How to Find Sober Friends
Ditching a substance abuse habit often requires shelving unhealthy relationships to make room for new friendships that don’t revolve around drugs or alcohol … but finding sober friends is rarely a small, intuitive, or immediate process. On the contrary, it can take time, courage and vulnerability—and can be nothing short of daunting.
In other words, in early recovery it’s perfectly natural to wonder, “How do I find sober friends?” And if you find yourself asking this question, you’re in good company: there are many others in the same shoes. Here I offer some tips for how to approach this common dilemma:
- Join a home group. 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are one of the best ways to plug into a supportive network of potential new friends. In addition to connecting you with others on the same road, regular involvement in a home group is evidenced to improve recovery outcomes. You might also consider going to a variety of AA/NA meetings, so that you can broaden your circle.
- Speak up in 12-step meetings. If showing up to meetings is like dipping your toes in a pool of new, sober friendships, then speaking up—sharing your story, offering words of encouragement, inviting the feedback of other members, etc.—is like taking a plunge. It takes guts to be an active contributor in a meeting, but when you begin to exercise those vocal muscles, getting real about what you’re going through, you’ll open more doors to new sober friendships. Chances are, for example, that what you say touches someone else, who will then want to continue the conversation after the meeting or at another time over coffee. Make the most of these opportunities when they arise, because they are natural outlets for building new friendships.
- Ask for phone numbers. Because AA and other 12-step groups emphasize the importance of mutual accountability, service and support, don’t be bashful about asking for phone numbers when the circumstances seem appropriate—and be intentional about taking the time to follow up with a phone call later. So much of friendship is about setting aside time and space for genuine connection. When you take the initiative—in this case, by remembering to call and taking the time to chat—that investment pays off.
- Get a sponsor. A sponsor is, in essence, an older and wiser friend in recovery whose job is to encourage you to work the 12 steps. A sponsor is also, in many cases, better connected within the recovery world, and can introduce you to still other sober friends. Getting a sponsor can therefore deepen and enlarge your existing network of sober friendships.
- Join sober activity groups in your area. For example, here in South Florida, the recovery epicenter of the nation, you can probably find a sober version of just about any form of recreation, from sober biking and motorcycling groups to sober fitness and yoga. In many cities, though, you can now easily connect with others over shared sober interests and activities, thanks to the app, Meetup, which offers listings for Sober Meetups across the country. In this case, Google, the search friend, is also your friend (albeit a virtual one). Start there. You’ll be surprised at the endless variety of options that show up with a quick search. If your passion is cave spelunking and stamp collecting, and you can’t find a sober group for either, be patient. A little more googling may turn up something else you’re interested in trying … with a whole new set of sober friends.