5 Ways to Expand Your Social Support Network

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5 Ways to Expand Your Social Support Network

One of the most important things you can do to support a strong recovery is reach other to others. At those moments when handling things all by yourself gets overwhelming, getting support and help from others can be one of the most important ways to sustain a commitment to sobriety. Many addicts live lives of isolation, or are used to connecting with others only through their drug of choice. Here are some steps and ideas that can help you find other people to lean on so that you know you are not alone.

1. Try new things

Being with a group of people passionate about a hobby, cause, or activity can be a very strong bonding experience, and a pressure-free way to connect with others. Learning a new skill can be a tremendous confidence booster, especially with a group of people able to support and encourage you.By learning the activity with other people, you open yourself up to relationships. This could be through playing a sport, learning an artistic activity, or volunteering for a cause you support. Common experiences are a great way to get started with meeting people, and so taking a chance to try something new can help you connect with potentially life-long friends you wouldn’t meet any other way.

2. Cast a wide net

Every person is different, with their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses. This may radically affect how you respond to them and how much support you are able to get from them. For this reason, it may be helpful to not expect one person to take care of everything for you. One person might be good at cheering you up and distract you from a crisis, making you feel good about life. Still another will be able to sit down and empathize with you, giving you a shoulder to cry on.

Another friend can offer you advice and help you think through a solution to your problem. All three of these responses can be helpful, but at different times one might be better than the other. Think carefully about what kind of support particular people are able to offer, and go to person most likely to be helpful for your needs.

3. Use technology

Sometimes, it may be difficult to find people in the exact moment you need them. Your strongest friends may be busy, and unable to meet in person every time you need them. Fortunately, in today’s world there are a wide variety of ways to communicate beyond meeting in person. Social media, smart phones, e-mails, and chatting can all be tools to help you stay connected with people when you’re unable to meet in person, and even widen your circle to meet and open yourself up to people from all over the world. Sometimes it can be easier to “lie” or not reveal all our vulnerabilities with these mediums, but you can push yourself to make these virtual conversations just as personable, open, safe, and helpful as other ways of connecting.

4. Take risks

Sometimes meeting new people can feel uncomfortable, particularly if you feel shy or unsure of what to say or talk about. Sometimes it can be helpful to simply practice trying to greet or introduce yourself to a stranger, connecting over a common interest or experience or something you observe.

Not everyone may be open to connection, or be the right kind of people to support your recovery, but this practice can help you gain confidence around other people and help you learn how to be less isolated. Step out of your comfort zone, find ways to help or be helped by your neighbors. While sometimes the world can seem like a scary place, by opening yourself up, you will discover a lot of people happy to care for you, laugh with you, and encourage you in small ways.

5. Open up when the time’s right

Over time, some relationships will deepen. Not everyone should be trusted with your full story of struggle, trauma, addiction and recovery. Sometimes it might be good simply to maintain a boundary and simply view someone as an acquaintance, and not unload everything on someone unable to really support you.

Even these causal relationships can be an important way to help you find meaning and joy in life, and get practical support. However, there are other people able to truly support you, who want to enter into a deeper relationship. Wait until you feel comfortable with someone, and feel he or she has earned your trust before being vulnerable. Once you get to that level, revealing your true story can be a very important part of making someone aware and knowing the best way to care for and encourage you.

Recovery isn’t something you have to do alone. Around you, there are many people capable and willing to support you in your journey. Getting the courage to ask and reach out can sometimes feel intimidating, but it is a very important part of living the best sober life possible.