The Significance of Social Connections in Recovery

November 14, 2022

Alcohol and substance use disorders are chronic diseases that require continued care and support to prevent a relapse. Social connection is essential for recovery, but this is a challenging time for those with substance use disorders. The stigma around drug and alcohol issues is significant; people may feel shame about disclosing their condition or fear judgment from others.

As a result, many isolate themselves from loved ones and avoid social situations where drinking is the main activity. Isolation makes it more difficult to maintain sobriety and stay accountable to support networks and treatment providers. Social connection during recovery has been shown to positively impact the chances of staying sober and returning to sobriety after relapse. Social connection means different things to different people, but researchers agree on its importance during recovery.

What Is a Support Network?

A support network is a group of individuals who provide emotional, social, or practical support to one another. In recovery from alcohol or substance use disorder, a support network can play a vital role in helping an individual stay on track with their recovery goals.


A support network can provide a sense of community and belonging, which can help counteract the isolation that often accompanies addiction. They can also give a person a sense of responsibility and motivate them on their recovery journey.


Support systems can take many forms, from in-person support groups to online forums and communities. Whatever form it takes, a support network can be a valuable resource for anyone in recovery from an alcohol or substance use disorder.


Groups that make up a support network may include some of the following:

Recovery-specific groups

Groups that meet to engage in some aspect of recovery are known as "recovery-specific groups." Groups seldom have any kind of framework in place to facilitate non-recovery-focused conversation or behavior.

Volunteer groups

People in recovery may give back to the community by volunteering with various groups. Volunteers and event planners may get to know each other naturally through the times they work together.

Connections made while in treatment

Individuals with substance use disorders frequently build close ties during their recovery from addiction when they successfully finish drug or alcohol treatment together. Such bonds may be relatively strong.

School resources

Substance misuse and addiction treatment services are often accessible to students at colleges and universities. Therapy or counseling could be a part of such a program.

Religious and spiritual groups

Even if you don't participate in religious organizations, you could still find yourself a member of a group inside a group. For example, 12 Step meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are often held in places of worship.

Healthcare providers

People with substance or alcohol use disorders in recovery rely heavily on the help of medical professionals such as therapists, physicians, nurses, dietitians, massage therapists, chiropractors, and many more. Unfortunately, most individuals in recovery fail to tap into the potential of this support system fully.

Friends and family

The most crucial component of any effective support network is a person's family and friends who are on board with and encouraging recovery. Those in recovery should avoid spending too much time with loved ones who enable their addictive habits or do not value sobriety.

Why Are Connections and Social Networks Important in Recovery?

People in recovery who are experiencing negative emotions like guilt, shame, or emptiness may be more vulnerable to feeling lonely and isolated. The key to preventing relapse and recovering during this fragile period is social support. Consequently, people in recovery need to make contact with others, despite how awkward it may seem, to develop support networks and amass resources for continuing their journey.


Many people who struggle with addiction end up relapsing when they understand the importance of social connection, lack solid social support or if they are unable to maintain good relationships. Relearning healthy coping mechanisms to handle life's inevitable ups and downs is crucial to recovery from addiction


The individuals in your social circle should include those you don't mind reaching out to for support in times of need. They are the ones that can relate to your difficulties and either provide advice or just listen. People like that are the ones that tell you that you're doing a fantastic job and that they appreciate how complex rehabilitation is. They're the ones you call at 3 a.m. when you can't go to sleep, and they're the ones who tell you to stop neglecting yourself. You can't make it through the addiction recovery process without them. Without them, you could lose momentum in your recovery and face new problems, such as loneliness and social isolation, which could make you more likely to relapse.

The Accountability Factor

Joining a support network is one way to be accountable to others as you work toward recovery. You may want to join a support group or have a sponsor in AA. You could also talk with a trusted loved one about being accountable to each other. Making others aware of your goal to stay sober is an essential first step toward having a successful recovery. 


When you join a support group or talk with others about your intent to remain sober, you're making a necessary declaration. You're letting yourself and others know that sobriety is a priority in your life and that you want to make changes to achieve your goal. Making a public declaration is a vital first step toward staying sober.

The Advantages of Connection, Support, and Community

Discovering your unique qualities and developing new avenues for friendship may be facilitated by participating in stimulating discussions with your social circle. Positive mental and physical health effects have been linked to engaging in meaningful social interactions. Using drugs and alcohol is connected to several health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and a weakened immune system. Isolation can make all these problems worse.


It's essential to stay connected to friends and family, but it's also important to stay connected with a sense of your needs. You may feel inclined to withdraw and isolate yourself if you're struggling with addiction. But this can be a dangerous and isolating habit. Instead, you should interact with others, even if it's just in small doses and through social media. Getting out and about in a group can help you take your mind off your cravings.


In addition to being a source of support, these group interactions can be fun. You can also learn a lot about yourself by watching how you interact with people and your preferences. There's nothing more empowering than getting to know yourself better, which can provide you with a sense of self-awareness. It could be the fundamental key to forming new habits. 


Maintaining positive connections with other people is crucial to your mental and emotional well-being. Recovering individuals need support from others beyond their recovery community to help them sustain their newfound sense of self over time. It is critical for people in recovery to cultivate connections and interactions that reinforce various aspects of their identities and lifestyles. 


Those in recovery may avoid burnout and the risk of becoming sober-obsessed by making time for a healthy, well-rounded life outside their recovery identity. Keep in mind the value of developing not just a recovery identity but also a hobby identity and other non-recovery identities.


Connection with others, whether through human touch, conversation, or a shared interest, reinforces community. Engagement with others helps us reduce negative self-talk, which comes from feelings of isolation and sadness. Humans have a deep need to bond, and when they bond with a social group, feelings of happiness and endorphins in the brain increase. 


Other benefits of building healthy interpersonal relationships and creating social connections in recovery include having a sense of purpose, reducing stress levels, promoting psychological well-being, increasing resilience in the face of challenges, and enhancing self-esteem.

Combining Practical and Social Support

In addition to treatment and practical support, the nature and quality of your support network are fundamental to your long-term sobriety. Conventional modalities consist of regular psychotherapy or medication and practical support, which are activities that foster positive self-esteem and identity while in recovery.


Recovery yields more successful outcomes when people immerse themselves in a goal-oriented community, which is what holistic-focused, addiction treatment centers like Wish Recovery provide from the first day. Our competent counselors and therapists will teach you skills for building new relationships that don't center around activities involving the consumption of drugs and alcohol. You'll leave our rehab ready to have healthier connections with people who will support your sober living and other life goals. Contact us today to learn more.

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