Fellowship in recovery is vital. The importance of fellowship in sobriety is promoted in addiction treatment centers and support groups for addiction recovery too. Anyone who has been in recovery for some time can tell you firsthand how crucial fellowship is to sustaining recovery.
Fellowship is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a friendly relationship amongst people with similar interests.” For many who need help for a problem with alcohol or drugs, the only fellowship known is that with others who are also in addiction. The similar interest most always is alcohol or drugs. And in most cases, these so-called ‘friendships’ quickly dissolve once one person stops using alcohol or drugs.
Many people who are now struggling with addiction once began their drinking or drug use in social settings; having fun at the bar, out with others at concerts, enjoying time with co-workers at happy hour, celebrating with family at holidays, etc. However, for anyone who has an alcohol or substance use disorder (AUD or SUD), this is not how it is after addiction has set in for good.
In fact, most people who have an addiction can testify to how isolating, lonely, and hopeless they feel. Fellowship and real friendships simply don’t exist. In the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, as it’s known, the loneliness and isolation of addiction are talked about in detail.
In Chapter 11, A Vision for You, page 151 it says,
“For most normal folks, drinking means conviviality, companionship and colorful imagination. It means the release from care, boredom and worry. It is joyous intimacy with friends and a feeling that life is good. But not so with us in those last days of heavy drinking. The old pleasures were gone. They were but memories.”
Once these days have passed and drinking or drug use is beyond one’s control the loss of friendships begins and isolation sets in for what seems like forever.
The Big Book goes on to say,
“The less people tolerated us, the more we withdrew from society, from life itself. As we became subjects of King Alcohol, shivering denizens of his mad realm, the chilling vapor that is loneliness settled down. It thickened, ever becoming blacker.”
This is one reason why fellowship in recovery is so vital. And, no matter how long you have been isolated, fellowship can be found if you truly want it.
In the Big Book page 152, it goes on to say about those who are struggling to cope with how they will live without alcohol (or a drug),
“Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom, and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find the fellowship, and so will you.”
Ask anyone living in recovery and they will undoubtedly tell you this is true. However, it can be very hard to imagine this while living in active addiction and even in early recovery. Not only have you or a loved one isolated for so long, but it can also be hard to trust that others have your best interest in mind.
However, many others have also felt this way and have gone on to have lifelong fellowship and friendships beyond their wildest dreams. This is possible for anyone.
How Fellowship Helps Sobriety
Friendship and fellowship can help anyone in early recovery in many ways. First, it’s vital to say goodbye to old, unhealthy friendships and places you or a loved one may have frequented. These will only lead back to the temptation to use alcohol or drugs. Protecting one’s sobriety should come before all else. Once these former friends are gone, it’s important to have new, healthier friendships with others also in sobriety.
For many in early recovery, they shy away from this, thinking, “I can do this on my own.” or “I don’t need friends, I’ve got this.” However, thousands of relapses have shown this not to be the case. So how exactly does fellowship help in recovery—particularly early recovery?
As you may know, putting down the drink or drug is just the first step in recovery. Changing thought patterns and behaviors is the next crucial step. Friendships with others in recovery can help with this. When faced with a challenging situation or you’re feeling down, calling another person in recovery can make a big difference.
Talking through issues, brainstorming solutions, and applying things learned in treatment or at support groups like AA can be very helpful. You can learn new ways of handling things, talk to others you trust who have been through similar situations, and get insight from people who truly care about your wellbeing and recovery.
But that’s not all.
Fellowship and friendship with other sober people offer the opportunity to do fun, sober things with others. From getting food after a meeting to going on excursions and trips together, life in sobriety can be a lot of fun. And while you may be reluctant at first, with time, real friendships will grow. Here’s what Lexi T. said about her newfound fellowship in sobriety,
“I never had any real friends. My friends and I all partied together and that’s all. After rehab, I started going to AA meetings. People there started talking to me, asking for my number, giving me theirs, and inviting me to do things. At first, I said no, I felt uncomfortable. But eventually, I began to take the chance and go. It was one of the best things I’ve done for my recovery. Now I have real friends who I can call 24/7 and they’ll be there for me. We have fun together, we laugh together, and sometimes we cry together.”
The benefits of friendships are vast. According to research by Meliksah Demir, Ph.D., and Lesley A. Weitekamp, friendships increased happiness even in introverted people, and that happiness varied by 58% based on the quality of friendships.
Here are more benefits of fellowship and friendships:
- Decreases stress
- Increases happiness
- Increases sense of belonging
- Increases sense of purpose
- Improves self-confidence
- Improves sense of self-worth
- Helps in coping with trauma
- Supports in changing bad habits such as drinking or not exercising
Research shows that when you have a strong support system of friends and fellowship, there is a reduction in health issues like high blood pressure and depression. This is true too when it comes to relapse. Data indicates that those individuals with strong support systems outside of treatment are less likely to relapse than others who don’t.
So how do you find fellowship and friendship in recovery? Get involved!
Today, the best treatment centers have vibrant and active alumni groups. Futures’ alumni group is one of these. Early in clinical treatment, patients are welcomed into the alumni family with a Coining In ceremony. Post-treatment, Futures holds regular alumni events, on campus, locally, nationally, and virtually. Not only that but the Futures alumni team proactively checks in with patients for months, even years after they have left clinical treatment and patients leave with direct connections for support, as needed.
And while this type of alumni support is essential to long-term recovery, it’s also vital to get involved with other sober individuals where you live and work. Support groups such as AA, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Celebrate Recovery, Refuge Recovery, SMART Recovery, and more can help.
There are thousands of AA and NA groups that meet in just about every city, town, and even countries across the globe. You can find fellowship by attending these 12-Step meetings. It’s important to reach out and speak to others at the meeting. If you raise your hand and let other members of the group know you are new in recovery, new to the area, or simply new to the meeting they will help you become connected with others in recovery.
The fellowship of 12-Step groups is vibrant and strong. And, with the vast availability of meetings, it’s a great place to start building the fellowship you deserve and that can make your life in recovery truly beyond your wildest dreams.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs, Futures can help. Offering comprehensive, evidence-based care for adults, Futures’ team is devoted to helping you find recovery from addiction, peace of mind, and real friendships to last a lifetime. Call us today at 866-804-2098 or contact us online.