The decision to stop a habit of substance abuse or addiction is a huge step to take. However, simply having the desire to quit is not enough to truly change your life in such a big way. Entering into the total change demanded by a process of true recovery demands that you get help from others.
Here are a few reasons why reaching out to others for help can be a very important part of working through problems related to addiction and recovery.
1) Accepting help breaks stigma and frees you from shame
Feeling powerless under the weight of a strong addiction is something that can create a lot of negative feelings about your self worth, especially if you feel unsuccessful in your efforts to quit. Even though substance abuse is more common than most people believe, it is often misunderstood as personal weakness, and an addict may be fearful of others' judgmental attitudes.
Internalized shame can keep you trapped in a cycle of thinking you are beyond help. Reaching out to and receiving help from trustworthy, non-judgmental friends can offer you positive support and encouragement, speaking against your self-condemnation.
2) You can learn from what other people have faced
Some of the most helpful people to reach out to are those who are also dealing with issues of recovery from addiction. People with stories and issues similar to yours may have a deeper knowledge of what you are really going through. As you share your story and listen to theirs, there will be points of identification.
From this, you can learn from their mistakes and triumphs, offering experiences to help you decide what works best for you. Recovery can often involve a lot of hard work and radical life transformation, but other people can teach you how to make it easier.
3) Connection with others breaks your sense of isolation
Addiction isolates you from other people, because it forces you to care only about satisfying your own cravings, rather than pay attention to other people's needs. This makes it easy to feel alone, to not have a sense of belonging that can increase feelings of loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness.
Having interactions with safe people helps to break this sense of isolation. Anyone who can offer you careful listening and empathizing and give you a strong sense of being supported will intensify your sense of hope that real change is possible.
4) Helping others gives a sense of purpose
In connecting with others, you won't just be the one being helped, but will also be able to make a positive contribution to someone else's life. In doing so, you will find that helping others benefits you in some ways that may be surprising. The feeling of being a part of something larger than yourself and feeling like you are making a difference brings a lot of positive feelings.
Doing good things for others can activate some of the same pleasure centers of the brain that have been wrecked by drug addiction, helping you discover better ways of achieving real, lasting good feelings. Perhaps most importantly, it can help you gain a reason for living and a sense your actions matter to other people.
5) Reminders of why you choose sobriety
After a few weeks, months, or years of sobriety, you may discover some days when things feel easy and radically transformed. While this opportunity to relax and experience freedom is a wonderful gift, it can be dangerous if it leads to a sense of complacency. You may eventually take your vulnerability for granted or engage in risky behavior, forgetting how destructive substance abuse has been for you.
Sharing your story with others, hearing their story, and receiving and giving support and encouragement can be a very important way to remind yourself of your decision to pursue recovery, and why you never want to go back to mindlessness or addiction.
Whether in a support group, trained professional counselors, or simply with supportive friends and family, forming relationships and receiving help is an essential part of the recovery process.