Building a strong community in sobriety is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating a new life for yourself. In general, the people you surround yourself with are so important that it is commonly said that each of us is the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
What qualities should your people have, the people you go to when you are in need as well as the ones you hang out with in your downtime and at home?
Who are you spending time within recovery?
It’s important to seek out people who are going to be a positive influence in your life and who say what needs to be said – and do what needs to be done – with an eye toward encouraging your continued sobriety. To that end, it’s important to have people in your life who are:
You do not want to be surrounded by people who only tell you what you want to hear or don’t care enough to let you know when you are taking unnecessary risks with your sobriety. You need people who will speak up and tell you when you are doing things that could harm your path, like spending too much time focusing on the negative, skipping therapeutic interventions or meetings, or otherwise getting distracted from your focus: staying sober. Honesty from others helps you to be honest with yourself and to course correct when little things threaten to throw you off.
- Ready to Hold You Accountable
You are not always going to be walking a straight path in recovery. There are times when you are going to be dishonest with yourself or with others, and making choices that are in clear violation of your commitment to a balanced and healthy recovery. You will need someone in your life who will follow up with you and hold you accountable, the kind of person who will notice when you are not at the meeting you both attend three weeks in a row or that you stopped showing up to the coffee place where you usually meet them with others in recovery. This person may notice things you don’t, or they may make you pay attention to a situation you are trying to avoid. In both cases, this person can be invaluable in helping you to get back on track before you relapse.
- Working on Recovery as Well
When you spend your time with other people who are actively working on their own sobriety, even if they are struggling with different aspects of their new lives, it can normalize your experience and be a constant reminder that you are not alone. Conversely, if you spend a great deal of time with people who have a “normal” relationship with alcohol or who continue to use and abuse illicit substances, then that way of life may continue to seem like the most comfortable route and may trigger relapse. The more time you spend with other people in recovery, the more likely you are to hear something every day that will help on your path to sobriety.
When you spend a lot of time with people who are negative, complaining, or depressed, it is not easy to maintain a positive and uplifted spirit. Spending time with positive people – those who try to look for the silver lining, avoid gossip, and are fun to be around – can improve your mood and help you to find levity in life rather than getting stuck in a cycle of negativity and depression that can end in relapse.
- Supportive No Matter What
Staying sober isn’t easy. You will have days when you are in a bad mood for no reason, feeling hopeless and unsure of why you started down the road to sobriety in the first place, and otherwise not a good friend to the people who care about you most. It is good to have someone in your corner who will support you no matter what comes your way – and by extension, theirs – and who will be there for you as you grow in recovery.
Connecting with the Right People
Take a moment to consider the group of people you spend the most time with. Can you pick out the ones who have the qualities listed above? Do you know right away which ones are best for you in recovery and which ones may be having a questionable impact on your ability to stay sober?
It is not always easy to make changes or to find the kinds of people you need in your life – at least not immediately. With time and patience, you will find that there are good people everywhere, and it will take just a little bit of effort to connect with the right group for you. You can:
- Go to a variety of different meetings, therapies, and holistic treatments. Don’t just go to the 12-Step meeting in your neighborhood. Head to meetings all over town, go to yoga classes in the park, and try out whatever crosses your path.
- Stay after. Don’t just run home after class or a meeting. Pack up slowly, make small talk, and connect.
- Exchange numbers. Or give people your social media contact information if you do not feel comfortable giving out your phone number. Take a chance on different people; you never know who will exhibit what qualities when you get to know them.
- Be patient. It takes time to develop a genuine connection with someone, and the best relationships unfold slowly.
Who are the five people you spend the most time with? What people are you missing in your life that could help you on the road to recovery?