There is no denying that drugs and/or alcohol can loosen our inhibitions and make social situations seem more fun.
But for some people, drug and alcohol use takes a dark turn and is no longer fun. Addition is a very lonely place to be. Most people end up isolating, using drugs or alcohol alone because of shame, paranoia, not wanting to share, and a host of other reasons. In the end, what once was fun leaves people alone, friendless, scared, and empty.
There are as many ways to enter into recovery as there are ways to become addicted. Residential treatment is a very effective plan for most people, but everyone will at some point have to return to “real life.” This is why a sober network, along with discharge and aftercare planning, are central to long-lasting sobriety.
Some people suffering from addiction attempt to “white-knuckle” recovery and not go to rehab.
Maybe they have children at home to care for or think they cannot afford treatment or that it will cause them to lose their job. For those who do not or cannot go into residential treatment, outpatient treatment and/or 12-step programs are an option. For anyone leaving treatment–whether residential or outpatient–recovery meetings can fill a crucial need to offer continued support. There is a saying in twelve-step programs that makes a lot of sense—do 90 in 90. What this means is going to 90 meetings in 90 days. Doing so helps someone in recovery build a sober network.
The terms “sober support” and “sober network” may seem confusing to a person newly sober. When someone is using, they likely hang out with other people who use. When that person becomes sober, their social circle tends to (and probably should) fall apart. That leaves a social gap that needs to be filled with sober people: people who can relate to recovery; who know what it is like to struggle through a bad day and not turn to drugs or alcohol; who can be there for each other in times of celebration, discouragement, or crisis.
There are many ways to go about building a “sober network.”
People who fully support your recovery are part of your sober network. They can be spouses, children, parents, in-laws, and close friends. These are the people who knew you before and during your active addiction and who still love you. Don’t shut them out due to shame or guilt. Addiction is not who you are; it is a disease.
It’s important to have people in your sober network who have experience with recovery. You can find these kind of friends in the recovery community, particularly at twelve-step meetings. Going to 90 meetings in 90 days gives you time to find a meeting you like and people you click with. At least for the first year, it’s recommended that you focus on platonic relationships with people to whom you are not sexually attracted. Such feelings can become so powerful that they undermine a fragile recovery.
People in spiritual organizations, the neighborhood, or the workplace can also be part of your support network.
Believe it or not, not everyone drinks and parties. The most important thing to do is to find and keep people in your life who have sober lifestyles. Socialization is important, and many newly recovering addicts need to learn to have fun and enjoy life without using. Many people who relapse relate their relapse to falling away from or failing to use their support network. Once you build a strong support network, you will begin to see life in a new light. Life is fun and worth living when we are surrounded by like minds and people who truly love us.