How to Build a Social Support Network

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 How to Build a Social Support Network


Life is full of challenges, but the good news is that you don’t have to go through it alone. While your story and experiences are unique to you, there are many ways other people have faced similar challenges, and can offer you empathy, encouragement, and advice as you seek to surmount the challenges of your life. Particularly in the recovery journey, a network of family, friends, or supportive people you can turn to can be one of the most important ways to get your life back and make the changes you need.

If you feel lonely or isolated, or worry about having to give up friendships formed around drinking or drug use, creating a circle of friends can feel like an overwhelming task. Here are some steps you can take to find people able to encourage you and be there for you in your recovery.

Try New Things:
One of the easiest ways to create close friendships is by going through an experience together. Engaging in a common activity creates a safe space where you can get to know other people, enjoying their company and looking for support. Look for groups that are exercising, playing a team sport, volunteering for a cause, engaging in a hobby, or attending a house of worship together, or any other fun group experience that can offer opportunities to meet people.

Know Who A Good Friend Is:
Not everyone you meet may be right for offering you real support. There are people who may end up being more draining than supportive, and who may not be appropriate for your social support network. A truly supportive friend will be nonjudgmental and accepting, and make you feel safe.

If you feel judged or expected to conform, or feel like you are being criticized unduly, these social interactions can end up being worse than isolation. People capable of respecting you and your decisions, holding you accountable for your recovery but also respecting when you do what seems right for you. Pay careful attention to how you feel after interacting with someone.

If you feel empowered, more at ease, or encouraged, than reveal more of your struggle with them as you feel comfortable, asking for their help when needed. If on the other hand, you feel tired, attacked, or not listened to, keep that person at a distance. Furthermore, it is vital that everyone in your support group be understanding and respectful of your desire for sobriety and recovery.

Make Many Friends:
Having only one person as your go-to for encouragement is a step in the right direction, but not enough for solid social support. That person may be busy or unavailable, or may feel exhausted or drained having to carry all your burdens.

Furthermore, different people may offer different benefits, based on their experiences or personality types. Someone quick to offer advice can be helpful when you are unsure of what to do, but there are other times you may want someone to listen to you and offer empathy. Having a larger pool of people from which to draw can ensure you are never without a supportive and compassionate presence when you need it.

Help Others:
Strong relationships are built on mutuality and reciprocity. That means that you should give back to people offering you support, and connect with people in such a way that you have something to offer them as well. Helping other people gives your life a sense of purpose, and encourages people to continue staying in relationship with you. Listen to what is going on with others, and share from your experience the ways you identify and encourage them.