How to Build a Strong Support System in Recovery

One of the most important tools available to you in recovery is one that you can manufacture for yourself: a strong support network of friends and family who want to help you stay sober. This includes the people you meet in recovery who are working to stay sober as well, your loved ones who have supported you through the process of treatment, and people you meet at work or in classes who are living healthy lives.

Are you ready to get started building a strong sober social support system? Here’s what you need to know.

Be Openminded

It is unlikely that you will meet immediately a dozen people who all share your interests and your drug abuse history. Consider people who are different than anyone you have ever met or who initially may seem like they have nothing in common with you. You do not need to find people who want to do everything with you all the time or who are exactly like you. In fact, it is good to have a variety of people in your support network because they can offer you new and interesting perspectives and tips that you might not have otherwise discovered on your own.

Be Choosy

At the same time, while you are avoiding making choices about whom to include in your support network based on superficial characteristics, it is also important to be discerning. If you notice any red flags, take a couple steps back and try connecting with someone else. It can be tempting to try to force a connection in early recovery when you feel like you have no one or few options, but a friend who is on the verge of relapse, overly negative, dishonest, or otherwise not focused on truly being positive and supportive of you is going to be more harmful than helpful in the long run.

Give Yourself Time

It may seem exciting to be able to meet someone and connect instantly. When you and others are on the hunt for new friends, those kinds of bonds can feel authentic. The truth is, however, that true friendships develop over time, giving both people the opportunity to grow separately but with mutual support. Take your time to build connections that will be with you for a lifetime rather than rushing into things too quickly.

Choose a Broad Spectrum of People

Though TV shows glorify groups of five or six people who are close over a decade, it is important not to box yourself in or get immediately attached to one group of people in recovery. If anyone in your new tight group of friends relapses, it can put everyone at risk. Instead, make sure you have lots of different groups and people to connect with so you always have positive people in your life.

Do Not Date

Most experts will suggest to avoid dating in the first year of recovery, but the truth is that it is an absolute imperative in the first few months of recovery because you need that time to focus on building a strong support group of friends who get to know you and can help to provide an objective perspective that you can trust later. It is also true that one year may not be enough and/or that it may also be helpful to take time off from dating for a while once you do start considering romantic options. If you are ever feeling insecure in your recovery, dating will only crowd your focus and take the time and energy you need to be pouring into growing and sustaining wellness.

Ask for Help

Though it seems like making friends in recovery should come naturally, it doesn’t for many people. If you have spent years paying little attention to developing strong relationships and instead spending time with whomever was using your drug of choice, then you may be a little rusty in making genuine connections with other people. If this describes your situation, consider discussing it with your therapist or in substance abuse treatment and working on building stronger communication skills, empathy, and other characteristics that will make it easier to build your support system in recovery.

Do you need support in building the recovery you envision for yourself?

Since joining the Townsend content team, Shlomo has become a thought leader in the addiction field. He is a Seinfeld junkie, a recovering Twitter fanatic, and a sports expert. He enjoys milk shakes and beautiful views from rooftops.