Rehab can be a difficult experience. And when you get out, and take on outpatient recovery the path can be filled with obstacles. However, if you feel isolated when you go back into the “real world,” after inpatient rehab you’re not alone! It is very common for people to feel this way as the road to recovery can be a lonely one. Just working a traditional 12-step rehab program like AA (alcoholics anonymous) will reveal that you may not be able to maintain the same social circles as you once did. But that doesn’t mean that you have to walk the road to recovery alone.
Making a Recovery Buddy: Does it Really Work?
Social support is vital when you want to make a lifestyle change. If you wanted to lose weight, you would need a workout buddy to help you get through exercise classes, or time spent on the treadmill. And recovery is the same!
“Human beings are perhaps the most social of all species,” says Dr. Riana Chagoury of Prominence Treatment Center in Calabasas, California. “We thrive in community and healthy, interdependent networks and relationships. For those in recovery, this appears to be especially true. Participating in a community whose sole purpose is devoted to people helping each other stay sober is a source of happiness for millions around the world.”
For this reason, it is highly recommended that you try to make recovery buddies when you finish up with inpatient rehab. This way, you will have more than just a few sober people around you to help you stay on track with your program so you can hold onto your sobriety. Then, you may also want to look into sober communities that are open to new members in your area. By joining open sober communities like 12-step fellowships, SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, and Refuge Recovery, you can surround yourself with larger groups of sober buddies, and form lasting friendships that can help you along in your own personal recovery.
“The format of these groups varies based on age, gender, language and interest,” she says. “If you check out five meetings in your local area, chances are you’ll find one that is a good fit for you.”
And even if you don’t find a PERFECT fit for your recovery buddy, there may be sober communities online that can offer you support. Whatever works best for you!
“The nature of addiction is so deep-seated, powerful and persistent that addicts seldom stay sober on sheer willpower without the help and support of others,” Dr. Chagoury says. “Sober communities are held together by the idea that their primary purpose to is help each other stay sober.”
But does it really work? Recent research has shown that yes, recovery buddies, and sober social support groups are effective for maintaining your sobriety!1
The Value of Connecting During Recovery
Like-minded people can be hard to find, especially on the road to recovery. However, the more you become involved in 12-step programs like AA, or even a non-12-step recovery program, the better! You may need to leave behind some of your old friends, as you take on sobriety – but that’s ok! The most important part of recovery is YOU. Dr. Chagoury also suggests connecting with people in any place you find them that lead the kind of sober life you want to have. You may find these people in recovery meetings, or even at an open air Farmer’s Market. You may even stumble onto your best recovery buddy at a yoga class. But you’ll never know unless you get out there into the world again!
Taking on New Sober Activities
Going to a 12-step program meeting like AA, or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) can be a challenge, but after you complete an inpatient program, the meetings can seem less painful. However, it is very important that when you go to meetings where you can find sober people that you do more than just sit through the meeting.
“One misnomer about happiness is that it is to be pursued or found, like an elusive, buried treasure,” Dr. Chagoury says.
So, find some way to slap on a smile, and extend the hand of friendship to anyone who seems like a good fit for your personality. Then, after having a conversation with them you may decide to invite the person into your life for more get-togethers outside of meetings. Try a meal together, take on community service projects, or just kick back with other locals at a backyard BBQ. It’s up to you!
“Cultivating happiness can actually be much simpler and straightforward. Happiness is a byproduct of engaging in meaningful, satisfying activities. In the case of those leaving rehab, this often takes the form of work, school or acts of service that are productive, positive and estimable.”
A Final Note on Community Connections During Recovery
On the road to recovery, nothing happens all at once. The entire process can only take place one step at a time. And sometimes, the road can get rocky which is why a strong sober community is essential. Truly, the key to successful recovery lies in your sober support system of rehab buddies. So, head on out, and go make some new, sober friends. It is the first step towards lasting recovery, and your ultimate contentment.
1. Kathlene Tracy, Samantha P Wallace. Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2016; 7: 143–154.