One of the obstacles people worry about when getting sober is the effect it will have on their social lives. There is fear that it might change friendships, and make life less exciting. These concerns are not unfounded, and social situations will change in some ways, but it is not nearly as dramatic as one might think.
For many, experimentation of drugs and alcohol begins as a way to connect with peers, to settle insecurities in social situations, and to be accepted among their friends. For that reason, many friendships are based around the use of drugs or drinking, and so it seems like once the substance is removed, there would be less of a foundation for the friendship in question. These relationships, however, that are built on the laurels of substances are somewhat faulty to begin with. Being under the influence with one another takes away real and sober connection—it is influenced by the haze of whatever substance is being used. If you are drinking with friends, you might act a certain way, say things you might not mean, be brave, and exhibit traits that don’t show who you really are. Substances can be a mask, and after years of wearing it, removing it is more freeing than you can imagine.
Planning for Life Post Rehab
So, you’ve made it through detox safely, and learned about the disease of addiction while in a rehab facility. Chances are you have made some friends with your peers, and hopefully established some good connections, had insightful conversations, and have gotten started with Step work. The Steps lay out a simple plan for living, and they will serve you well if you apply them once you are back in the real world.
Whether you choose to go to sober living after completing rehab or are going home, the challenges of socializing in this new, sober way will inevitably present themselves. While most rehab centers usually help to line up a sponsor and suggest some meetings to attend, it will be up to you to begin making some connections in the recovery community. This can be particularly challenging if you were in a structured program and now have a lot of free time on your hands, but it can be done.
A good idea is to have a basic plan for yourself. These can serve as guidelines for you to live by in the first few months, so long as you can hold yourself to them.
Some of the things that can help you develop a healthy, safe routine include:
- Know your triggers and avoid or manage them. This might mean avoiding certain places if you’ve moved back into a familiar environment where you once used/drank. Avoid the people who you know are still using and might encourage you to go back to your old ways.
- Establish a strong support network of family, counselors, and close friends. Have a contact list of people who can call when you might need a meeting or just someone to talk to.
- Stay active. Exercise is incredible for the mind and body, can help alleviate stress, and release endorphins.
- Establish healthy eating habits and try out cooking to see if you enjoy it. This might even develop into a passion or new hobby! Cooking can be very therapeutic, especially as your body is gaining its strength back.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. This one is very important! When in active addiction, people often get far too little sleep and it is taxing on the mind and body. Sleep is regenerative and hugely beneficial to your health. Try to get to bed early and wake up an hour before your first commitment of the day to avoid rushing or stressing out.
- Meditate. This is a great way to center yourself and destress, whether you practice in the morning, evening, or sporadically throughout the day. If you only have a small window of time, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing for two or three minutes.
- Keep a journal to recap the day and keep track of goals or any issues you ran into throughout the day (also called “nightly reviews”).
- Seek out meetings that you find inspiring and try to make some friends there. Also look into sober activities in your area—there are often game nights, movie outings, dances, and more for people in recovery.
Redefine Your Social Group
Even with your new routine in place, you may find yourself missing your old friends and the social circles you hung out with. For this reason, it is imperative to be proactive and put in place a positive support network right away. Talk over these feelings with a sponsor or sober peer rather than acting on it, as in early sobriety you are still incredibly vulnerable to setbacks. Try to focus on the day ahead and the goals you wish to attain.
It’s important to remember that the people you were using and drinking with are not a part of your new goals or your new life in sobriety unless they are separately making changes. If they are still using, they might even dissuade you from staying the course. Being sober may make it easier to disengage from this group because your head is clear, allowing you to recognize dysfunctional and destructive influences.
Utilize recovery meetings as much as possible. If you don’t have a sponsor yet, work to get one to be honest with your recovery. You may feel strong in your newfound sobriety, but don’t put yourself in a triggering or bad situation. You’ve come this far for a reason.
Where To Meet Sober Friends
Because isolation and loneliness are triggers that can lead to relapse, so it is definitely crucial to begin forming new relationships with like-minded individuals. You may have forged new friendships with people you met in rehab, and that’s a good place to start. If you have returned home, you’ll need to check out some new places to find a new group of friends who can relate to how you are now.
Some fun and easy places to meet sober friends are:
- 12-Step meetings. These provide many opportunities to meet new friends, especially if you go to the same group on a regular basis.
- Sober or dry bars. These bars are not only frequented by people “in the program,” but also by people who just don’t like to drink or to be around people who do.
- Sober concert, sports or art venues. For example, the Phoenix Multisport Sober Active Community has chapters in various parts of the county, and offers countless outdoor sober activities such as fishing, skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing, marathons, hiking, etc.
- Host your own sober party. Center the party around something special, like a band, a comedian or a game so no one will feel awkward or bored. Keep the atmosphere casual and have lots of food and board games available.
In reality, you only need a few solid sober relationships; people you can trust, hang out with, go for a jog or a workout with, or grab a coffee. This is a mutually supportive friendship with a commitment to lifelong sobriety, and you’ll soon find that these are the ones who will be there for you no matter what.
Start Your Life in Sobriety
It may feel lonely at first, but you aren’t alone in your newfound sober lifestyle. There are plenty of people out there who are eager to form lasting friendships that cater to their healthy way of living, too. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, because when clear-headed, you are your best self. You will treasure your newfound sobriety, and the new friends you make along the way are a part of that.
We have a very active alumni community at GRC, which is a great network to have after completing treatment and getting your life on the right track. If you’re looking for more information on getting some help for you or a loved one, please give us a call today. We’d be happy to discuss options with you and give you more information about our growing alumni community.