When I was going through the worst period of my drinking, there was only one person who I felt did not judge me. She never yelled, shamed, or spoke down to me. She just acted as she always did around me, even when my life was falling apart at the seams. Her unwavering support and gentle, quiet friendship led me to trust her enough to ask her to take me to my first and only medical detox—something I normally would have never done.
In other words, she made me feel safe.
Finding your “safe” person in recovery can be an important step in overcoming alcohol addiction. It gives you a trusted ally, a non-judgemental source of support, and a lifeline during your worst moments. I know that for me, having a good friend to contact made all the difference.
But how do you identify this person in your life? And what makes someone a good ally? Here are some tips for finding your “safe” person in recovery, and getting the support you need.
Finding Your “Safe” Person
At that moment in my life, I have no idea what I would have done if it wasn’t for my friend Holly—my “safe” person. Uber was not around back then, and I was certainly incapable of driving anywhere. There were no other friends or family members that I trusted enough to call. But there she was, offering up friendship with no lecturing or anger. I felt comfortable contacting her, and so I got the help I needed.
To this day I am still grateful that she was around. But if you don’t have someone like that in your life yet, how do you go about finding them? In most cases, the answer is both simple and challenging: You ask someone you trust to be that “safe” person.
This can feel really hard sometimes, especially when there’s so much shame attached to addiction in our culture. But for many of us, support is actually closer than we imagine it to be.
Start by thinking through your friends and family members. Is there anyone else who has struggled with and overcome substance abuse? If not, what about someone who has dealt with another issue, such as an eating disorder, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? Any of these people may understand what you’re going through, and be willing to provide shame-free support.
You may also have a close friend in your life who doesn’t yet know how much you’re struggling with alcohol. If you trust this person on other levels, this could be a good time to let them know what you’re going through. You may be surprised how supportive they are. Rather than driving them away, having the opportunity to help you may make them feel valued, and bring the two of you closer together.
You may feel ashamed asking for assistance, but in truth, this can be an important part of recovery. Being open with others helps you commit to changing your relationship with alcohol, and may also help you realize how connected you really are.
What Makes A Good “Safe” Person?
A good “safe” person is someone who will demonstrate kindness, patience, and empathy for you throughout your journey. They may or may not have their own experience with recovery. The most important thing is that they care about you, and won’t make you feel judged.
Your safe person may be someone you speak with regularly for moral support. They might also simply be someone you can call in times of emergency. How much you interact, and how, is up to the two of you. But on a basic level, you should feel you can rely on them in moments when it’s hard to take care of yourself.
I took it for granted that I could turn to my friend in my time of crisis, knowing she’d help me find a detox place that accepted my insurance, and that she’d drive me there. It was incredibly easy for me to make that call to her, and that’s what you want in a safe person. The less you have to think in your worst moments, the better. I was so lucky to have someone who would step up and help me without any judgement or shame. For that, I am forever grateful to my friend Holly.
The Importance of Support in Recovery
Addiction is a challenging, and often isolating disease. Having no one to turn to can be frightening. It can also be damaging to feel you need to lie to cover up your addiction because you don’t trust those around you. This is why having someone you can ask for help in times of crisis is such a gift, and why it’s so important to find a safe person, or an ally.
If you don’t have someone who can do this already, I encourage you to take the risk, reach out, and find them.
Of course, the support of friends and family is only part of the picture. It can also make a big difference to have access to recovery coaching, peer support groups, or the structure of an evidence-based program. If you’re ready to make a change, and feel that you could use some support, I encourage you to try an online program such as Ria Health. But whatever path you choose, remember that even if it’s hard to ask for help, recovery is always better with an ally.
Claudia Christian is a successful film and television actress. She is also founder of the C Three Foundation, and a passionate advocate for the Sinclair Method to treat alcohol dependence. Christian is currently a member of Ria Health‘s Advisory Board.