Creating Connection: The Importance of Community on the Road to Recovery


By: Kylie Ora Lobell

When you’re just out of rehab, you may feel isolated and awkward going back to the “real world.” Some of the friends and family members you have could be struggling with addiction themselves, while the others might not understand what you’re going through. It can be extremely lonely, which will impede your recovery.

That’s why it’s crucial to join and cultivate your own community once you leave rehab.

“Human beings are perhaps the most social of all species,” says Dr. Riana Chagoury of Prominence Treatment Center in Calabasas, California. “We thrive in community and healthy, interdependent networks and relationships. For those in recovery, this appears to be especially true. Participating in a community whose sole purpose is devoted to people helping each other stay sober is a source of happiness for millions around the world.”

The following are some of the ways you can build a network of sober friends and socialize after your stay in rehab:

Join a Support Group

Many people have enjoyed long-term sobriety thanks to open sober communities like 12-step fellowships, SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery and Refuge Recovery. According to Dr. Chagoury, there are also more than 60,000 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups in the United States that you can join. “The format of these groups varies based on age, gender, language and interest,” she says. “If you check out five meetings in your local area, chances are you’ll find one that is a good fit for you.”

Support groups are proven to work and keep people sober. A 2013 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study found that one of the two strongest indicators of long-term recovery is regular attendance at recovery-based fellowship meetings. “The nature of addiction is so deep-seated, powerful and persistent that addicts seldom stay sober on sheer willpower without the help and support of others,” Dr. Chagoury says. “Sober communities are held together by the idea that their primary purpose to is help each other stay sober.”

Connect with Like-Minded People

Getting involved in AA or another 12-step or non-12-step recovery group is a great start. But you’ll need to forge personal friendships with people in those groups as well. Look for friends that you have things in common with as well as ones who live near you and share your values. Dr. Chagoury notes it’s also useful to connect with people who are leading the life you want to have in terms of their recovery and personal relationships.

Partake in Fun, Sober Activities 

When you go to your sober meetings, offer to take on service commitments like setting up the coffee and snacks table or welcoming new members. Dr. Chagoury recommends getting together before or after meetings to share a meal with the other group members. Many sober groups will participate in acts of service for their local neighborhoods as a way of giving back as well as start softball leagues or go surfing or bowling together. “In the end, the specific activity is less important than the people you participate in it with,” Dr. Chagoury says.

Remember: In your recovery and community-building process, you need to do what fulfills you. That’s the key to true contentment and long-term success.

“One misnomer about happiness is that it is to be pursued or found, like an elusive, buried treasure,” Dr. Chagoury says. Cultivating happiness can actually be much simpler and straightforward. Happiness is a byproduct of engaging in meaningful, satisfying activities. In the case of those leaving rehab, this often takes the form of work, school or acts of service that are productive, positive and estimable.”

Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer in Los Angeles specializing in healthcare, technology and small business topics. 

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