How to Leverage Your Support System in Recovery

Family Jump Shot

Taking your first steps outside of an inpatient rehab program, especially a long-term one, can be difficult. You may be apprehensive to start an outpatient program because you don’t feel like you can do it. You’re unsure of how to manage your sobriety when confronted with the realities of the world outside of rehab, and that’s completely understandable.

Recovery isn’t easy, and no one is guaranteed success. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction has a 50-70% relapse rate, which despite being on par with other chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes, means that slightly over half of everyone in rehab will suffer setbacks in their recovery.

There are ways to protect yourself against the risk of relapse, however, and that’s by building a strong support system. Here, we’ll discuss the different parts of a typical sober support system, and how they can help in recovery.


For many clients, connection with key family members is crucial to their recovery. It may have even been a close family member, like a spouse, parent, or sibling who convinced them to get help in the first place and the support of this person can be vital in motivating continued recovery.

You’ll notice that there’s a theme in each of these categories: accountability. Not only does each group have huge potential as a source of support while you’re in recovery, they serve as a reminder that you’re not just doing this for yourself but for others who are counting on you.

On the other side of the coin, not everyone in recovery stays close with their families during and after rehab. Maybe members of your family are the reason you started using in the first place, or, the person you were while you were using drugs and alcohol alienated family members who were previously close.

If this is the case, it’s your choice whether to try to leverage family bonds for the good of your recovery. If you feel that they aren’t going to be a good influence on you, it’s better to stay away.

However, if you feel that family members won’t accept you back into their lives, you may be surprised by how they’ll react if you’re honest and open to them. We recommend using the tenets of 12-step groups — most notably Steps 8 and 9 in AA — to make amends. We must always clean our side of the street and take responsibility for our actions in the past; after consulting with our support group we take these amends and let our higher power control the results.


Friends can be equally or more important than family, depending on the makeup of your specific support system after rehab. You’ll likely be spending the most time around friends and family, so these are the people you’ll need to be able to lean on to stay sober.

Friends can also be complex, because social groups can be common causes for addiction. Peer pressure and the influence of your social circle may have contributed to your addiction or even, got you on the path to using more and more before you lost your freedom to drugs and/or alcohol.

Keeping friends in your support system is important, but it’s equally important to ensure that all of these friends are positive influences. For example, if you rejoin your old friend group after rehab, and one of them isn’t supportive, judges you for your sobriety, or pressures you use, it can spoil the support potential of the entire group.

Tug of War

Sponsors and Group Peers

While some patients don’t lean on a sober community after treatment, groups like AA and NA are sometimes the only places where recovering addicts can be entirely surrounded by people who know where they’ve been and experienced the same things as them.

Peers in therapy and support groups can offer strength in the face of temptation, and this is where the accountability piece comes back into play:

There’s no one who’s going to hold you accountable in recovery more than your peers in recovery, because they’ve been where you are, and they know what it takes. They don’t want to see you slip up, and that blend of support and motivation can be one of the strongest positive forces in recovery.

An Alumni Program

Studies have shown that staying engaged with your rehab facility after you leave can be a positive influence in recovery, and that treatment facilities that offer significant aftercare and alumni resources can be an asset in a client’s support network long after treatment is over.

At The River Source, we offer significant outpatient programming, aftercare planning and resources, and structured living as well as a growing alumni program. Continuing to stay engaged with our alumni events and community is one of the best ways to guarantee a positive support system from which you can draw strength at any and all times during your recovery.

About the Author

Director of Marketing and Admissions

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