If the idea of sitting among a group of fellow recovering addicts sharing their stories makes you cringe, you’re not alone. The support group setting is not everyone’s favorite, but is it important?

The answer is not completely straightforward for a couple of reasons. One is that everyone is an individual and there is no single, best treatment and recovery scheme that works for everyone. The other is that, while social support is important to recovery, it can look different from the traditional support group. If you are in recovery, you have a few things to consider when it comes to making a choice about a support group and going to meetings.

We Are Social Animals

A number of studies have been conducted to test the hypothesis that humans need social interaction to thrive and that this social connection is directly related to successful recovery from addiction. What does successful recovery look like? Fewer relapses. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that the more social support recovering addicts have, the less likely they are to relapse. Of course, that social support has to center on abstinence. If a recovering addict goes back to her old drinking or drug-abusing social circle, she is more likely to relapse. But if she spends time with people who support her sobriety, she will be more successful at avoiding relapse.

What Kind of Social Support Works?

The good news about social support is that it can take a number of forms and still help you maintain your sobriety. Support group meetings are great for many people. They provide a safe place at which you can share your stories, your feelings and your weaknesses without fear of being shamed or looked down upon. Your fellow support group members are your peers in the truest sense. They know what you are going through, and that is a powerful thing.

Support groups aren’t the only way to get the benefits of social networks. Having close friends and family members supporting your sobriety is another great way to be a part of a positive social system. If you regularly spend time socializing with people who care about you, you will be less inclined to go off the rails and start using again. They may not know exactly where you’ve been, but they care and will support you.

Another way to get the benefits of socializing is to be a part of your community. Go out and get involved in social functions. This could mean going to a local community art class, getting involved in local politics, taking courses at your closest community college or volunteering in your community. You could even start by just spending time in your local park or visiting with your neighbors. The more you put yourself into social situations that are positive, the more you will benefit from other people.

Support groups for addiction recovery have an important role to play for many people. They provide social interaction, social support and a place to share and learn, but they don’t represent your only option for socializing and community. You can benefit from a social network in a variety of ways. Be creative about how you socialize and engage with other people. The more you experience positive social interactions, especially in the context of sobriety, the more likely you will be to maintain your sobriety.


Choose a better life. Choose recovery.