One of the challenges for people in recovery is to make new friends. This is because it will not be appropriate for them to spend time with old acquaintances if they are still drinking or using. Loneliness is a dangerous emotion for people who are in early sobriety. It is therefore essential that the individual begins forming friendships. A network of sober acquaintances can not only cure loneliness, but they will also be a good resource for support and advice.
Once people have escaped their addiction it is not a good idea for them to spend too much time with former drinking or drugging friends. This is because these individuals will be too strong a link to the past. They can pull the sober person back into addiction. In order to protect sobriety it is usually necessary to end some friendships. Breaking strong emotional ties is difficult, but if the individual is serious about staying sober, there will be no other choice. As well as saying goodbye to some friendships, the individual will also need to build some new ones. Otherwise life in recovery will be a lonely business.
Friends are a necessary element of a successful life in recovery. Humans are social animals and they depend on a network of other humans to provide certain support functions. These are some of the most important considerations:
* A social group can offer physical assistance in times of trouble. This could include any type of help such as helping the individual move house or lending them money.
* A social group offers emotional support. This is a highly important function because the individual will be able to handle more in life if they feel supported. Even if friends are unable to offer any practical help this emotional support can still make a difference.
* Friends in recovery can offer an appraisal of the individual. This type of feedback is useful because it means that the individual will be better able to monitor their own behavior. Members of the social support network can advise the individual about how well they are functioning.
* One of the most important functions of social support is that it is a good resource for information and advice. No one person has all the answers, but a social group allows the individual to have access to a selection of views and opinions.
Friendship can be particularly important for the individual who is in early recovery because:
* When people first become sober, they can feel highly vulnerable. The world can appear as a strange place and the individual can feel a great deal of uncertainty about the future. Friends can offer advice and give their support.
* Having contact with people who have already been sober for a long period can greatly benefit the individual in early sobriety. Those who have already gone some distance on the path of recovery can act as guides. They can warn against potential pitfalls. The other advantage of spending time with such individuals is that they can be inspirational, living proof that it is possible to build a good life away from addiction.
* Early sobriety can be a lonely time if people do not have a good support network around them. This is because the newly sober individual will have needed to say goodbye to their old friends who are still drinking our using. Loneliness is a potential relapse trigger so it needs to be avoided.
* Another potential relapse trigger in early recover is boredom. If the individual feels that life away from alcohol or drugs is dull and meaningless, they can be tempted to relapse. Spending time with friends is a good anecdote to boredom.
If people feel lonely they will begin to believe that life in recovery is unsatisfying. Loneliness is not always associated with the number of people in the individual’s life. Some people can feel lonely even when they are surrounded by lots of acquaintances. There is also a difference between loneliness and introversion. Some individuals do prefer their own company most of the time. To say that a person feels lonely is to say that they are experiencing strong and undesirable feelings of emptiness and solitude.
To say that something is a relapse trigger means that it increases the chances that an individual will return to their addiction. Loneliness takes much of the joy out of life. It may have been this unbearable feeling of being separate from everyone else that caused the person to fall into addiction in the first place. If the individual feels unsatisfied in their recovery they may once again thing of drugs or alcohol as an anecdote for this.
Making new friends can appear like a daunting task. Addicts usually suffer from low self-esteem, and they will tend to carry this with them into recovery. This means that they can feel a bit uncomfortable around new people due to lack of confidence. Finding new friends in sobriety can be made easier by:
* Those individuals who join a recovery fellowship usually find it easiest to make sober friends. This is because by joining a group they will automatically get to meet a new bunch of people. The other advantage of meeting people in a recovery fellowship is that these will tend to be individuals who share similar goals and aspirations.
* Early recovery is a time for trying out new activities and interest. Joining a class or club can provide a good opportunity to make friends.
* In order to build strong friendships, it is necessary to be a good friend. It is suggested that those who fall into trouble with alcohol or drugs tend to have an addictive personality. One characteristic of this type of personality is self-absorption. This means that the individual is too focused on themselves. If people are too self-absorbed it can be difficult for them to make friends. This personality flaw can be eradicated if the individual is willing to spend more time thinking about other people.
* Service in recovery is a wonderful way to meet new friends. This type of voluntary work strengthens sobriety and also provides the individual with the opportunity to give something back. The 12 Step movement was founded on the principle of service. Helping others gives the individual the chance to socialize and build friendships.
* The online world provides almost endless opportunities for forming new friendships. This type of electronic social networking does lack some of the intensity of face to face relationships, but it is possible to forge strong friendships online. There are now a number of recovery communities on the web where sober people can mingle. These are places where the individual is not only able to share information but also have fun. Examples of this type of online community include Sober Recovery Forum and We Quit Drinking.
* As people develop in sobriety they will usually find it easier to build friendships. This is because abstinences will give the individual the opportunity to develop some emotional maturity. Those who are emotionally sober are much easier to be around, and this means that they more easily attract new people into their life.
* Those individuals who attend one of the 12 Step meetings will find it easier to make friends if they have a home group. This will mean that they will regularly be meeting the same people and have the opportunity to form friendships. It members are always going to different meetings it can be much harder to get to know people.
* Forming friendships usually involves making a bit of an effort. This may only involve something as basic as saying hello or offering a smile. It the individual spends their time ignoring other people, it will be hard for them to make any friends.
* If the individual expects too much from other people it will be hard for them to make lasting friendships. Nobody is perfect and friends need to be respected for who they are and not what they can do for the individual.
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