Building a support network in recovery is essential. Spending time with people who are positive, living life to the fullest without drugs and alcohol, and supportive of you doing the same provides a number of benefits, including:
- Accountability for choices in recovery
- Encouragement to avoid relapse
- Support in the event that cravings crop up
- Shared experiences in recovery
- The opportunity to help others and support them in their healthy endeavors
The more time you spend with people who are living positively, the more positive choices become the norm and the less likely you will be to consider drugs and alcohol as a viable resource for management of stress, boredom, anger, and other issues that arise.
Here are a few ways to build a support network from scratch or bolster the one you have.
- Go to 12-Step meetings.
Free, readily available almost everywhere in the country, and filled with people at different stages of recovery, 12-Step meetings offer a great resource if you are looking to connect with new people who are interested in making connections as well. Whether you are just starting out in building your support network or looking to meet new people who understand what you are experiencing in recovery, 12-Step meetings and other addiction-focused support groups can be a great place to start.
Similarly, connecting with other support groups that speak to another part of your life can also be a place to connect with people who are seeking positive change. Parenting groups, groups for those diagnosed with a mental or physical disorder that you live with, grief groups, and similar support groups can all provide a forum for meaningful connections with others.
- Rebuild family relationships.
Family members are often the people most deeply hurt by an addiction, and it can be difficult to face the high emotions surrounding those memories and experiences. Though it can feel counterintuitive to come face to face with these rough issues when you are working so hard to remain positive, it can be helpful to allow for some amount of time to continually process through difficult emotions and work toward hopeful solutions in important relationships.
It is important to note, however, that healing will not occur overnight; thus, family members may or may not initially be a great source of support in recovery. However, taking the time to attend family therapy sessions and begin the work of rebuilding those relationships that have played a large role in your life can eventually lead to strong bonds that help you to maintain long-term recovery.
- Take a yoga class.
Yoga is a great addition to recovery and an excellent way to meet positive people – and so is a tai chi class or art class. You can learn how to play an instrument or learn Japanese – whatever it is that interests you. Join a gardening collective or a book club, enroll in a community college course, or volunteer at a homework club for kids – anything that is positive, you enjoy doing, and serves to decrease your stress levels will help to put you in contact with other people who are also living a positive life.
Connect with your classmates or others in the group slowly. Unlike recovery support groups, it cannot be assumed that anyone you meet is clean and sober; thus, people you meet outside of the recovery community may with good intention invite you out for a drink or to another activity where drugs and alcohol are present. Instead, choose to socialize at activities that support continued growth in recovery. These activities can generate positive connections that will boost your recovery.
- Connect with a workout group.
A regular running group, exercise classes at the gym, or a sports team – physical activity is good for your physical and mental health, and it will put you in contact with others who are working to make healthy choices. Better than simply making a personal commitment to a running regimen or regular workouts, connecting with a group of people who are working out regularly can help you make progress on your personal health goals and create positive habits on a long-term basis. When you feel better physically, you will also feel better mentally. This will contribute to your ability to make positive choices in relationships with new people and create friendships or even acquaintanceships that help you to stave off loneliness and stay committed to your recovery.
- Be judicious.
While friendships and other social connections in recovery are essential to helping you avoid the isolation that can be a trigger for relapse, it is important to remain aware when forging bonds and building sustainable relationships. Some points to remember include:
- Not every connection you make will become a long-term friendship. You may attempt to be friends with someone and find that they are simply too busy or otherwise disinterested. This is not a personal attack on you or a negative judgment of any kind. Rather, it is a non-issue, perfectly acceptable, and doesn’t require even a second thought.
- Not all new friendships will last forever. Rather than getting overly attached to a friendship, it is important to practice mindfulness and allow the friendship to continue to grow and evolve over weeks, months, and potentially years. People move, their schedules change, and other relationships start or end; thus, connections change as well. It is a great thing to find a new friend and enjoy spending time with that person, but it is also important to allow that friendship to evolve as needed without judgment.
- People who are actively abusing drugs or alcohol are not positive choices. Even if someone is supportive of your decision to stay sober, if they regularly abuse drugs or alcohol, it is not a good fit, especially if you are just starting out in recovery and beginning to build your support network.
- Checking in on the status of friendships is just as important as checking in with yourself in recovery. It’s a good idea to remain actively aware in all relationships and to identify any situations or interactions with certain people that cause you to feel stress, jealousy, anger, irritation, or poor self-esteem or self-confidence. Any of these can be a trigger for relapse and a good reason to look for other connections in recovery.