The Best Way to Build Your Own Addiction Recovery Support Network
The importance of creating an addiction recovery support network can not be underestimated. Take a good look at those around you and ask yourself – are they having a positive impact on my life and helping me stay in recovery?
Going through addiction recovery is sure to change your life in several ways, including the people that you surround yourself with. It is vital that you take time to re-evaluate your current relationships and get rid of those who don’t support your efforts to get sober and live a clean and healthy lifestyle. This might mean diminishing your social circle, but you shouldn’t let that discourage you. Fostering new and more positive connections is one of the more rewarding aspects of the recovery process.
While it may be intimidating to try and reach out to new people, having positive people around you helps you stay motivated during recovery and will leave you feeling much happier in general. Below are some tips for building a strong sober support network that will be there to support you and help you overcome any barriers or challenges. As well as helping you get through the bad, they will be there to celebrate the good and motivate you to continue making positive changes.
1) Choose Wisely
Who you choose to be in your support network is an important decision. Here’s what to ask yourself when making a new friend;
- Do they use any drugs or alcohol?
If they are using any substances then they don’t belong in your support network if they may tempt you or trigger you into relapsing, sabotaging your progress. Keep in mind that not everyone in your support network has to be in recovery themselves. You are going to have some friends and family who drink socially and during special events. Just make sure that you establish boundaries with them, such as asking them to not invite you out to a bar or drink around you.
- How do they make you feel?
Do they have a contagious positive personality? Do they push you to go beyond your comfort zone and inspire you to better yourself? Or does their negativity bring you down and stress you out? It is stressful to be around negative people, so try to avoid making friends with negative people when building a support network.
- Are they living healthy lives?
Being surrounded by likeminded people who are taking care of themselves and value their own well-being encourages you to take care of yourself and value yourself.
2) Be Open
One of the biggest parts of the recovery process is taking time to rediscover yourself, your passions, and how you can live a happy and enjoyable life when sober. You should remain open-minded about giving new things a try and meeting some new people.
Try things that you’ve never done before like martial arts, painting, or kayaking. Even if the activity isn’t appealing to you in the end, you can still make some genuine connections while trying them out. It’s not so much about the things you do, but the people you spend time with while doing them.
3) Be Honest
You must be honest with yourself about what you need from your support network in order to establish a strong one that can see you through the challenges ahead. Ask yourself the following questions;
- Do I need someone to go with me to meetings?
- Do I need someone to encourage me to be healthier and work out more?
- Do I need someone who will tell me what I need to hear, whether or not I want to hear it?
Understanding what you need from those around you makes it easier to identify who does – and doesn’t – belong in your support network.
As important as it is to be honest about what you need, you should also be able to properly relay your needs to the people around you. Your friends and family are going to want to help however they can, but they might be unsure how. You should be open and honest with them. Don’t be afraid to educate them about the process of rehab, what you’re doing, how you feel, and how they can help.
If you need some patience and understanding from them as you are having a particularly bad day, then you should tell them. If you are feeling unmotivated and you need someone to push you to go to meetings and practice self-care, then ask them for help. Keep in mind that you can only get what you need by asking for it.
4) Try Going Online
Using your phone too much, especially spending too much time on social media, is distracting and can slow down recovery progress. However, going online provides you with a lot of access to a number of sober social networks where you are able to connect with people who are experiencing similar things to you.
Mobile apps such as Sober Grid connect you to other sober people at any time of day. This can be great if you are going through a crisis and struggling with cravings. Using websites such as MeetUp – and participating on social media with hashtags like #LivingSober – can introduce you to others living clean, healthy, and fulfilling lives.
5) Go Outside your Comfort Zone
Don’t let yourself be limited to only making friends who are also recovering. Go outside your comfort zone and interact with other people, including those who have never experienced any kind of addiction. Understand that being sober is part of who you are, but it doesn’t define your identity. There are lots of other things that go into making you the person you are.
Think about the things you are passionate about and get involved with them; whether it’s taking cooking classes, going to the gym, volunteering, taking a computer course, or doing anything else. What matters is that you take the time to do something and make an effort to interact with other people there.
Some people may find it intimidating to try and befriend those outside of their recovery community. One thing people are worried about is having to explain that they are sober. That concern is understandable of course, but keep in mind that anyone who would judge you for choosing to live healthy and get sober is someone that you don’t want in your life anyway.
6) Embrace Diversity
While there is some comfort in having people like you in your life, having a diverse friend group means you can get some fresh perspectives on things. When you are building a support network, consider going to 12 step meetings and introducing yourself to everyone there. See if there is anyone that you click with. By having a network of people from a range of ages, backgrounds, cultures, and with different years of sobriety, you’ll have access to plenty of invaluable knowledge and experience.
Another way to meet and make new friends is with sober events. Most treatment centers will host educational workshops and other fun sober activities where alumni can attend and socialize with each other. Get in touch with the staff at your old treatment center to see if there is an alumni group you can join. Sober events include things like open mic nights and mountain climbing. They are a great way to connect with new people and learn how to have fun while being sober again.
7) Don’t Rush Things
It can be exciting to see how your life is changing for the better, but you want to make sure that you handle everything one step at a time. Don’t rush into a friendship because you are feeling pressured to establish a support network. Let a friendship form naturally over time instead of trying to force it.
Similarly, be sure to practice tolerance after making friends. They might be new to recovery and you shouldn’t expect them to automatically understand everything you’ve gone through. Understand that you are establishing new connections and that they take time to build.
Your Support Network Is Your Lifeline
While you may have felt lonely and isolated as an addict, recovery needs to be anything but. Having positive relationships in your life is a vital part of living a healthy and fulfilling life.
Take the time to reinforce current relationships and let yourself establish new ones. Having people around you that you can reach out to in the tough times and celebrate accomplishments with makes all the difference in the world during recovery.