Whatever you are facing, you are not alone. Recovery from addiction can sometimes feel like an arduous journey, and it often helps to realize that other people are facing similar things. They made it, and so can you. The encouragement of being surrounded by supportive people can give you the strength to keep going. In addition, engaging with people willing to listen to you, offer their empathy and wisdom can make difficult things seem easier, and help you access your own inner strength.
Even if you’re not talking about your troubles or cravings directly, other people can give purpose and enjoyment to your moments. Out of control substance abuse frequently isolates you from other people, as even those who care about you may feel forced to keep their distance for their own protection. So an important part of the recovery is learning to come out of the shadows, and reach out for help from other people. Sometimes, finding people you can feel safe opening up to can feel very overwhelming. Here are a few pointers to guide you as you build up a network of social support.
Get Out There:
In 12-step peer support meetings, there is a popular saying that a person just past the detox stage of addiction should go to “90 meetings in 90 days.” By attending meetings every day or going to multiple meetings when possible, you set the pattern early on of making fellowship with fellow people in recovery a priority. Meetings provide a safe, nonjudgmental space where people dealing with the challenges of the sober life speak honestly to each other and offer encouragement. While not a substitute for treatment or therapy, they offer vitally important opportunities to practice opening up to people and meeting people who understand what you are going through.
You can also find other activities that will allow you to meet people and start to form relationships. Some people don’t know how to “have fun” anywhere but a bar, but recovery is helping you to know better. Outdoor activities, hobbies, team sports, making art, or anything that gives you joy and makes you excited about life can be an opportunity to invite other people into your life.
If you are feeling anxious about whether or not other people like you, it can be tempting to “perform” and try to present yourself in a way that you think will be accepted. You may find yourself faking interest in something, telling someone what you think they want to hear or behaving in a way that conforms to uncommunicated expectations. Far from being helpful, being around people, you don’t feel a real connection with can feel exhausting and stressful.
The alternative can feel hard at first, but in the long run, it’s the only way to build truly strong relationships. Strive to be authentically yourself, with everyone. Don’t hold your tongue out of fear, but instead speak authentically about what you are really thinking or feeling. Take the risk to truly put yourself out there. Of course, that does mean some people may not want to be around you, or feel uncomfortable or even react negatively to you. However, that simply means that you are eliminating people who won’t or can’t support you in your new life. Showing your authentic self will also open up space for the right people – the ones who will truly accept you as you really are, make you feel valuable, recognize your strengths, and be safe and supportive in your hardships.
There is no one “right” personality for who can really offer you support. Sometimes you may need advice, other times you may need gentle empathy, and sometimes you may need someone willing to be more harshly honest. This means that different kinds of people can offer different things to you. Your network can become broader and inclusive, offering accepting and safe people who may be very different from each other. Think about what your different friends offer you, and how their styles of engaging you may be beneficial in a particular moment.
Ultimately, you will have to figure out what relationships or groups best support your needs. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone in your recovery. Few things can help more than an army of people helping you and cheering you on. It may take time, but a solid network of supportive people can come to you.