When we look at relapse patterns, 99.9 percent of the time, clients report that they stopped working their program prior to relapsing. This means that they stopped putting their recovery first, maybe by not attending meetings or their outpatient treatment sessions. That’s when the relapse starts—when individuals start to disengage with their recovery regimen, not just when they use.
“But I go to meetings every day and I still relapsed. It doesn’t work.” Now, it is entirely possible to relapse even when you’re doing “all the right things.” But we have to remember that there is a huge difference between a relapse and a slip. Immediate intervention is imperative in ensuring a slip doesn’t morph into a relapse.
If you have a community of sober support that you are actively and frequently engaged with, they will notice if you stop showing up to events and reach out to you. These connections can prevent a slip from turning into a full-blown relapse. You’re less likely to completely lose your hold on your recovery if you have a built-in support system and sober community in place—it’s your safety net.
In addition to being a safety net, a strong sober community can help with the following:
- Hedonic Rehabilitation (aka learning to have fun in recovery). By connecting with others in recovery you’ll find like-minded individuals who want to have new and fun experiences without mind-altering substances. Not only will attending meetings and recovery events help you stay on track, but you’ll meet new people who you can explore shared interests with.
- Establishing Fellowship. Fellowship is a fancy word that that AA likes to use for “friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests.” To put fellowship into practice, try going to a meal or coffee with a person from your program after a meeting. By taking time to learn about the members in your recovery program, you’ll begin to make friends and establish connections with people who are on paths similar to your own.
Early in your recovery, you may realize that you have friends and relationships that you need to reassess. You may find that you don’t have much in common with your old friends anymore, or that many of your old relationships were based on using, drinking, or partying.
To protect yourself and your sobriety, you will need to set boundaries. The friends you choose to set boundaries with can be a great indicator of the people you want to invest your time in. If your old friends can’t respect your boundaries, or hang out with you and not use substances, is it really worth putting time and energy into those relationships?
Though your new life in sobriety may limit your old relationships, the good news is that there are so many new friendships waiting to be developed. The members of your recovery program are open to fellowship, connection, and sober experiences. Upon meeting and connecting with others in recovery, you may even develop deeper and stronger bonds than those from your past relationships.