A sense of belonging plays an important role in everybody’s well-being. Studies show people are happier, healthier and more productive when they are part of a community. For those who are recovering from an addiction, connection may be even more important. Creating a network of people and resources helps people feel less lonely, isolated and anxious. It also makes it easier for them to stay sober.
The Benefits of a Network
Psychologists say belonging to a tribe is so important that self-esteem depends on it, and the advantages of human connections are clearly defined. People who “belong” share these traits:
- They’re happier, less anxious and less depressed.
- They’re more successful at home, work and school.
- They’re more motivated.
- They share a sense of something greater than themselves.
Rene Brown, psychologist and researcher at the University of Texas, studies vulnerability and its effect on well-being and connection. She believes that only when people are free to be themselves around others that they can also be happy and well-adjusted. In her words, “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Four Dimensions of Recovery
If social connections are the most important factor in recovering, how do addicts find the support they need? SAMSHA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, says there are four dimensions to recovery and individuals need all of these to stay sober:
- They must have the ability to manage their disease, and they must be able to make choices that enable them to get well.
- They need a reliable, safe place to live.
- They need purposeful activities and the independence, resources and income to be part of society.
- They need social networks and relationship that offer friendship, support, hope and love.
SAMSHA says these resources should be flexible. What works for one individual, personality or age group may not work for another. Services need to meet specific needs:
- They must provide diverse services.
- They must respect individual beliefs regarding health, daily practices, and cultural needs.
- They must try to reduce discrepancies in access to health resources and outcomes.
The SAMSHA website offers these guidelines:
- Behavioral health is crucial to good mental and physical health.
- Prevention works.
- Treatment is effective.
- People recover from substance use and mental health disorders.
Making New Friends
When people leave treatment programs, they may be tempted to return to the same friends and living conditions they had before treatment. Instead, they need new opportunities to be productive, take part in their communities, and find new friends. These are some of the best ways to meet new people:
Meetings and support groups
Everybody needs encouragement, and nobody understands like someone who is going through the same struggles. It may take a little work to find the right group, but it is well worth the search. A meeting of kindred souls, such as that in a 12-step group, is an ideal place to make new friends.
A fresh start helps to break the pattern of old habits. Whether in a cooking class or an activity in the local park, spending time around like-minded people is a good way to connect.
Forums and Online Groups
Sometimes it’s hard to find a friendly ear in the middle of the night, but online groups solve that problem. They also give people a chance to share things privately they might not want to tell friends or family.
Having a chemical dependency and going through treatment is a journey that requires dedication, perseverance and grit. Individuals who have come so far deserve not only the respect of others but also their own. Treatment may have ended, but it is still important to practice self-care.
Activities like yoga, deep breathing and meditation help some people quiet their minds and relax while others prefer turning to traditional faith traditions or prayer. Studies show that rituals like expressing feelings in a journal or making a list of things to be thankful for lead to better mental and physical health.
Recovery is a chance for a new beginning, and the path will be easier with the help of friends.