Loneliness is one common challenge people face in addiction recovery, especially in the early months. It’s typically smart to cut ties with the people you used to drink or do drugs with since these people can trigger cravings and they may not be very supportive of your recovery. The problem is that isolation and loneliness are also problems for recovery. Feeling socially connected is one of the most important aspects of recovery.
It lowers stress, helps you solve problems, and makes you feel more accountable. Unfortunately, people typically find making friends as an adult much more challenging than making friends as a kid. However, if you are willing to put yourself in the right situations and make a bit of an effort, making new friends in recovery shouldn’t be too hard. The following are some suggestions for how to do it.
If you’re recovering from a substance use disorder, 12-Step meetings are one of the best places to make friends. The people you meet in 12-Step meetings will share your desire to stay sober and they will understand what you’ve been through better than most people. Therefore, you can generally open up more easily, which facilitates friendship. If you go to meetings regularly, you’ll probably develop friendly acquaintances pretty quickly just from seeing the same people all the time. However, it may take a bit of effort on your part to turn these into actual friendships. You may have to invite someone to get lunch or a cup of coffee.
Keep Treatment Friendships Alive
If you have been through a treatment program, you probably made some friends there, too. People often say they’ve met their best friends in treatment. Since many people travel to get treatment, the key thing there is to keep those friendships active. Stay in touch by regularly texting, talking on the phone, or visiting.
Sports and Exercise
Sports and exercise are great ways to make friends, especially for people who aren’t as comfortable reaching out or sharing their feelings. Playing on a team with someone, even recreationally, is a way of communicating without really having to talk. Getting involved in team sports or group exercise is a way to enhance the benefits of getting regular exercise in recovery.
Many studies have found that regular exercise improves your mood, reduces your risk of depression and anxiety, improves your sleep, and makes you less vulnerable to stress. The social aspect of team sports or group exercise only adds to the mental health benefits. In fact, a large study of more than a million people found that regular exercise reduces the number of bad mental health days and that team sports deliver the most mental health benefits.
You don’t have to join a sports team to get these benefits. You can also join an exercise class at the gym or join a running or cycling group. The important thing is that you’re staying active with other people. Much like sharing a meal, sharing exercise gets your endorphins up and makes you predisposed to like other people—a perfect environment for making friends.
One reason it’s so easy to make friends when you’re young is that you’re in school, where you spend every day around the same people your own age. Although you probably have no desire to go back to high school, you can get some of the same benefits by taking classes. There are probably a variety of classes available in your community.
If your education was interrupted by addiction, or if it never started to begin with, taking classes at the university or community college is a great way to learn new skills and meet new friends. In fact, the people you meet will often be more valuable than anything you learn in class.
If you’re not looking to go back to school, you might look for an enrichment or leisure class that interests you. It could be anything, such as an art class, a cooking class, a woodworking class, or a public speaking class. You’ll come into regular contact with people who share your interests. Working on projects together is a perfect way to begin a friendship.
Volunteering, like exercise, is something that is already good for your recovery and can also help you make new friends. In fact, volunteering is one of the 12 Steps. It deepens your engagement with your 12-Step group, gives you a sense of self-efficacy, and provides you with a sense of purpose. Volunteering is a way of being a part of something bigger and making a tangible contribution to your community.
It’s also a great way to meet people who share your values and commitment to helping. As with other suggestions on this list, volunteering puts you in frequent contact with people with shared interests. As with exercise, people tend to feel good about volunteering, creating a positive association with the people they meet.
Friends of Friends
Finally, you can make new friends by expanding your existing network. There are a couple advantages to becoming friends with our friends’ friends. First, they aren’t total strangers. If our friends like them, they probably aren’t too crazy or dangerous and you probably have some things in common already. Second, it’s easy to arrange a meeting; you just ask your mutual friend to invite them to a get-together.
Some people are natural connectors. They have an idea that two friends who don’t know each other might get along and they arrange for them to meet each other. Other people don’t really think about it, so you might have to be a little more active in searching your own social network. Ask your friends questions about their other friends and speak up if someone sounds interesting and you’d like to meet them.
Making new friends in recovery is not that hard if you are willing to try new things and put yourself out there. The hardest part is risking rejection, even if it’s of a pretty mild sort. If someone’s not interested, don’t take it personally. In general, familiarity and shared interests are key to forming friendships, so try to find situations where those go together.
At Hired Power, we know that connection is key to a strong recovery. We provide services to help get people into treatment for addiction and transition back home in a way that gives them the best chance of a long recovery. Our services include recovery assistants, who can provide valuable support during difficult situations. To learn more, call us today at 714-559-3919.