Social Processes in Recovery from Addiction and Alcoholism

Social Processes in Recovery from Addiction and Alcoholism


One of the most interesting hypothetical questions I’ve heard about recovery is the deserted island question:

“If you were trying to recover from addiction or alcoholism on a deserted island, with no other people there other than yourself, would you still need a program of recovery?”

Maybe not. It’s a good question, really, because it exposes how much of “recovery” focuses on dealing with relationships. Simply attend any AA meeting and listen for a while, and you’ll get a good sense of just how true this is. Recovery isn’t so much about avoiding drugs–it’s about dealing with people and the relationships in our lives (because those are the issues that can drive us towards relapse).

We often talk about “people, places, and things” in recovery, and how we have to watch out for potential triggers in all three of those. But really, a recovering addict has quite a bit of power over both places and things. We can simply choose to avoid them altogether if they are too dangerous for us.

But of course it is different with people. Sometimes the people who are closest to us can be our biggest trigger. Therefore, we are not always in a position to be able to avoid them.

The processes

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1) Letting go of unhealthy “friendships” – I had to do this with quite a few people when I finally got sober. Thank goodness for long term treatment….otherwise, losing all of these acquaintances would have been too devastating.

There is an argument that says the people that you drank or got high with were not really your friends. I don’t buy that. But if using drugs and alcohol formed the basis of your relationship with them, then you’re still going to have to move on if you want to stay clean.

2) Making new friends in recovery – this is a process as well, obviously. 12 step programs such as AA excel in this area because they are basically social networks of recovering people. It’s my theory that the younger you are, the more you need to have a solution for this social problem in recovery. In other words, you need a way to make new friends in when you first get sober.

I’m sure there are other processes as well, but those are the 2 big ones. When transitioning to recovery, you have to eliminate “bad” relationships, and focus on creating “good” ones.

How are these social processes driven?

Creating this new life for yourself in recovery is going to be ultimately based on the vision you have for what your life should look like.

Imagine your life in recovery to be filled with helpful and healthy people who are recovering themselves, including family, friends, and perhaps a sponsor. You can then create this vision based on your everyday decisions.

I took quite a shortcut to this myself when I checked into long term treatment, where I lived with 12 recovering addicts and alcoholics and attended various meetings every day. That was over 7 years ago, and I am still friends with some of them today.

The other big shortcut to mastering the social processes in recovery is to fully immerse yourself in 12 step meetings. While this won’t be necessary for everyone, I still think it’s a good way to address these social processes, especially in early recovery.

What do you think? What were social processes like for you in early recovery?


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