Loneliness is a dangerous emotion for people in sobriety, especially for those in early sobriety. It is therefore essential that the individual begins forming friendships. A network of clean and sober friends can not only help with loneliness, but they will also be a good resource for support and advice.
The Need for New Friends in Recovery
One of the challenges for people in recovery, especially in early recovery, is to make new clean and sober friends. We have to change our playgrounds and playmates if we want to stay sober. Spending time with old acquaintances who are still drinking or using is asking for trouble at best. These people individuals are a strong a link to the past, and we all know the saying “misery loves company”. Old using and drinking buddies can easily pull a clean and sober person back into addiction. Although it is difficult, in order to protect sobriety it is usually necessary to end some friendships. Breaking these sometimes strong emotional ties is difficult, but if the person is serious about staying sober, there is really no other choice. In addition to saying goodbye to some old friendships, the newly clean and sober person will also need to build some new ones. Otherwise life in recovery will be a lonely time, and this usually doesn’t last long before we pick up again.
The Need for Social Support
Friends are a necessary element of a successful life in recovery. Humans beings are by nature social animals and they depend on a network of other humans to provide certain support functions. These are some of the most important considerations:
* Friends in recovery can offer feedback on our thinking and behavior. The newly sober addict is usually not good at monitoring their own behavior. Members of the social support network can advise the individual about how well they really doing.
* A sober social group offers emotional support. This is a crucial for a recovering addict because they will feel they feel supported and even loved. Even if their friends can’t offer any practical help this emotional support can still make a huge difference.
* A sober social group can offer physical assistance when trouble arises. This could include many types of assistance, such as helping the individual move, borrowing clothes or other items, or in some cases lending them money.
* The sober social support is a good resource for information and advice. Rather than rely on one person’s experience or opinion, the sober social group allows the individual to have access to an array of experiences and opinions.
Importance of Friendship in Early Recovery
Friendship and socialization are especially important for the individual who is in early recovery because:
* When people first become sober, they often feel particularly vulnerable. The world can appear as a strange and dangerous place and often the newly sober person feels anxiety about the future. Friends can offer advice and give their support.
* Early sobriety can be a lonely time if people do not have a good support network around them. This is because the newly sober individual will have needed to say goodbye to their old friends who are still drinking our using. Loneliness is a potential relapse trigger so it needs to be avoided.
* Having contact with people who have already been clean and sober for a substantial time is a big help. They have progressed further along the path of recovery and can act as guides, warning the newly sober person of possible pitfalls. The other advantage of spending time with these types of people is they are examples of the fact that it’s possible to stay clean and sober and be happy.
* Boredom is another relapse trigger in early recovery. With nothing to do and no friends, the individual feels that life is dull and old friends and places can seem attractive. Spending time with clean and sober friends is a good antidote to boredom.
Loneliness as a Relapse Trigger
Your disease wants to get you alone and kill you. If people feel lonely they will begin to believe that life in recovery is unsatisfying. Loneliness is not always associated with the number of people in the individual’s life. Some people can feel lonely even when they are in a room full of people. Real friends are crucial to avoiding this feeling.
A relapse trigger is a feeling or event that increases the chances an individual will return to active addiction. Loneliness takes joy out of life. Many times it’s this unbearable feeling of being separate and different from everyone else, that helped the progression of addiction in the first place.
How to Make Friends in Recovery
Making new friends can appear to be scary and difficult. Addicts often struggle with low self-esteem, and they tend to carry this with them into recovery. This lack of self-confidence can mean that they can feel a bit uncomfortable around new people. Here are some tips to help you find new friends in recovery:
* People who join a recovery fellowship usually find this the best way to make sober friends. This is because by joining a group they will automatically get to meet a new bunch of people with at least one shared common interest
* People who attend one of the 12 Step fellowships will find it easier to make friends if they have a home group. A home group is a meeting you attend on a regular basis , “no matter what.” This forces you to be around the same people on a regular basis and have the opportunity to form friendships. A person who is always going to different meetings finds it harder to get to know people and thus make friends.
* You must be a good friend in order to build strong friendships. Addicts are selfish and self-centered, always thinking about themselves. This can make it difficult for them to make friends. A way to combat this tendency is to spend more time thinking about other people.
* Going along with the last point, service in recovery is a wonderful way to meet new friends. This type of voluntary work strengthens one’s sobriety and gives them the chance to give something back.
* Recovery is a good time for trying out new activities, hobbies, and interests. Joining a class or club, like surfing or hiking, can provide a good opportunity to make friends.
* Usually as a person stays clean and sober longer they find it easier to build friendships. TPart of recovery is the development of some emotional maturity. A person who is emotionally sober is much easier to be around, and therefore more easily attract new people into their life.
* The internet and social media provide opportunities for forming new friendships. This type of electronic social networking does lack some of the intensity of face to face relationships, but it is possible to forge strong friendships online. There are many recovery communities on the web and on social media where sober people can mingle.
* Forming friendships usually involves putting forth some effort. Perhaps only saying hello or offering a smile. It’s hard to make friends if you ignore people.
* If you expect too much from other people it’s difficult to make lasting friendships. We are all imperfect, and friends should be respected for who they are, not what they can do for you.