What Friendships Mean in Recovery

When you have at least one person who believes in you, who is there for you, and who you can turn to when things get rough, your view of life changes. You might feel a bit more safe, supported, and secure in your life. You might have hope, despite the challenges you face. And you might even feel confident in your ability to surmount a challenge like staying sober.

In the 1940’s, psychiatrist John Bowlby discovered that children who have supportive parents grew up confident in their abilities, had a greater sense of resilience, and had the ability to regulate their feelings when upset or emotionally overwhelmed. Bowlby was asked to research and write about the experiences of children who had been abandoned or orphaned by their parents. Bowlby discovered that children who had a secure attachment with their parents tended to have a greater sense of confidence to go out and explore the world. And when they felt frightened or threatened, they would immediately return to their attachment figure.

Bowlby also discovered that those children with broken attachment relationships with their parents often did not develop the ability to calm themselves when upset and tended to have behavioral, academic, social, and/or emotional difficulties in adolescence and in adulthood. Along with these difficulties, they had a greater vulnerability to the use of substances as a means to cope with their lives.  Many men and women who have a substance abuse disorder may have had an insecure relationship with one or more of their parents.

In fact, research has shown that those children with broken relationships with their parents, but who had at least one person in their life who saw and understood them, were more likely to overcome their developmental challenges.

In the same way, having a friend in recovery, especially someone who believes in you and who is there for you when you need it, can help provide that sense of security that’s needed to feel safe. Just one close friendship rooted in trust and care can help turn things around in recovery. This alone may be enough to give you the confidence to make the choices that keep you sober and healthy. A friendship can be the very thing that gets someone through the challenges that come with recovery.

Furthermore, it’s not only the connection you have with another person, but also the many healing moments that can come out of this kind of friendship. For instance, just sharing your story and what you’ve been through can be incredibly meaningful. When you tell your story, you lift the burden of your illness and problems. You provide yourself with space between you and what you’re going through. Also, there may be feelings of accomplishment, especially if you’ve overcome major obstacles. When you let your friend know what you’ve been through and how you found your way through it, you also deepen the emotional connection with another human being – which only enhances your feelings of being supported and held by someone else.

Friendships can be incredibly meaningful in recovery. Value and honor your friendships. They can be great sources of support, meaning, and emotional connection.


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