The recovery of addictions also implies a great change in the social identity of the one who undertakes this path. According to the Social Identity Model of Recovery, the change of identity from active addict to an addict in recovery is socially negotiated. For this, the change of group and reference people is fundamental.
In this sense, recovery is achieved through socially mediated processes such as learning and social control. Finally, it is transmitted in mutual aid groups, through a process of social influence. In short, the addict is weaving his own recovery networks.
How are these changes in social identity reflected in the daily lives of addicts seeking help? For this I would like to refer to a study published in Addiction Research & Theory. The researchers captured the changes in a recovery community, based on the online interactions of its members over a period of eight months.
In this study, 67 clients participated in a recovery community for marginal people. They were connected through a Facebook group. It is important to clarify that this Facebook group is not the recovery community. It is made up of 67 people, 5 members of the therapeutic team and support networks formed by more than 700 people. This Facebook group was one of the ways to monitor the interactions of the participants.
Through different software, comments on posts, likes and comments were tracked; as well as changes in the content of these interactions. During week 11, a positive event occurred that was key for the group. This event represents an example of the pro-social behavior adopted by many of the members of the program that were aligned with the values and norms of the community.
Six participants prevented a violent attack on a girl whose assailant was trying to kill her, and gave notice to the police. The case, which occurred in November 2015, received extensive coverage by local media and participants received recognition from the police.
The linguistic markers of affiliation and positive emotions were fired after this incident. However, there were differences between posts and comments. More positive emotions were expressed in the publications than in the comments, while these tended to be more directed towards the event described itself.
It was observed that veterans (those who were in the group before the event) made greater use of the “we” marker, as well as those of positive emotions, belonging and achievement than the rest of the members. The newcomers (those participants incorporated after the event), on the other hand, reflected only elevated marker levels affiliation.
Differences in interactions were also observed before and after the key event described. This was reflected in the broad comments of support from a large number of community members (not from the therapeutic team or other participants in the program). Finally, through established interactions and indicators, it was determined that veterans showed greater recovery capital than new members.
The study is innovative and shows the effect that a positive critical event can have on the recovery of numerous patients. Without entering into the methodological difficulties of the study or generalizing its results with enthusiasm, I prefer to focus on highlighting that recovery is action.
The researchers refer to a relevant event that generated great social recognition from the community and support networks. The effect of an event of such caliber can influence a specific number of individuals in the short term. It is the value of the action that helps the rest of the classmates.
However, I would like to conclude by highlighting the cumulative effect of pro-social behaviors, which are carried out every day by recovering addicts with honesty, receptivity, humility and good will. Most of them are behaviors that go unnoticed by many and will not appear on any newspaper cover. These are actions that improve the life of a family, a friend or a stranger and, above all, of the person who carries them out.
WHO OWNS THE MERIT OF RECOVERY, TO THE INDIVIDUAL OR THE GROUP?
To answer this question, I refer to the results of an interesting study, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. It explored the role of the reference group and some factors of social identity in the recovery of the addict. To this they were interviewed more than 573 addicts in recovery about two moments of his life. The first one referred to its stage in consumption and the second to its stage in recovery. An interesting fact is that 55% of the sample were women, since men usually predominate in these studies.
DOES IT COMPENSATE FOR THE EFFORT?
This is a question that many patients and family members often ask, considering that many problems do not disappear when using ceases. On the contrary, we must deal with complicated situations at work or at home, feelings or experiences that were previously “anesthetized” are experienced. The recovering addict must learn to communicate assertively and set limits. In short, it is a very complicated process with little recognition.
Home is where the heart is.
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