For millions of recovering addicts, relapse is a maddeningly common part of life. Most recovering addicts leave rehab feeling confident and optimistic, but this confidence can lead to risky choices that end in relapse. One of the most important elements of good rehab programs is how they prepare people for the various challenges that can trigger drug cravings. If you know what you will be up against as you begin your drug-free life, then you can promote long-term health and wellness. It is equally important to know where you can find good, reliable support for sobriety.
It cannot be overstated that the people with whom you spend time with and build relationships are vital to your recovery. One of the timeless, irrefutable truths of addiction recovery is that you are likely to take on the habits of the people with whom you spend the most time. You may leave treatment with a list of commitments and ideas about how you will spend your time and money, how you will respond to stress and other triggers and how you will prevent relapse, but, if you return to friends who oppose your recovery, then you will almost certainly relapse. If you understand why negative relationships contribute so significantly to relapse, then you may appreciate the value and power of healthy relationships.
How Community Influences Recovery
Community is one of the most powerful tools in the recovery process, so group sessions are important for people to maintain sobriety. If you spend time with other people who are in recovery, then you can learn the same skills and commit to the same results, which creates a significant amount of momentum. Support groups provide the following benefits:
- An opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes
- Your unique thoughts, fears and ideas will be heard by others
- Opportunities to speak positively to other recovering addicts
- Support groups allow you to experience the value of transparency, confession and forgiveness in a safe environment
- You will connect to a network of people who strongly support recovery and they will be there for you when you need them
- A network of friends you do not want to let down
Yes, your addiction recovery is your own personal responsibility, but the power you need to stay clean will often come via the recovery community you cultivate.
Psychological Addiction, Relationships and Relapse
Unfortunately, the power of community and the need to belong can also work against recovering addicts. For instance, the more you bond with people who oppose sobriety, the more likely you will take on their attitudes and behaviors. In other words, regardless of your desire to stay drug free, if you surround yourself with drug users, then the bonding process in your brain will override your conscious commitment to sobriety.
Humans are social animals, so we are not meant to live alone or in isolation. While we are truly each unique individuals, with individualized dreams, goals, talents and passions, we are also designed to live out that uniqueness within a community. The social and family groups we belong to offer us meaning, safety, identity and self-esteem, so service to others is vital for one’s health. When we place the needs of our friends and family members above our own, then we find value, belonging and peace of mind. This connection not only appeals to our sense of morality and purpose, but it also releases powerful “feel good” chemicals into the brain. The brain then reinforces the behavior through such pleasure: ergo, being in community makes us feel good, and feeling good makes us want to be in community. The same process reinforces exercise, hard work and sexual bonding.
The Antidote to Unsupportive Friends
Most recovering addicts struggle to free themselves from unhealthy and unsupportive relationships. You may feel a sense of responsibility to your friends or be the only member of your family who commits to sobriety. It may be that you dislike confrontation or asserting yourself, so the thought of defining and reinforcing healthy boundaries is too much for you to handle. Fortunately, there is an answer to this kind of challenge—the most important thing for you to do upon leaving rehab is to cultivate a positive, healthy community where you can. You can accomplish this task in the following ways:
- Local 12-Step support group meetings
- Engaging in sober social outings and adventures
- Staying in close contact with your sponsor or counselor, even when you feel strong in your recovery
- Finding sober groups at work, your church or your neighborhood
- Spending significant time reading healthy books
In addition to the support that these groups offer, they also take up a good amount of your time, which reduces the time you might have for drug-using friends.
Help Preventing Relapse
If you have any additional questions about the way friends can support or undermine your recovery, then please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline right now. A supportive conversation can transform your self-esteem and decision making. With our help, you can find the help you need to plug into a community of sobriety. Call now for professional support.