How Strong Friendships Can Support Your Recovery


Carissa Wilcox on October 3, 2022 at 9:34 AM

Author: Jeff Sherman

Sobriety invites loneliness; the moment we disown the crutch, estrangement unfolds. And it's tricky business. The early stages of recovery bring a myriad of challenges and obstacles. There is no 360 shield but always a blindspot, lurking, preying on our soft parts. A perpetual dark night of the soul, without a light in sight. Questions arise, "Why go through this? What's the point of it all? Where do I find comfort now?" Insecurities flaunt their carnivorous nature, impatiently waiting for our weary hour. A universal truth: finding tenderness for self is the greatest, hardest task one can ever encounter. Those in recovery without support are fighting an uphill battle (we're not saying it's impossible, though). If we fail, an outer voice of reason can forever change the trajectory of our life—for the better. Friends are the empirical pillars of our being. And our sobriety. This is how strong friendships can support your recovery.

Sober friends matter

Support is everything in recovery, especially in the early stages. Our first sober steps ride on the social structure we deem relevant for the process. The limbo stage of the recovery road is riddled with temptation and "off the wagon" routes. The ones we choose to let in can be the ones that ultimately save our lives without ever cognizing the volumes of their heroic undertaking. In addiction recovery, it all comes down to either/or. Black or white. There is no grey palette, no side clauses. To live or to dive back into the infinite dark matter pool. You keep the malignant danger at bay by developing healthy, sober friendships. Our sober friendships become our beacons in the darkest of hours.

All shades of sober

People in recovery usually gravitate toward individuals with addiction history in order to feel accepted and understood. They just know the struggle. "I can relate" is all we really need to hear when the world around us feels infinitely distant and cold. Those who have successfully recovered from addiction can offer unconditional support. They do come with one caveat: their perspective on addiction will be based solely on their previous experience, which can immensely differ from our own. Taking care of our mental health is imperative in recovery. Making friends with individuals who have no recovery history can prove to be a valuable asset, as their "blank slate" can engage more and offer an alternative perspective. True sober friends will make room for learning about our triggers and how they can alleviate temptation.

The power of strong friendships

True friendships transcend the "rubber band" model; taking the relationship out of the comfort zone will not result in irreparable damage. It will not give in. It will not break. Once we move past toxic relationships (the types that invite relapses), there's room for growth and lasting bonds—the healthy kind. Support circles are vital in recovery, as they benefit our mental and physical health. Solid and true friendships in recovery can help you in innumerable ways. Here are a few:

  • Improving our self-worth
  • Supporting us in our new, healthy lifestyle
  • Confronting our self-loathing
  • Understanding our fears and debunking them for us
  • Helping us cope with our traumatic past
  • Providing us with a sense of belonging
  • Being our lifeline when things get tough
  • Reducing our anxiety, depression, and stress

Good friendships keep the bad ones away

Strong friendships can support your recovery—if you let them. We'll borrow literary terms for this one: protagonists vs. antagonists; good vs. evil. Not one social circle is exempt from the eternal balancing of the colliding counterparts. Negative friendships can significantly hinder our recovery progress. Yes, we may be tempted to keep the bad relationships going due to our overhanging sense of betrayal. "It's not their fault" is what we usually say to convince ourselves into staying. Partial breakups, especially when there's addiction involved, are, to put it bluntly—impossible. The connection is too strong; thus, temptation lurks around the corner. Many individuals in recovery decide to move home for that "blank slate." Inviting something new into our lives can prove to be the best decision. Befriending neighbors after the move and getting to know new coworkers can be a life changer. If you're moving to a different city, be sure to say hello.

Friends provide motivation

In the dark of night, when the insomnia hour sneaks in thievishly, and all craving hell breaks loose, who will be there to keep us from falling off track? A true friend with no A.M. boundaries. There will be good days. There will be bad days. Above all, there will be plenty of rough nights when the subconscious offers nothing but anxiety, depression, and slopes of urges, all in the name of comfort. Picking up that phone and sharing a conversation with a close friend or a confidante can make all the difference. A single phone call can save our lives. The motivation comes without any forced effort; it's a natural side effect of interacting with an embracing, understanding individual on the other side.

The involuntary happiness

Those in recovery often struggle with co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. It makes socializing even more difficult, as the emotional apparatus automatically shuts down due to harmful spectrum overload. Being around people, especially the ones who care for us, and being unable to respond to their optimism, unconditional support, and empathy can be a daunting experience. It can be the reason why many in recovery shy away from building lasting, profound relationships. We may think, "This ship is sinking. Save yourselves." Our fear of leaving our friends emotionally drained can prevent us from forming meaningful, beneficial relationships. A recent study found that social support significantly impacts our mental health; in fact, it invites involuntary happiness. The positive emotions we receive from others are, in one word—contagious.

Final words on how strong friendships can support your recovery

Strong friendships can support your recovery through validation. A recovery is a place of omni-vulnerability. It invites distrust, perpetual doubt, and questions such as, "What if I don't make it?" But a friend in need is a friend indeed. They will say "kudos!", hug the doubt out of you, and help you realize you're exactly where you need to be—on the road to sobriety.

Author: Jeff Sherman


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