One of the justifications that is used for continuing alcohol or drug abuse is the fear of social isolation upon stopping the behaviour. If you are caught up in addiction, the likelihood is that many of your friends are also heavy drinkers or drug users. This means that entering recovery entails breaking away from this group. Humans are social animals, so the fear of social isolation following addiction is understandable.
Does Recovery Mean the End of Friendships?
If most of your friends are substance abusers, you will need to keep away from these individuals once you become sober. The reason is that it would be just too tempting to be around these individuals. It has been claimed that you become the average of the five people you spend most of your time with, so by spending all your time with those abusing alcohol or drugs would mean that it could be very difficult for you to change your behaviour.
The other problem with spending time with those still using or drinking is that they could actively try to sabotage your recovery. This lies in the fact that you trying to break free of addiction could reflect badly on them; they want you to fail so they can justify their own continued addictive behaviour. These ‘friends’ may try to coax you into a relapse; this type of pressure could be hard to resist. This is why it is vital that you break away from these individuals if you want to be free of addiction.
Dangers of Social Isolation in Recovery
If all or most of your friends are engaged in substance abuse, it is understandable that you fear social isolation in recovery. The reality is that becoming sober does not have to mean you will no longer have any friends; it just means that you will need to find some new friends. In fact, one of the key things you need to do in order to establish yourself in recovery is to build a sober social network.
There are a number of reasons why it is so important to find some sober friends in early recovery, including:
- loneliness is a common relapse trigger so you may use it as a justification to drink or take drugs
- it is important to have plenty of support as this helps to strengthen your recovery
- there are likely to be days in recovery when staying sober is a real struggle; it is particularly important to have good sober friends to support you at these times
- a social support network provides an important feedback mechanism; others may be able to spot the signs that your recovery is in danger before you do
- it is important to have people to turn to for advice and assistance
- one of the great joys of life is friendship; sobriety would not be worth much without it.
How to Build a Social Network in Recovery
If you are entering a rehab programme, you can expect to receive plenty of help with building a new sober social network. Recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are a great option for meeting new people. Newcomers are made to feel very welcome and it is usual for older members to offer their contact details. These fellowships also provide social function where people can relax and meet others. The internet is another good resource for making sober friends, although it is important to have real life support as well as the online variety.