They say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and while there may or may not be truth in that, in recovery, it is generally the case that if you surround yourself with positive people who support your recovery, you are more likely to avoid relapse. Building a strong support system after drug rehab can boost your self-esteem, give you good ideas on how to make strong choices and avoid potentially damaging mistakes, while also filling up your free time with people whom you enjoy being around.
Here are a few tips to help you as begin the process of connecting with others:
- Reach out
Reach out for assistance
Asking for help doesn’t sound like it should be hard, especially when you may not have had a problem asking for everything during active addiction, but in recovery, it can be difficult to do. It is, however, one of the best ways to connect with good people. Reach out to your loved ones and ask them to attend a meeting with you. Share at a meeting and talk about looking for a job and what your skills are. If you are struggling with the basics – food, shelter – apply for food stamps and other social services, head to a food bank, and ask for the help you need to get set up in recovery. If you don’t and your needs go unmet, you are at risk of relapse, and simply asking for help can connect you with amazing people.
- Don’t bond with just anyone
Don’t bond with just anyone
Though isolation is a killer in recovery and bonding is a basic human need, connecting with just anyone who responds to your need for friendship isn’t necessarily the right choice either. Instead, be choosy. Pay attention to how someone behaves, presents herself, whether or not she is independent or if she is instead immediately trying to insinuate herself into every part of your life. Trust your instincts, and if you don’t feel confident enough to do that just yet, then discuss it with your sponsor or your therapist if something feels off.
- Talk to people
Talk to people at meetings, support group sessions, and sober events
Every time you go to a 12-step meeting or attend a sober party or other event, you are surrounded by people who understand what you have been through and know what you are trying to do with your life now. They are often trying to do the same thing. This is a good pond to “fish in” when it comes to seeking out people who will be a good addition to your support system. Remember, they too are in need of solid support, so be ready to be there for them if you are asking them to be there for you.
- Take your time
Take your time
There’s no rush to link up with a group of people or develop a number of strong friendships. The process itself is a learning event, and you will benefit from taking your time and getting to know different people. Eventually, you will find that you are spending more and more time with a few specific people that you feel comfortable with. In other words, it will happen naturally – no need to force it.
- Skip the romance
Skip the romance
There is a time and place to explore romantic options but that time is not until after you have made some solid friendships and feel comfortable and independent in recovery. Initial romantic attractions may be normal, but it’s a matter of discipline – simply sidestep the issue for now and continue to seek out people you respect but feeling nothing but friendship toward and who feel the same way about you.
- Check in with yourself
Check in with yourself
As you are building relationships and continuing to meet people, make sure you check in on how you are feeling as you build your support system. Are you feeling nervous, confident, bored, or frustrated? Are you feeling like you want to drink or get high or that your recovery is in any way threatened? It’s a good idea to maintain a connection with a therapist or sponsor who is neutral and objective, and who can talk to you about the different people you are meeting and note if you are beginning to change in ways that you hadn’t realized – for better or worse.
- Gain strength from the naysayers
Gain strength from the naysayers
Not everyone in your life is going to be wonderful and supportive. Even if you work hard to keep good, positive people in your life, you will undoubtedly be exposed to those who are envious of what you have achieved, or those who, for whatever reason, feel better about themselves by tearing you down. This doesn’t have to harm you or your ability to stay sober. The people who throw you shade are actually giving you an opportunity to thicken your skin, grow stronger as an individual, and become more focused in your recovery and other areas of your life.
Connecting with others may not come naturally to you, but it’s one of the best gifts you can give yourself in recovery. Not only does it help you to avoid relapse when you are surrounded by strong, positive people, but it’s a stress reliever and provides a number of positive mental health benefits that can improve your quality of life as well.
How do you recommend that others reach out and build a strong support system in recovery? Leave a comment and share your tips for meeting, choosing, and making new friends.