We All Need Somebody to Lean On
Getting sober and staying sober is challenging, to say the least. It requires incredible strength, courage, determination, and faith to continue to walk the road of recovery on a daily basis. During your sobriety journey, you will endure many trials and you will face many obstacles. The good news is that recovery is a “we thing” not a “me thing.” You don’t have to it alone – and you shouldn’t try to.
Having a healthy support system is an absolute must for those who are committed to living a sober lifestyle after completing addiction treatment. Many people make the mistake of thinking that leaning on other people is a sign of weakness. This is simply untrue.
As human beings, we demonstrate great wisdom when we collaborate with other people to reach our highest potential. Even the world’s most powerful leaders and successful businesspeople are surrounded by a support team that helps them manage their daily lives. Just think about how many people assist the president of the United States or the CEO of Facebook every day to make sure they get the job done!
The disease of addiction isolates people. By the time most people go for addiction treatment, they have become completely shut off from the world around them. Many are alienated from their families and friends or have dysfunctional relationships with them. Others have stopped associating with anyone who doesn’t drink alcohol and abuse drugs.
No matter what your individual circumstance may be, we want to urge you to begin the process of establishing a healthy support system. Let’s talk about some simple ways to accomplish this in a very short time.
Are You Still Associating With Your Old “Friends?”
First things first.
It is not a good idea to hang on to relationships with people you used to get high or drunk with. There is an old recovery adage that says, “Don’t go to the barbershop unless you want to get a haircut.” In other words, you shouldn’t hang out with people who use alcohol or drugs unless you plan on using alcohol or drugs. It’s a set up for a reoccurrence.
You might know people who have been in your life for many years – long-time friends or close family members – who you used to get high or drunk with. While it may be difficult to imagine your life without these people, it is best to keep your distance until you have some solid recovery time under your belt. Believe it or not, people can become triggers. Just seeing someone you used to use drugs or alcohol with can trigger you to want to use drugs or alcohol.
You want to have people in your life who fully support your sobriety. These people are not found in bars or at dope houses. Cutting ties with people who used to support your addiction is the best way to embrace people who will support you on your recovery journey.
Find Some New, Sober Friends
You may have believed that your drinking or using buddies were your actual friends. In most cases, they weren’t. They were just people who liked to use drugs or alcohol just like you did. This was your common bond. But, chances are, these people were never really your friends.
Nevertheless, cutting off communication from these people is likely to leave a vaccuum in your life. They may not have been loyal friends, but you socialized with them and spent time with them. They were a part of your life. Leaving them behind might feel scary and uncomfortable.
The world is filled with people who like to drink or take drugs. These people used to be your people. But, not anymore. Now, you have room to make friends who are also living a sober lifestyle where recovery is your common ground. You need new people. Sober people. Recovering people – and there are plenty of them out there. You just have to go find them.
So, you may ask, where are these sober people? The best first place to look is at a 12 Step meeting.
12 Step Recovery is a Great Place to Find a Support System
Going to 12 Step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous is a great way to make new friends in recovery. It may seem strange at first to talk to people you don’t know. But, you will be surprised how easy it is to connect with people who are staying sober.
Generally, people in recovery are very friendly to new people because they know what it is like to be new. They understand that developing a healthy support system is critical for everyone who wants to stay sober. They are compassionate to the plight of the so-called “newcomer” and they go out of their way to make them feel included.
Also, most 12 Step fellowships have regular social functions. They have dances, go out to eat, throw holiday parties, and meet for movies or bowling. You can have fun sober and you can meet awesome people who would be happy to be a part of your new, healthy support system.
Get a 12 Step Sponsor
When you start attending 12 Step meetings, you will soon find that sponsorship is an important part of the process. A sponsor is someone who volunteers to help you learn how to stay sober one day at a time and shows you how to work all 12 Steps. You will find a sponsor at one of the meetings you attend.
Your sponsor will likely be one of the most important people in your support group. You can be completely transparent with this person and share about where you are in your recovery process. This is someone who fully understands addiction and recovery because they have experienced it for themselves. They will share their experience, strength, and hope with you and help guide you through daily living without turning to drugs or alcohol as a solution.
Reconnect With Healthy Friends and Family Members
Whether you realize it or not, you probably already have some great people in your life who would love to be on your team. They may be your parents, siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles, friends, or colleagues. If you already know some good people who are oriented to health and wellness, call on these people to be in your healthy support system.
The disease of addiction can cause a disconnect between people who really love or care about eachother. Perhaps your drinking or drug use created conflict between you and some of your friends, family members, or colleagues. There is no time like the present to try and reconnect with people you already know to support your recovery. Let them know that you are on a new path and you would love to have them in your life again.
That being said, please keep in mind that there will be a time to right the wrongs of the past when you work the 12 Steps. There may be some people who want nothing to do with you in the early stages of sobriety, but through your work, you can take steps to create amends.
Step 8 is about making amends to the people you have hurt. When the time is right, you can offer a proper apology and rectify any damage you caused in your addiction. For now, focus on the people in your life who want to be members of your healthy new support system.
You May Want to Seek Professional Help From a Therapist
Another way to build a healthy support system to is to go for professional counseling. Having a licensed therapist who understands how to motivate behavioral change can be instrumental to your life. Scheduling weekly or biweekly appointments in the first year of sobriety is a great idea to help you talk through all of your new experiences in early recovery.
There is Power in Numbers
Nobody ever said that recovery is easy. But, having a healthy support system will help you navigate the difficult times.
Remember, you greatly increase your chance for ongoing, continuous sobriety if you stop hanging around with your old drinking/using buddies. You can find new, sober friends at a 12 Step fellowship. Get a sponsor. Lean on healthy friends and family members for support. And, consider professional counseling.
If you take these simple steps, you will soon find yourself surrounded by a healthy group of people who support your sobriety.