How Do You Make Friends When You’re Sober?
Many people starting out in recovery face a dilemma when it comes to friends: They want to distance themselves from their old associates who are drinking and using drugs but then they struggle with loneliness, which, in some ways, is almost as bad. Having a strong support network gives you a feeling of belonging and reduces stress.
It’s one of the most important factors in a strong recovery. However, few people actually have much practice making new friends as adults. The following tips can help you make the kind of friends that will help you stay sober.
Have the Right Attitude
First, you have to have the right attitude. Mainly that means being willing to take some risks in terms of going into unfamiliar situations and reaching out to others. If you’re naturally outgoing, this is not a big deal, but if you’re reading a post about making friends, you may need to prepare yourself to step outside your comfort zone. Keep in mind that if someone isn’t interested in being your friend, you shouldn’t take it personally.
We all have our reasons or lack thereof for who we’re friends with. Think of it this way: If you talk to enough people, you will eventually make some good friends. Also, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need your new friends to be sober; you just need them to respect and support your sobriety.
Find Good Situations
The other part of the new-friends equation is to put yourself in circumstances where you are more likely to make friends. The best circumstances are those where you are in frequent contact with the same people and you all share a common interest or value. Frequent contact allows you to build familiarity and trust, while sharing an interest gives you something to talk about and possibly collaborate on. The following are examples that typically provide both of those elements.
People often say they meet their best friends in treatment and that shouldn’t be surprising. You spend a lot of time with those people and you all share certain core experiences around addiction and trauma. Being open about these struggles is cathartic and it’s often a bonding experience. The only thing is that people often travel to attend treatment so you may have to make an effort to keep the friendship alive after you all leave and go back home, but it’s well worth the effort.
The next logical place to make sober friends is at a 12-Step meeting. These aren’t quite as intense as treatment since you typically won’t be living in the same space as your group members, but you do share similar experiences and a commitment to staying sober, just like in treatment. The more regularly you go to meetings, the more quickly you will get to know people, and the sooner you will make new friends.
People just starting out in recovery often go to a meeting every day, or even several meetings a day. The environment is typically welcoming and supportive, making it one of the easiest places to make new friends.
Try a Meetup
If you want to meet people who share your interests, try looking for things that interest you on meetup.com. This is a site that lists special interest groups in your area by subject. There are groups for art, music, film, sports, wellness, finance, languages, travel, dance, careers, and so on. These groups often meet regularly and they aren’t too big so it’s not hard to talk to people.
Join a League
There are many reasons to be physically active in addiction recovery. Regular exercise is one of the best things you do for your physical and mental health and it can also be a great way to make friends. Joining a recreational sports league is one of the most fun ways to exercise and it’s a great way to get to know people without a lot of awkward conversations and even more awkward silences.
If you’re not a team sports kind of person, there are other ways to be social with exercise. You can join a running or biking group. Exercise classes are also great, whether you’re into spin, yoga, or boxing.
Take Some Classes
Most people didn’t find it too hard to make friends in school since you see the same people every day for years and most of them are near your own age. The closest experience most of us have as adults is work. While, for some people, work might qualify as a shared interest, for most people it doesn’t.
Furthermore, most of your coworkers, even your “work friends” have their own lives and families to worry about and may not be interested in making new friends. However, you can take classes as an adult. And unlike when you’re a kid, you don’t have to take a class in anything that doesn’t interest you.
You can take an exercise class, as noted above, a cooking class, an art class, and so on. You see the same people for weeks or months, you share at least one interest, and you may get to work on a project together. It's a great recipe for making new friends.
Use Your Existing Network
Finally, make sure you’re using all the resources that are right in front of you. Your friends and relatives probably know people you would hit it off with but it may not occur to them unless you ask. Making friends through common acquaintances is good because those people have already been vetted, in a way, and you already know someone who can introduce you.
This is especially helpful if you are living in an unfamiliar area--say, for example, if you are staying in a sober home after attending treatment out of state. You can ask the people you live with and your friends and family back home if they happen to know anyone in the area. Most won’t, but you might get lucky.
Making friends in recovery takes some initiative and perseverance but it’s mainly a matter of talking to a lot of people and putting yourself in the right position. If you find situations where you see the same people a lot and you share interests, it should only be a matter of time before you make some good friends. The main thing is to be patient; friendships have to develop on their own schedule.
At The Foundry, we know that no one recovers from addiction alone. Connection is the key to a long recovery. We promote social connection and healthy relationship skills through group therapy, family therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and various activities. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.