One of the important things to understand about addicts and alcoholics is that drugs and alcohol served a purpose in their lives. It helped the person cope with stress, trauma, and bad feelings or circumstances. It was a friend and it was always there for them. When an addict gets clean and sober they don’t have the skills to cope because they have been using drugs and alcohol to handle all the aspects of their life that they couldn’t. This concept creates a big loss in their life, and the drugs and alcohol have to be replaced with something.
What Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) learned in the 1930’s is that if the alcohol was replaced with a spiritual life, a life lived with the support of other alcoholics, and a way to come to terms with their inner selves they could stay sober. They could do something that the medical field had been unable to do with any consistent success. They needed each other and they needed a Higher Power of their own understanding. This was the beginning of what we have now come to understand as sober support networks.
When a person can learn to ask for help from another alcoholic/addict they have learned a vital skill that will save their lives when things get hard. And, things get hard the minute they are sober/clean. Because they have relied on alcohol/drugs to cope, it will take an outside source to introduce new ideas and skills to use to cope with life. A support network consists of sober individuals who are also learning how to stay sober/clean or who have been sober for a long time and are willing to share with the newcomer how they stayed sober. A sponsor can influence a newcomer and teach them what it takes to stay clean and sober by sharing their experience strength and hope. An AA group or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) group will become a safe place to find support. Treatment centers are a good start and will educate the newly clean/sober individual about sober networks and how to use them to be successful. A sober support system will also be a place of accountability in order to learn how to show up for themselves and others.
In my experience I have seen little success for the addict/alcoholic that doesn’t fully integrate a 12 step (or other of their choice) support network. I have seen addicts replace their drugs with food/relationships/work and their lives become unmanageable because they have resisted using a support network. Most of them either live miserably or relapse on their drug of choice. Without a support network they don’t have a place to learn how to cope with life without their drug. A sober/clean life is better than any addict can imagine alone but with a sober support network the possibilities become endless.