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Importance of the Right Friends in Recovery


In Alcoholics Anonymous, they advise newcomers to stick with the winners. This refers to the idea that it is important for the person in recovery, particularly early recovery, to spend as much time as possible with positive and inspirational people. It is equally important that the individual is also able to avoid spending time with negative people as well. Having the right friends in recovery can have a significant effect on the person’s chances of long-term sobriety, so it is important to take this seriously.

The Need for Social Networks

Even though there are people who prefer solitude, by-and-large humans are social animals. This preference for spending time with other people has become so deeply ingrained in our psyche that it could fairly be described as a survival instinct. In fact, it is unlikely that humans would have ever survived as a species if it were not for this preference to live in groups.

People need social networks in order to function effectively in the world. Some of the most important functions provided by these networks would include:

  • The individual is able to turn to these social networks for advice when they have a problem. This function is vital because humans are regularly faced with new and complex problems. Without the help of people who have already dealt with these problems, or similar issues, it would be extremely difficult for the individual to function in life.
  • These groups act as a depositary of knowledge and experience so that the individual can benefit from this pool of information.  It means that they can learn from the mistakes and successes of other people in their group. It also greatly increases their knowledge about the world at large.
  • Members of a social group are able to offer each other direct help. For example, people can help each other accomplish different goals or offer each other financial support.
  • Social groups offer support to the individual. This is important because humans are able to do more and act more effectively when they feel more supported. Even when other people are unable to provide direct help, this feeling of being supported will make things easier.
  • Social groups provide an important feedback mechanism for the members. It can be very hard for individuals to assess their own behaviour and thinking. The social group gives the person feedback so that they can adapt their thinking and behaviour so that it fits in with the rest of the group. If the individual does this, they will gain acceptance in the group, but if they fail to do this, they will be treated like an outcast.
  • The social group will help the individual develop their identity.

Addiction and Social Networks

When people fall into substance abuse they will usually begin to spend time with drinking and drug using friends. This network of substance abusers can be of great importance for the individual, although much of the impact of this group will be ultimately negative. The impact of the support group for people trapped in addiction will include:

  • By spending time with other substance abusers, it supports the idea that such behaviour is normal. The person may even believe that alcohol and drug abuse is the norm because this is something that most people they spend their time with are involved in.
  • This group will support the individual in their denial of addiction. The person can genuinely believe that it is the people who do not engage in substance abuse who are the deviants.
  • Members of this group can directly help the individual sustain their addiction. For example, they may be able to pool resources in order to ensure that members of the group will all have a regular supply.
  • The substance abuse support group will provide a feedback mechanism for how they should behave. This will encourage addictive behaviours while discouraging any suggestion that the members should choose recovery. Those individuals who do begin to feel the pull towards recovery may find that they are ostracised by the rest of the group because of it.

Danger of Spending Time with Drinking and Drug Using Friends in Recovery

There are some real dangers to spending time with drinking and drug using friends in recovery including:

  • These people will likely try to discourage the person from staying sober. This can eat away at the individual’s self-efficacy and determination.
  • They may actively try to sabotage the person’s recovery. They may even decide to spike the person’s soft drink with alcohol or trick them into taking drugs.
  • These people are likely to view this person’s recovery as a threat, so they will use every tactic available to undermine this offer of sober living.
  • This group will be a constant source of temptation.
  • They will encourage the individual to think like an addict.
  • The negativity of this group can be highly infective.

Importance of Sticking with the Winners in Recovery

The importance of sticking with the winners in recovery will include:

  • They will inspire the individual to build a good life in recovery.
  • They will offer the person practical advice on how to live life without alcohol or drugs.
  • They may be able offer direct help. For example, the person may find that a member of this sober network can help them get a job.
  • The individual will be able to get strength from this group when they feel that they are struggling. If the person feels that they are about to relapse they can contact a member of this group to get the support they need
  • This group will provide a feedback mechanism for sobriety. For example, they will be able to warn the individual if they are going off course.

A common reason for why people will relapse in recovery is that they feel lonely. Membership of this group will ensure that the individual no longer feels lonely.

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