Making friends can either be very daunting or it may come naturally to a person, but because we are generally out of our element when dealing with the early days of recovery, it’s unlikely for most recovering addicts that the thought of making friends will come ‘easy’. As transformative as it can be, early recovery is still often mired with a rollercoaster of severe emotions and challenging thoughts. Some addicts struggle with trusting themselves, let alone someone else. They may still feel a sense of guilt about their past that keeps them from truly opening to others, let alone creating lasting bonds of friendship.
Like any relationship, it takes a committed effort from both parties for a friendship to blossom and truly flourish. Making a commitment to sobriety is often effort enough, so the thought of opening to someone and creating a window for the potential of emotional pain can be overwhelming to say the least. But learning to overcome that be open to the idea of starting brand new friendships in recovery is a sign of big progress. It may take some time and some patience, but you can create lifelong bonds during and after early recovery. It’s all about your approach and your intentions.
Do You Remember What It’s Like to Make Friends?
The numbers seem to show that we make friends more easily the younger we are, out of combination of a greater amount of free time and a greater sense of honesty. Children can be quite blunt and upfront and are not very prone to subtle maneuvering or manipulation. It’s only with age that we become jaded, or manipulative, or both.
Compound that with the fact that adults have responsibilities, schedules, financial restrictions, and no longer spend a significant portion of their waking day among peers that are likely to share similar interests with them, and it seems obvious that it’s much harder to make friends later in life. Over time, we also sort of lose the practice we once had.
But it’s by no means impossible. You’ll just have to dust off old habits and approach or be approachable.
Don’t Stick to the Sobriety Crowd
The first mistake many are prone to make is trying to make a friend solely from the sober community. While it’s obvious that you shouldn’t be on the lookout for a drinking buddy or someone who is likely to enable your behavior, the primary objective shouldn’t be to find a sober friend, but to find a friend. Friends either compliment or contrast us and share a social dynamic with us – a form of chemistry – that makes them fun to be around, and vice versa.
That often begins with shared interests and passionate discourse. Begin looking for friends in places you go to for fun. It might be a local sports club, the gym, an online art club, or any number of different places where people gather both physically and virtually to discuss and engage in their favorite topics and hobbies. These aren’t the only places you can make friends, of course.
Go for the Friends, Stay for the Healing
Going to sober meetings is one way to meet new sober people, if you’re looking to guarantee finding someone who is as engaged and committed as you are to long-term sobriety. Picking a friend solely for their sobriety is a poor way to go but picking among sober people is effective as well. The key is to go to several meetings, and not just hang around one of them.
More than just a spot to meet new people, however, it’s also important to point out that there is a lot to be gained from spending time at different recovery meetups. Hearing people speak about their experiences with addiction might not necessarily sound like the most effective way to make progress in your own unique journey, but you would be surprised how much knowledge and wisdom you can take away from someone else’s mistakes and successes, and how entirely different lives can genuinely speak to you on a level that no one else can, outside of addiction treatment and recovery community circles.
The internet is a remarkable place, not least because of its capacity to connect individuals from all over the planet. Not all friends have to be people you can meet with for a drink – sometimes, having a pen pal over the internet works too.
You don’t have to meet people in this day and age to form a bond of friendship with them. All it takes is a stable internet connection and regular contact, through instant messaging, online forums, webcam, or smartphone calls, and much more.
Alternatively, make use of the internet’s ability to act as an endless directory, and get yourself a bigger and more accurate picture of the sober scene in your town or city. You may be amazed to discover how many people in your city are recovering addicts, working together or on their own to maintain their commitment to sobriety.
Focus on Nurturing Habits
You don’t really have to put the onus on finding friends. Early recovery is as much about learning to reconnect with others in new and meaningful ways as it is about learning to rediscover your own interests and figure out what exactly it is that you feel passionate about, and what motivates you to do more in life than just survive to live to the next day.
By spending time on your hobbies and passions, you’re bound to stretch out and look for others with similar interests and come across groups dedicated to the thing you love.
Try Out New Things
Aside from rediscovery, it’s also important to discover new things. Never stop trying new things out – who knows, maybe you’re yet to discover the thing that really drives you and makes you tick. Recovery should be a time of self-discovery, spending time to try and understand who you are without the addiction, who you want to be without the addiction, and how to reconcile the two in the best way possible.