While it is possible to get clean or sober by just leaving behind one’s drug of choice, a person who desires long-term recovery that will reduce their risk of relapse and allow them to live a fulfilling life must take additional action.
Unhealthy Relationships During Recovery
One of the steps in obtaining and maintaining long-term addiction recovery is to set appropriate boundaries and leave behind people who aren’t supportive of your sober lifestyle. People in active addiction tend to associate only with people who enable them or use substances with them, so it’s quite possible that entering recovery can create a fear of loneliness. Though it may be possible to rebuild a codependent relationship to be healthier, it is generally considered unwise to stay in close contact with people who were just “using friends” or “drinking buddies.” Friendships that focused on getting drunk or high together do not have much to offer a person in recovery and can easily undermine their sobriety.
The Purposes Sober Supports Serve
“Sober supports” are those who encourage your recovery and are willing, if not in recovery themselves, to suspend their substance use in your presence. Not only do sober supports fill the hole that has been left by unhealthy relationships, but they also provide many additional benefits:
- Help in processing difficulties and brainstorming solutions
- Good company in the celebration of progress and achievements
- A distraction when cravings hit
- Honest, judgment-free, practical feedback
- Motivation to stay sober
- Help in identifying and navigating mental health concerns
Reconnecting with Family and Friends
Addiction has a way of isolating a person in addiction from their healthy family and friends, leaving only the unhealthy relationships. The behaviors a person chose during the darkest time in their life may have created distance and distrust with the people who loved them. When the person leaves behind substances and makes amends, there is a possibility that some of these relationships will be able to be rebuilt. Though there is no guarantee that a person who was hurt by a loved one’s addiction will want to resume the relationship or that it will be the same as it was before, attempting to repair the relationship is still worth the effort.
New Supports During Recovery
Not only could a person in recovery find themselves resuming old relationships that their addiction had cut off, but they will also have the opportunity to meet new people who will be supportive of their sober lifestyle. There are a variety of ways that this can happen:
- At recovery meetings – this is a good place for a person to find a sponsor and meet other people who can relate to the struggles of living a sober life. It is also a substance-free place to spend time.
- In mental health support groups – due to the strong link between trauma, addiction, and mental illness, many people who have struggled with addiction also have mental health concerns. Group mental health treatment can connect those with similar struggles.
- In individual therapy – having a therapist to talk to about the things you’re facing in your new sober life is a support you may not have experienced previously. An unbiased third party can be helpful in identifying new coping skills and red flags of impending relapse.
- At your spiritual home – if your recovery journey has brought you closer to a church or other religious group, you may find yourself surrounded by a congregation of people who are willing to support your sobriety. A religious group can also provide opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community.
- Where you exercise – working out is one way people in recovery can help their brains begin to make the feel-good chemicals that drugs had been replacing during their substance abuse. Whether you take up hiking, join a gym, or take a dance class, there may be other people in the group who are also choosing to live substance-free lives.
- At school – if you are working on your education and your recovery at the same time, you may find that your college has a group for students in your situation. Collegiate recovery programs are a growing opportunity for people who have faced addiction to expand their sober support system while attaining higher education.
At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, we help each of our clients to identify people who can help them even after they leave treatment, and when appropriate we include these individuals in the treatment and discharge process.