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Making Friends In Early Recovery

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

Medically reviewed by

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

April 9, 2019

People by nature are social animals. Being in recovery, however, can add some challenges to being social, as often it is vital to cut ties with a lot of friends and family that are still using or who promote substance use. Though it may sound daunting, here are some tips to help make this process go a little smoother.

Loneliness Is A Relapse Trigger

A general list of relapse triggers can be summed up in the acronym HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. In general people are at more risk of relapse in one of these states, so it is in your best interest to avoid them altogether by taking care of your mind and body. While it is a challenge, taking care of loneliness means taking that first step, putting yourself out there, and connecting with new friends.

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Find Friends In Recovery

This one may also be obvious, but it needs to be said so no one goes around repeating the same patterns and bad habits that started them using. When meeting people, focus your time on people you know are in recovery who do not drink or use drugs. It is that simple. Having friends who drink or use increases the likelihood of relapse; avoiding them as much as you can is key.

Finding Friends Period

Another question that gets asked often is where to meet new people, especially people in recovery. This question seems to stump a lot of people so here are some ideas of places to pay attention. Just start by finding people with whom to talk.

  • AA or other 12-step groups. This is a more beneficial place if you have a home or regular AA group, so you are seeing the same people and getting to know them better each time you go.
  • Church or other healthy lifestyle groups. There are other groups out that focus on personal growth and health, so explore those. For example, a healthy eating group would be a great place to start, or a religious study group at a church.
  • Oftentimes those in early recovery are very focused on themselves and may still be wrapped up in the selfishness that addiction forces upon you. Going out into the community and doing volunteer work provides a way to get out of your head and focus on others for a brief period of time, and gives you many opportunities to talk to and connect with others. This could be something as simple as going down to the animal shelter and volunteering to walk a dog a few times a week, or doing something more in depth as working at a homeless shelter. The United Way usually lists area nonprofits and what types of volunteers they are looking for.
  • Early recovery presents a unique opportunity as it is akin to reinvent oneself. This is your chance to do those things you have always wanted but never were able to do because of addiction, anxiety, or lack of time. Now is the time to learn a new skill, take a class you have always wanted to, or go back to get a degree. It could be as simple as taking that trip that always got put off, or just going to the symphony. This is the reinvention of you, so take the opportunity to do those things you have always wanted.

This is just a short list of places to meet new people where you may be able to start conversations on many different topics. It is by no means exhaustive and there are plenty of other places where you can strike up a conversation with someone, but this is a good start.

Managing Social Anxiety

Addiction is often described as a self-centered illness. The addicted person loses contact with others, and in a sense, forgets how to be social. This can cause some amount of social anxiety when in early recovery. It is normal and natural to experience anxiety in new situations, especially when they involve meeting new people. Here is a list of some techniques to try to overcome that.

  • Do math in your head. Your anxiety is high, which means the emotional half of your brain is using twice the energy as the rational half. Calming means taking away energy from the emotional half and giving it to the rational half. Nothing is more rational than math. So start doing math in your head, whatever is just difficult enough that you need to think about it, not just what you memorized in elementary school. And best of all, no one knows what you are doing in your head so no one will be able to tell you are doing a calming exercise.
  • Take slow, deep breaths. This does not have to be any lengthy breathing technique, although there are many and they are just as helpful, but just taking several slow deliberate deep breaths can help.
  • Self-talk is important. The words you say in your head matter, so use that to your advantage and remind yourself that you are not the center of attention, nothing bad will happen to you, and that it is just a conversation. This simple task will go a long way in reducing your anxiety.

Remember To Seek Help When Needed

These tips should help you start to connect with people again, easing your way into new social circles. If this is becoming too difficult, too stressful, or too painful to do, please contact us at for help. We will assist you in finding appropriate aftercare services or help you at any point on your road to a sober life.

Psychology Today- -Must Have Coping Strategies for Social Anxiety -

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration - Making and Keeping Friends: A Self-Help Guide

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