Recovery brings about a lot of changes in your life, including who you surround yourself with. It is critical that you reevaluate your current relationships and cut ties with anyone who is not supportive of your new sober lifestyle. While this might diminish your social circle, do not get discouraged. Forming new, positive connections is a rewarding part of recovery.
While reaching out to new people can be intimidating at first, surrounding yourself with positive people will not only keep you motivated in your recovery but will improve your overall happiness. Below, you’ll find some tips on how to build a strong sober support network that can help you overcome any challenges ahead and will be there to celebrate all your victories.
To form a strong support network that can effectively help you navigate through all the changes in your new life, you first need to ask yourself what you are looking for. Explore your true needs. Ask yourself:
Do I need someone who will go to meetings with me?
Do I need someone who will encourage you to I healthier and work out more?
Do I need someone who will tell me what I need to hear, even if it is not what I want to hear?
Knowing what you need will make it easier to recognize who should be a part of your support network.
While it is important that you are honest about your needs, you also need to be able to relay them to those around you. Your friends and family want to help but they may not know how. So, be open and honest. Do not be afraid to educate them about what you are going through, how you are feeling, and what they can do to help. If you need them to be more patient and understanding with you because you are having a tough day, let them know. If you are feeling lazy or uninspired and need someone to push you to go to a meeting or practice some self-care, ask for help. Remember, you cannot get what you want unless you ask for it.
TIP #2: Choose Wisely.
Who you include as part of your support network is very important. When making new friends, ask yourself:
Do they abuse drugs or alcohol? If they do, they should not be a part of your network as they could be a source of temptations and triggers that could derail your progress. Note that not everyone in your network has to be in recovery. You will likely have friends or family who drink during social occasions. Just be sure to establish boundaries, such as asking them to not drink in front of you or not ask you to go to bars with them.
How do they make me feel? Is their positivity contagious? Do they encourage you to go out of your comfort zone or inspire you to be better? Or does their negativity cause you stress or make you feel down? Being around negative people can be stressful, so avoid this trait when forming new friendships.
Are they living healthy lives? Surrounding yourself with people who take care of themselves and value their well-being will encourage you to do the same.
TIP #3: Embrace Diversity.
While surrounding yourself with others like you provides a sense of comfort, having a diverse group of friends gives you access to fresh new perspectives. When building your support network, consider attending 12 Step meetings and introducing yourself to everyone and seeing who you click with. By including individuals of different ages, cultures, backgrounds, and years of sobriety in your life, you will be exposed to a wealth of knowledge.
Another great way to make new friends is by attending sober events. Many treatment centers hold educational workshops and fun sober activities for their alumni to socialize with one another. If you went to treatment, reach out to the staff there and see if they have an alumni group. Sober events can range from open mic nights to mountain climbing and are a great way for you to not only meet new people but relearn to have fun sober.
TIP #4: Go Beyond.
Don’t limit yourself to only making friends in recovery. Go beyond your comfort zone and interact with others, even those who may have no experience with addiction. Know that while you are sober, sobriety is not your full identity. There are many other things that make you who you are. So, think about what you are passionate about and get involved ⎼ take a cooking class, go to the gym, start volunteering, take a computer course ⎼ and make an effort to meet others there, too.
Befriending individuals outside of the recovery community can be intimidating for some. A common worry is explaining that you are sober. While this is an understandable concern, know that no one worth having as a friend will think of you any differently just because you are choosing to live a healthier life.
TIP #5: Try Online.
Spending too much time on your phone, particularly on social media, can distract you. It can also slow your progress in recovery. But going online does provide you access to many sober social networks where you can connect with others who may be going through similar things. Mobile apps like Sober Grid can help you connect to other sober people no matter the time of day, which can be particularly helpful when you are going through a crisis or experiencing cravings. Sites like MeetUp – and even using the hashtag #livingsober on Instagram – can also introduce you to others living healthy, fulfilling lives.
TIP #6: Remain Open.
A big part of recovery is rediscovering yourself, your passions, and how to enjoy life sober. To do this, you need to remain open-minded about trying new things and meeting new people. Try doing things you have never experienced before, such as going kayaking, singing karaoke, or painting. Even if you decide this is not the activity for you, you may end up making genuine connections with people there. It is not so much about what you do but who you spend that time with.
In sum, fight back against any resistance you may feel towards trying new things and get out of your comfort zone. The more you put yourself out there, the more you and your support network will grow.
TIP #7: Don’t Rush.
Seeing all the positive changes in your life is exciting but be sure to take everything one step at a time. Do not rush into friendships because you feel the pressure to have a support network set up. Allow friendships to form naturally rather than forcing them. Similarly, once you have made new friends, practice tolerance. Recovery might be new to them and you cannot expect them to fully understand everything you have gone through. Understand that you are forming new connections and you need to build them up over time.
Your Support Network Is Your Lifeline
While addiction might have been isolating and lonely, your recovery should not be. Positive relationships are a key component of a healthy, fulfilling life. So, reinforce your current relationships and allow yourself to form new ones. Having a group of individuals you can both reach out to during tough times and celebrate your accomplishments with can make all the difference in your recovery.
And if you need help, reach out. You can use this article as a place to begin. Please leave your questions or comments in the section below. We’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly!
About the Author: John Hamilton is Chief Clinical Outreach Officer for Mountainside Treatment Center. He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist as well as a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor. At Mountainside, he communicates the depth and intricacies of the company’s portfolio of programs and offerings, which have redefined addiction treatment for thousands of individuals across the country. John has been a consultant for the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA).