When we think about taking care of ourselves, we automatically think of exercising, getting enough sleep, and eating more greens. What if it was more than that? Does social connectedness play a role in self-care? To heal we all need to explore the kinds of recovery support systems available to us and our loved ones.
Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who is best known for a theory named Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which focused on innate or natural human needs: “According to Maslow, people need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. Many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression in the absence of a sense of belonging.” If a person is suffering from anxiety, depression, or even loneliness, they are less inclined to wake up in the morning and hit the gym. They most likely aren’t sleeping 8 hours a night, and a Big Mac with French Fries seems like a great choice for dinner.
The Importance of Connections
People who are more connected, or feel a greater sense of connection to others, have lower levels of depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that connection to others provides greater empathy, increased trust, and higher self-esteem. The idea is that the greater the connection we feel to others, the better we feel about ourselves. And if we feel better about ourselves, we are less prone to anxiety, depression, or feeling alone and are then able to make better choices. A social connection improves mental, emotional, and even physical health. But how does one in recovery from addiction feel a connection to others?
Recovery Support Systems
An effective support system is imperative to addiction recovery and can be obtained in a variety of ways. Family is the first line of support when it comes to addiction. Allowing an addict to talk about their struggles, freely and without judgment, creates an atmosphere of trust and empathy. Open communication allows for a better understanding of the addict, a greater opportunity to provide support, and a stronger connection between loved ones.
Another option, and one of the most popular when it comes to addiction recovery, is 12-step meetings. What better way for an addict to achieve a sense of belonging and acceptance than surrounding themselves with other recovering addicts? Sharing a common purpose and relating to other people is an excellent way to feel connected.
A third example, and a derivative of 12-step meetings, is to be in service by helping the next struggling addict. A great way to build self-esteem and to establish a social connection is to feel as if you served a purpose and made a difference in someone else’s life. There is something special about having a conversation with another person in which you experience a laugh, inspire change, or feel as if you aren’t alone. Offering help to another addict is a wonderful way to create a sense of connection. People flourish with love, trust, and feeling apart of; Men interact with other men. Women empower other women. And addicts help other addicts. All of which begins with the connection of one person to another.
Michael Schaub, Primary Counselor
Victory Bay Recovery Center