Addiction is a chronic disease that affects over 23 million Americans.
Like many other chronic diseases, addiction can be treated but not cured. Following a treatment program or rehab, it’s up to you to manage your recovery and avoid the triggers that fueled your addiction.
When you’re new to recovery, finding sober friends is an important part of that management. And the first step to finding those friends is knowing where to look.
But first, you should know exactly why it’s important to have friends that share sobriety with you. Keep reading to find out.
The Importance of Sober Friends
The first step of recovery is abstaining from drugs and alcohol. But a successful recovery involves more than abstinence. It means creating new healthy habits that help you lead a more fulfilling life.
Addiction is a disease characterized by the pursuit of a substance despite the negative consequences to health, relationships, and responsibilities. This is how addiction often leads to isolation and loneliness. Addicts push their friends and family aside as their emotional responses become increasingly dysfunctional.
Sometimes, the friendships that existed before treatment consisted mostly of people who sustained the addiction. As you learn to make healthy decisions about who you spend your time with, that group of friends is likely going to change.
Being new to recovery, it’s crucial that you surround yourself with people who support your sobriety and engage in activities that encourage an active, healthy lifestyle. You’ll find that surrounding yourself with sober friends has a number of benefits.
Recovery can be lonely when you have nobody to relate to. You may quickly find that friends and family who have never suffered from addiction can’t possibly grasp the complexity of it.
But sober friends share that experience with you and give you an outlet to share the ups and downs of staying sober. They can help you understand your addiction and offer insight that others can’t. You’ll benefit from having people to share your experiences with and engage in activities that don’t involve drugs or alcohol.
As you develop friendships with sober friends, they’ll also help keep you accountable. They’ll be the first people to call if you feel like you might relapse and, if you do, they’ll know how to help you get back on track.
How to Find Sober Friends
Now that you’re ready to surround yourself with a circle of supportive, sober friends, where do you start? The stigma around addiction means that too many people face recovery on their own. But finding other sober people isn’t as hard as it might seem, it just means knowing what to look for.
Join a Support Group
The easiest way to find sober friends is to join a support group for people in recovery. With over 1 million members in the US, the AA program is probably the most well-known group for recovering addicts and alcoholics.
If you don’t subscribe to the 12-step program, there are plenty of other support groups for people in recovery. Many of these groups organize substance-free activities for members that will fill the nights and weekends of your calendar. And beyond giving you a great venue to meet other sober people, some research suggests that participating in a support group gives you a higher chance of remaining substance-free.
Start Exercising More
Exercise is good for everybody – but it’s especially good for people in recovery. Exercise helps to relieve anxiety and stress, enhance your mood and releasee endorphins. It also helps heal your body and mind from the damage you caused during your addiction.
As an added bonus, joining a gym, fitness class, or yoga studio, is another way to make friends. Friends made while participating in these activities are likely friends who care about living a healthy lifestyle. And, whether they’re sober or not, the most important factor in the friends you make is that they encourage and support you to be healthy.
It’s 2019 and plenty of people are using the internet to meet likeminded people. To facilitate that, platforms like Meetup.com allow people with shared interests to create activities based on those interests. When you attend meetups, the conversation is easier because of all of the people attending share an interest.
Look for a Meetup specific to sober people by searching “sober”, “non-drinkers”, or “sobriety” within your geographic location. If there aren’t any Meetups specifically for sober people, you can take it upon yourself to create one.
There are also Meetup groups for everything from yoga and meditation to business networking and food touring. Although not centered around sobriety, this will expose you to people who look for entertainment in more healthy activities, and not at the local bar.
Use Social Media
Facebook has over 2 billion users worldwide. It’s the most popular social network in the world, and you can use it to meet sober friends. It’s as easy as looking for Facebook groups that are based on sobriety, your interests, and/or your location and engaging with their discussions and events.
On Instagram, a quick search for hashtags that mention sobriety returns 1000s of posts. Another important social network, Instagram is an opportunity to build an online network of likeminded people and gain inspiration from each other’s successes.
And if publicly owning your recovery isn’t ideal for you, then you don’t even have to use your own profile. You can create an anonymous, secondary profile that’s in no way linked to your real name. In today’s world, a strong online community can be just as important and supportive as conventional circles.
More Tips for Recovery
Finding sober friends and friends that support your sobriety is integral to a successful recovery. They’ll hold you accountable, offer companionship and understanding, and keep you on the right track as you adjust to your new life.
Finding those friends is a matter of putting yourself out there. You might meet sober friends in support groups and Meetups specifically for people in recovery. But friends who share interests such as yoga, hiking, or other healthy pursuits are also a good source of support.
Managing addiction comes with unique challenges. To help you navigate those challenges, check out our blog for more tips and advice on living sober.