How to Build a Sober Support Network
One of the most important things to do once you start your recovery is develop a sober support network. This support network will be one of the most important foundations upon which your recovery rests.
Your support network will include friends, family members, professionals, and perhaps other recovering drug users and alcoholics. Together, your support network will help to provide you with encouragement so that you can remain focused on your recovery goals.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes seem challenging to build a support network. At other times, you may forget why it’s important to even have one in the first place. This article will address some of these topics and provide some tips and tricks on how to build a strong and effective support network.
Why Social Support Is Important
One of the most interesting things that is noted by many addiction counselors is that many substance abusers initially begin using substances because they help to encourage social behavior. The majority of drugs of abuse have some sort of social lubricating effect, whether that is by diminishing anxiety or helping to stifle the voice of self-criticism.
In either case, when people become dependent on these drugs in order to socialize, they don’t actually develop their social skills very much. Rather, in each and every opportunity that they could use to improve upon their social skills, they are instead reliant on a crutch: substances.
Once returning to the world of sobriety, it can be overwhelming to try and return to socialization without the help of substance abuse. However, this is necessary in order to destroy any destructive patterns that have emerged as a result of substance abuse.
There are lots of reasons that it’s important to have a social support network.
This can help you re-engage with damaged relationships
During a life of addiction, many people may unwittingly damage their personal relationships. Whether it’s their relationship with family members, friends, or romantic partners, addiction is known to wreak havoc on interpersonal connections.
Unfortunately, this creates a challenge for people who are attempting to enter recovery. They may feel that their relationships are damaged beyond repair, or they may feel that the people they would typically rely on for social support may not be available or willing to assist them.
Building a social support network – even if you must do so with other people – can help you regain the necessary skills to help rebuild these relationships. This can help you close the distance from family members and friends who would normally be willing to support you.
You will be surrounded by healthy, sober individuals
Regardless of how well you got along with the friends that you used with, they cannot be completely considered a good influence. Once you enter recovery, it’s important to surround yourself with people who are healthy, positive influences.
This can often be difficult to do at first. However, your ultimate goal should be to surround yourself with people who do not enable you. Instead, find people who support your recovery goals and encourage you to be the best person that you could possibly be.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to attend recovery meetings. The people in these meetings have dealt with a similar struggle as you, and they are all reaching a similar goal.
You will have a better chance to express your thoughts
Attempting to struggle through recovery on your own can be extremely difficult. Not only make you become prone to loneliness, but you will have nobody to voice your struggle to.
Unless you are prone to introspection and contemplation, it can be extremely helpful or even necessary to have people to talk to you about your feelings. If you attempt to go through recovery without the support of people to help you understand your situation, you may not be able to move forward as easily.
A support group can also help you navigate any obstacles that arise as you progress through your recovery. You never know what sort of challenges are going to come your way, and it can be very helpful to know that there are people around to support you no matter what happens.
Positive peer pressure
You may already be familiar with peer pressure. Peer pressure is often understood to be a negative force. It often occurs when groups or individuals pressure other people to engage in unhealthy activities, like using drugs.
However, there is such a thing as positive peer pressure. This is one of the things that your support group will be able to offer you.
Positive peer pressure comes in the form of people encouraging you to make healthy decisions. This might mean reminding you to attend your meetings, encouraging you to eat healthy food, or joining you on a regular exercise routine.
You will reduce the chance of relapse
Research has shown for quite some time that a support network is important for helping people in recovery avoid relapse. There are many reasons for this.
A healthy support group helps to prevent feelings of isolation. They also provide a lifeline during difficult times. If you don’t have anyone to rely on when you were struggling with cravings or difficult emotions, it becomes all the more easier to relapse.
Social support networks provide more opportunities
One of the greatest challenges that you’ll face in recovery is seeking and finding new opportunities. Having a strong social group can help improve your chances of finding employment, helping you achieve your educational goals, and connecting with other recreational and cultural opportunities.
This helps to make it easier for you to contribute as a citizen, a family member, a partner, and a friend. The stronger your support group, the easier it will be for you to get an in with your society.
Social support groups help to reduce the stigma against substance abuse.
Most people who have struggled with addiction are well aware of the strife associated with the stigma of addiction. Our current society often demonizes people who struggle with addiction.
The reality is that people who struggle with addiction are just normal people. However, many people do not recognize this until they have a chance to connect with those who have already overcome an addiction. One of the easiest ways to do this is to build a healthy support network and to open up about your past experiences.
Support groups can provide hope
One of the best things about developing a support group filled with people who are also in recovery is that they can provide hope. Recovery can seem extremely daunting when you were trying to tackle it on your own.
However, if you have the opportunity to connect with people who are managing a successful recovery, you may begin to find hope. This will remind you that change is always possible, and you may be able to use these people as a source of inspiration for your own recovery.
Tips on Building a Strong Support Network
These are some tips and tricks that you can employ in order to build a strong support network.
1. Make sure you’re properly educated
The first thing that you’ll want to do is to make sure that you’re properly educated about substance abuse, recovery, and the future challenges that you will be facing. Everyone’s recovery is a lot different, and to be successful with your own, you need to be clear about your own goals.
What’s more, you need to make sure that you are getting your information from a solid, reliable source. Not all information related to addiction and recovery is created equal, and some of it is simply untrue and unhelpful.
It’s important to practice the skills of discernment, especially when you are working with friends and family. Encourage your support network to learn more about addiction and the challenges that you are facing.
Be clear about your needs
It’s not only important to educate yourself about your needs. It’s just as important to let your support group know exactly what they can do to help you. You’re not going to be able to get much support from them if they don’t know how they can be of assistance.
If you’re going to do this properly, then you need to take time to think about your goals and needs. You may want to spend some time writing out ideas of how you plan to achieve your goals. Then, you can share your ideas with the people in your support group.
Attend recovery meetings
One of the easiest ways to build a new support group is to attend recovery meetings. There are a lot of different recovery meetings that you can choose from.
Of course, there are the typical AA and NA meetings. These meetings employ the standard 12 step program to help recovering addicts manage their recovery. However, not everyone responds positively to the 12 step program. These are some other options that you may want to choose from.
- SMART Recovery, a recovery program based on rational emotive behavioral therapy that often appeals to people who are off-put by the religious/spiritual nature of the 12-step program
- Celebrate Recovery, another recovery program that practices a spiritual approach focusing on the Bible
- The Secular Organizations for Sobriety, a program that aims to help people develop their personal responsibility and accountability skills
- Refuge Recovery, a recovery group that engages many of the core practices and principles of Buddhism to help people engage in their recovery
No matter which recovery group you choose to go with, one of the most important things to do is to build new connections.
However, don’t throw yourself under the bus. Remember that strong connections take time to build. It’s important to be cautious about who you connect with, and remember that not everyone you meet will become a lifelong friend.
In either case, recovery meetings are a great opportunity to expose yourself to people who have been through a similar situation.
One of the most difficult things that many recovering users must face is the damage that has been done to their relationships. Addiction tends to negatively impact family relationships, friendships, and even romantic relationships.
One of the most important things to do when building your support network is learn how to rebuild and repair these relationships. The people closest to you are often the ones who are hurt the most by your addiction. And, these are often the people who will be most important in your support group.
At first, it may seem difficult to accept responsibility for the damage caused by your addiction. For many people, this involves accepting and apologizing for unethical behavior such as lying, deceiving, or even stealing.
While this might be uncomfortable at first, this also shows that you are willing to repair the damage done by your addiction. Acknowledging your past behavior and making amends for it also proves to your friends and family that you have become a different person.
It’s important that you be patient with yourself and your loved ones during this process. Depending on how long you were addicted, it might take some time for your family and friends to regain their trust in you.
The important part is to be persistent and to remain a positive example of the changes that you have made. Over time, your family and friends will recognize that you are not the same person that you were when you were struggling with addiction. Once they see that you were making positive changes, they will be happy to assist you and encourage you to continue improving.
Engage in community classes
Another way to get people into your support group is to start participating in community classes. Not only will this help to meet people, but this will also allow you to connect with people who share similar interests as you. Here are some examples of classes that you could take to help speed along your recovery.
Yoga is a fantastic way to help facilitate recovery. As a form of exercise and meditation, a regular practice of yoga helps to ground you in your body, manage your emotions, and become more familiar with the sensations associated with recovery.
Start a workout
There are lots of gyms that offer group memberships. You can also join a running group, or start participating in a swim meet. There are lots of different exercise activities that you can do in a group which can help connect you with other people.
Exercise is also vital to recovery. Exercise helps the brain produce neurotransmitters which are responsible for helping to balance your mood and anxiety. Many people find great success in replacing their drug use with exercise. However, be cautious not to become addicted to exercise! While this may be healthier than an addiction to chemical drugs, exercise addiction is still a concern that can create further health complications.
Take a new course in a community college
A great way to fill up your time is to start taking a new course in a community college. You may find that you are fascinated by some new subject material that you previously didn’t have the time to attend to.
When this happens, you can be certain that all of the people in your class share at least one similar interest as you. This can be a great way to meet new people and further your recovery.
One thing that’s important in any of these situations is to take your time connecting with people. You can’t be certain that everyone in your new class is sober, and most likely, few people are in recovery or familiar with how to assist people in recovery.
However, this does not mean that they would be unwilling to support someone who is in recovery. Most likely, they would be excited to meet someone who is engaging in one of their favorite hobbies in an attempt to remain sober.
Be patient and forgiving
If you are attempting to include people in your support group who have been hurt or damaged by your addiction, don’t get upset if they are slow to warm up to you. People are often hesitant when others make drastic changes in their behavior. This is especially true if you have struggled with addictive behavior for many years.
You must also be patient when people don’t have the necessary skills to help you manage your recovery. Most people are unfamiliar with addiction and recovery, and as such don’t know what a recovering individual will need. This is your opportunity to educate and inform them about recovery.
If you are new to recovery and struggling with anxiety or social problems, it may be difficult for you to pick up the phone or respond to text messages from people who are interested in helping you.
If you feel this way, it’s important to remember that this is exactly what you asked for. Even if you have to step a little bit outside of your comfort zone, remember that this is probably going to help you grow. Anytime somebody offers to help you, even if you are not expecting it, do your best to seize the opportunity.
Building a support network can be considered a lifelong opportunity, and every chance that you have to make it grow may lead to a lifelong change or improvement.
Use positive reinforcement and gratitude
If you like and appreciate what somebody is doing for you during recovery, be sure to let them know. A quick thank you might suffice, or you can be more detailed and explain to them exactly why their actions have improved your life.
This is known as positive reinforcement. People are much more likely to respond in a similar manner if they know that you appreciate their activities. The more gratitude that you show the people in your support network, the more likely they will be to continue supporting you
It’s important not to get over-zealous when you are building a new support network. Your first instinct might be to make friends with everyone who comes your way, but this is not always the best idea. Remember, it’s not always easy to make friends – and oftentimes it’s much more difficult to make lifelong friends.
These are some tips that can help you ensure that the connections you forge during recovery will be long-lasting.
- Remember that not everyone you meet is going to become a lifelong friend. People come and go throughout our lives. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t develop a strong and fulfilling short-term relationship with someone.
Furthermore, don’t take it personally if someone seems disinterested in you: they may not have time, they may be struggling with personal issues – however, most likely it does not involve you.
- Don’t become over-excited. Think about your previous friendships. Remember how long it took for these friendships to blossom into what they currently are. You cannot expect people to immediately become best friends with you. It’s important to be patient and give these relationships time to flourish.
- Be cautious about building relationships with people who are still using drugs or alcohol. Even if they seem to be fantastic people, you must remember that you are actively in recovery. Even if you get along with these people great, they will always be the risk that you will become triggered and relapse because of their use. One of the toughest choices that a recovering individual must make is to distance themselves from people using drugs and alcohol.
- Remember to check in regularly with the people in your support network. Relationships are a two-way street, and it’s just as important for you to check in with your loved ones to see how they are doing. If you have ever been in a relationship with someone who is entirely self-involved, then you will understand how easy it is to lose interest in somebody who only expects your support without providing any in return.
Building a recovery support network can be a challenge – but it’s a challenge that every recovering drug user must overcome. It is also one of the most rewarding and beneficial challenges that you can accept.
Building a support network will help to reconnect you with your community and avoid relapse. Learning how to connect with loved ones and make new friends is one of the best things for anyone who is in recovery.