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Social Support in Recovery

Chapter 6: Social Support in Recovery

Section 3: SEA's Tools for Recovery Lifestyle 
Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous -

The SEA's Program of Recovery
By James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Social Support in Recovery


What is social support in recovery from low self‑esteem?

Social support is:

  • The members of your 12 Step Recovery Program like the Buddies at SEA in the SEA's program.
  • A network of relatives and friends who provide positive feedback.
  • The people in your life giving you emotional support.
  • Honest confrontation as you establish a lifestyle of recovery. It consists of compliments on your success, reminders when you deviate, and understanding when you are discouraged and hurting.
  • The people in your life accepting no excuses from you, but helping you to maintain your motivation and commitment to recovery.
  • The people in your life (your network) pulling for you to succeed in recovery.
  • Emotional support and understanding from others as you struggle with a changed lifestyle and personal growth.
  • Physical support from others in restructuring your home, work site, and social life to be more conducive to your recovery efforts.

Why is a social support network necessary in recovery?

When you are trying to recover without positive reinforcement from your social support system, you often:

  • Lose interest in your efforts.
  • Feel like your efforts go unrewarded.
  • Lose the motivation to change.
  • Forget the reason for changing.
  • Feel discouraged when you have hit a plateau where your changes are less apparent.
  • Feel like your efforts are meaningless.
  • Feel depressed because the changes require too much effort: work that is unrewarded.
  • Want to give up since there is no visible change in your life or in the ways others react to you.


When you are trying to recover with positive reinforcement from your support systems you:

  • Feel encouraged to continue sacrificing time and energy to make the changes.
  • Feel motivated to continue working on the changes.
  • Feel supported and cared for when you are experiencing a plateau with little visible change.
  • Feel good about yourself and the efforts you are making.
  • Want to pursue new paths by which you can change your lifestyle.
  • Work harder and longer on your efforts to recover.
  • Become more involved and interested in your recovery process.
  • Become more conscientious in your efforts to change.
  • Become more realistic about the time and effort needed to make the necessary changes in your life.

How is a system of social support developed?

To develop a system of social support in recovery you can turn to:

  • The fellow members in your 12 Step Support Program like the Buddies at SEA in the SEA's program.
  • Your spouse.
  • Family members.
  • Relatives, including aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
  • Neighbors.
  • Close friends.
  • Co‑workers.
  • Social contacts.

How far can you allow your social support system to go in your recovery process?

You can give those in your social support system permission to: 

  • Give open and honest feedback concerning your progress and efforts to change.
  • Positively reinforce you for your efforts to change rather than just reinforce the changes yourself.
  • Assist in monitoring your efforts to change.
  • Listen and be understanding when you are depressed over an apparent lack of progress.
  • Kick you in the butt when needed to keep you on track.
  • Accept you in your new lifestyle and to continue to reinforce you in these changes.
  • Point out needed alterations in your lifestyle without nagging, harping, complaining, or criticizing.
  • Compliment your efforts to recover and the resulting changes without overemphasis on the changes themselves.

What irrational beliefs keep you from seeking social support as you attempt to recover?

  • I should be able to do this on my own.
  • It is a sign of weakness to ask others for support.
  • It is embarrassing to let others know of my personal weaknesses.
  • You should never burden anyone else with your feelings or personal concerns.
  • People who know a lot about me or my life can take advantage of me.
  • People are basically self‑centered and selfish; they don't really care about me.
  • I don't need others to help me change my life.
  • People are always trying to get me to conform to their ways of thinking, acting, and believing.
  • If I let others know what I am trying to do, they will always be on my back.
  • I hate to be reminded of things I know I need to be doing for myself.

What can you do to create a social support system at the SEA's program?

  • Share telephone numbers & email addresses with your fellow 12 Step group members like the Buddies at SEA.
  • Call or email one another during the week to reinforce each other's efforts.
  • Call or email one another when you are discouraged.
  • Celebrate each other's progress and efforts.
  • Encourage one another to stick to the program of recovery.
  • Take each other seriously and provide support when discouraged or weakening.
  • Be tough with one another so that when the going gets rough you can confront each other to stay on track.
  • Reward each other's attendance at your 12 Step or SEA's meetings and recognize that just being there is a sign of wanting to change.
  • Openly admit how hard it is to change one's lifestyle.
  • Brainstorm and share tips on what works in getting through the rough stages and plateaus in the recovery process.
  • Share insights and information to make the recovery process more palatable.
  • Give permission to confront each other in order to re‑focus on the serious and difficult task of recovery and change.
  • Maintain and encourage a sense of humor during the re‑adjustment time of recovery lifestyle change.

NOTE:  For more information on developing healthy support relationships in recovery, read Tools for Relationships and Tools for Handling Control Issues by James J. Messina, Ph.D.