positive community participation results in better health behaviors and therefore better health. When individuals feel better physically, they feel better mentally and emotionally as well. Physical, mental and emotional well-being all contribute to relapse resiliency and greater quality of life. When life is healthy and supported on physical, emotional and social levels, recovery is much easier to maintain.
Addiction is a self-reinforcing disease. Individuals may use to mask feelings of loneliness only to find that addiction isolates them further, causing them to continue using or to use more to hide increased negative feelings. They may use to suppress mental health symptoms only to find that addiction harms mental health and exacerbates symptoms, causing them to continue using or to use more to continue finding temporary relief. They may use to avoid physical pain or withdrawal only to find that drug use takes a steep toll on health and body, causing them to continue using just to avoid withdrawal symptoms or avoid pain sensations worsened by the effects of drugs. There are many ways in which addiction supports continued addictive behaviors, and the cyclical nature of addiction can seem hard to escape on both mental and physical levels. However community offers hope.
Community provides one way to address the effects of addiction on multiple levels while also creating a self-supporting cycle that is infinitely more rewarding than addiction ever was or will be. The Journal of Health and Social Behavior continues, “Social ties can instill a sense of responsibility and concern for others that then lead individuals to engage in behaviors that protect the health of others, as well as their own health. Social ties provide information and create norms that further influence health habits.” Social ties and community encourage individuals to pursue health for themselves and to encourage others to do the same. Thus when individuals struggle with certain aspects of life or recovery, members of the community will be there to support them just as they are there to support and encourage in turn. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration explains, “People with mental and/or substance use disorders have a unique capacity to help each other based on a shared affiliation and a deep understanding of this experience. In self-help and mutual support, people offer this support, strength, and hope to their peers, which allows for personal growth, wellness promotion and recovery.” Individuals supporting one another create positive cycles and encourage emotional and physical health. Community benefits recovery, and recovery benefits community.
Find Your Recovery Community
Do not struggle alone with addiction any longer. A concerned and caring helper is just a phone call away. By reaching out to our helpline, you will receive immediate and direct support. Our admissions coordinators are here 24 hours a day to help you find the recovery and community resources you need for real and lasting recovery.
 http://www.asam.org/for-the-public/definition-of-addiction. “Definition of Addiction.” American Society of Addiction Medicine. 19 Apr 2011. Web. 11 Nov 2015.
 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150158/. “Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 4 Aug 2011. Web. 11 Nov 2015.
 http://www.samhsa.gov/recovery/peer-support-social-inclusion. “Peer Support and Social Inclusions.” The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2 Jul 2015. Web. 11 Nov 2015.