There’s an old proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. In recovery, it doesn’t really matter how fast you go, but it definitely matters how far you go. If you want to go as far as possible in recovery, you want to have a strong sober network.
Most people are aware that it helps to have friends and family supporting you in recovery. Although that is a great asset, most of those people won’t really understand what it’s like to battle addiction. The people who do understand are in your sober network. These are the people you met in treatment and at meetings who have been through a lot of the same things you’ve been through. They’re the ones who really understand what you’re talking about. Having a strong connection to other sober people is a great way to stay on track.
If you want a strong sober network, you have to put in the effort. That means doing all the stuff you would normally do for friends, only since these are sober friends, it might mean doing a little extra. You might have to give someone a ride to meetings or to the doctor. You might have to check in with people who seem like they may be having a bad time. You might have to go to parties full of people you don’t know just to support a friend who’s trying not to drink.
Supporting other people in recovery might take a bit of effort, but it’s worth it. For one thing, most of the people you support will support you in return. You’re going to have some hard times, some close calls, maybe a stumble or two. It will be so much easier to get back on track when you have sober friends to rely on. Just knowing they’re around will reduce the stress associated with recovery.
Another thing is that the better your sober network does, the better you will do. It’s stressful when one of your friends falls off the wagon, especially if something bad happens because of it. Overdoses and accidents are more common after relapse. The last thing you want is to see a friend relapse and then die of an overdose. Then you not only have to deal with grief, but many people feel guilty as well. Of course, you’re not responsible for someone else’s relapse, but if you offer support whenever you can, you might reduce the odds of someone relapsing.
Finally, supporting others gives you a sense of purpose and belonging. Your recovery isn’t just about you; it’s about your network too. Supporting others in recovery, whether they’re friends or strangers, gets you out of your own head and thinking about other people.
So what are the best ways to support other in recovery? Here are few ideas.
One of the best things you can do for someone else in recovery is to let her know you’ve been through similar experiences. It’s easy to feel alone and broken, especially early on. Letting someone know you’ve gone through the same thing, or are still going through the same thing, can make you both feel more connected. Also, speaking about your own experiences with addiction helps reduce the stigma associated with addiction, which helps everyone.
Make yourself available.
You don’t have to be a sponsor or a therapist to help someone out of a jam. Make sure your friends in recovery know they can call you if they have to. Maybe she needs a ride to meetings or to see her therapist. Maybe she has to go to a family thing where people will be drinking and she would like backup. Maybe she’s just bored and needs someone to talk to so she doesn’t think about drinking. Don’t underestimate the value of just being there and listening.
Do service at 12-step meetings.
There’s plenty to do at 12-step meetings. You can help set up, bring doughnuts, make coffee, or clean up afterward. You can talk to new people and let them know what’s going on. You might eventually want to take on an organizational role. 12-step programs are run almost entirely by volunteers, so doing various kinds of service is what makes these programs exist and makes them free and available to everyone.
12-step programs are a great place to volunteer if you want to help other people in recovery, but there are plenty of other ways to volunteer too. You might want to volunteer on a crisis hotline. Many treatment centers are non-profit and can use all the help they can get. Also consider addiction-adjacent volunteering opportunities such as homeless shelters or domestic abuse charities.
Contribute to online addiction forums.
There are many forums online where people go to ask questions about addiction and recovery and share their victories and setbacks. Find a few good ones and start participating. Some people will have questions you can answer and most people will benefit from support and encouragement. There are dozens of addiction subs on Reddit. Some of them are broad and others are very specific. r/stopdrinking is very positive and very large, with more than 100,000 subscribers. Forums are a good way to reach out to people in underserved areas, or people who just feel very isolated.
Addiction is something no one should battle alone. If you’re struggling with addiction or mental illness, The Dawn Medical Rehab and Wellness center can help. We are one of Thailand’s most respected addiction treatment and wellness centers. We use cutting-edge treatment modalities to provide personalized care to treat addiction, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and executive burnout. See our contact page to reach us by phone or email.