Making Friends in Recovery
One of the biggest challenges for those of us in recovery is to make new friends. Since loneliness is such a dangerous emotion in early recovery, it is essential that we begin forming new friendships as soon as we possibly can. A good network of sober friends can not only take-away the loneliness, but they’ll also be a great resource for support and advise. This new sober support network can also act as guides down the path of recovery. A living example that recovery is possible!
Some friends may continue to be strong networks in recovery, but sometimes the friendships that were forged around the old patterns of addictive behavior will come to an end. Some of the “old friends” might not understand the sudden need to refrain from drinking or using, and therefore cannot offer the support that is needed.
Lasting friends that are aware & supportive of the new path will be willing to make changes to their behavior. Thus reinforcing friendships, and perhaps becoming stronger than before.
Do friends support recovery? This is when it’s time to think about the kind of friend to have and the kind of friend to be to someone else. Here is a few simple questions that we can ask ourselves:
Does this person allow me to make recovery the most important thing in my life without exception?
Does this person threaten my recovery in any way?
Following are a few idea’s on “where” to meet new friends that will most likely be supportive in your recovery:
Attending 12-step or recovery based meetings has been shown to improve chances of long term sobriety. This is largely because of the built-in support system involved with these types of groups. These meetings can be an excellent place to practice important social skills and meet others who are focused on recovery.
Attend Religious Services
Fellowship is highly important and getting plugged in with other religious community members is a good way to build on healthy friendships. Several religous commnuitees offer activites, small groups and support teams that you can join and attend to meet new people.
Attend events in your community, such as an art reception, community fair, or even the opening show of a new movie. Volunteering in your community is also a great place to meet new people.
Note what you have in common with a colleague and use this as a basis for getting to know each other better. Do you both read books? Like shopping? Want to work out more or already belong to the gym? Watch the same television shows? Suggest getting together sometime outside of work to share your interests.
Tips for Starting Conversations
Putting yourself in situations where you can meet new people is only the first step to making new friends. If you go to meetings or community events, but never speak to anyone new, friendships won’t come easily. Here are some tips to break the ice when you’re trying to make new friends:
Comment on the surroundings or occasion.
You always have the space you are sharing in common with others who are there. Make positive comments about the scenery, food, or entertainment to get a conversation started.
Ask open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions are those that require more than a yes or no answer. Asking someone “What do you like to do?” can be a much more effective conversation starter than “Do you like reading?”
Offer genuine compliments.
Compliment people on what you like or admire about them. For example “You seem so confident when you speak, I’d really like to get better at that,” or “I really like your scarf, can I ask where you got it?” These comments offer the opportunity to engage in conversation, as well as make the other person more confident in themselves – and more likely to respond positively.
Note what you have in common.
This requires paying attention to other people’s interests, then asking follow up questions. “I heard you say you like hiking, where do you usually go?
Learn to listen.
Part of being a good friend is being a good listener. Practice focusing your attention on what others are saying rather than thinking about what you will say next.
We are accustomed to fear silence in conversation, but silences are natural. Learn to use silences to your advantage and think about what you are saying before you speak — generally people will appreciate a thoughtful statement or question even after an awkward silence.