No person is an island. We all have a need for connection as we navigate the ups and downs of life. This is especially true for people who are navigating life in recovery. Anyone who is entrenched in this process knows that isolation and loneliness often play a big role in keeping a person stuck in addiction cycles. In fact, people with substance abuse disorders experience stronger feelings of loneliness than most. A solid support community can guard against these feelings. This is why so many experts stress the importance of community in programs that prevent and treat substance abuse.
Research reveals that people who have access to social communities and support systems are much less likely to relapse after substance abuse treatment. To maintain the sobriety that you have achieved during treatment, it is ideal to have a solid support community.
The Roles of Accountability and Motivation
Having social support is important for combating feelings of loneliness for most people. However, community plays an even bigger role in substance abuse recovery. Community is important for creating the accountability and motivation that is needed to stay on track. The idea that people are counting on a person in recovery to "show up" can create a new sense of purpose.
What Does Community in Recovery Look Like?
A person in early recovery often has freedom to personalize their recovery experience to include various forms of community. It is highly recommended that a peer-based support group is integrated into one’s recovery process. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can help create the accountability that's needed to navigate the new and unfamiliar experience of existing and relating as a person in recovery.
Aftercare and sober living communities are also an important part of community in recovery. These programs help a person develop healthy coping skills in the context of daily living. In sober living communities, a person learns to thrive doing everyday activities and chores.
Other Ways to Access Community During Recovery
Activities that allow a person to be mindful at the moment through physical activity or artistic expression can also help to give a person new tools for working through feelings of loneliness and isolation between formal recovery-based meetings. This is important because many people coming out of substance abuse only know how to socialize within the context of using.
Here are some positive recovery activities that can help a person remain in the moment and connected to others:
Attending spiritual services
Attending yoga classes
Attending community art or music classes
Volunteering at homeless shelters, retirement homes or animal shelters
Taking martial arts classes
The big benefit of participating in these types of activities is that they provide an opportunity for both community and personal development. This means that the person in recovery isn't simply seeking community for the sake of being accepted and embraced by the group. While that is a big benefit of the activity, it isn't the whole picture. The person in recovery will also be simultaneously taking part in an activity that provides personal development and enrichment.
Community Belongs in Early Recovery
A recovery community is essential for learning how to develop healthy habits, share struggles, celebrate success and work through obstacles in the early stages of life in recovery. In addition, integrating with the larger community in positive and sober spaces can create a sense of belonging in a newly recovered person. Many people who embrace recovery feel as though they are meeting themselves for the first time as they come out of the fog of addiction. The temptation to isolate one's self and be drawn back into a world of loneliness must be rejected as a person is faced with getting to know who they are.
Finding a place in a community is essential for developing the tools to create new coping skills and healthier habits for interacting with others in positive, sober spaces. The bottom line is that community belongs in early recovery because community belongs in the human experience.