“The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection.” – Johann Hari

While sobriety is one potential goal of recovery, it is our support network that is a crucial element of helping us achieve that goal. Our recovering community is a foundational support that will help us lead fulfilling lives on the way to long-term recovery. We all know that recovery isn’t easy, but it’s a whole lot more manageable when we have a community of supportive friends and family, as well as recovery peers in recovery who are also walking our path.

What is the purpose of community in addiction recovery?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recovery-oriented care and recovery support systems help people with mental and substance use disorders manage their conditions successfully. Community is one of the four key components they identify as supporting recovery. SAMHSA defines community as having relationships and social networks that provide support, encouragement toward recovery goals, friendship, love, and hope. The other components are health, home, and purpose.

We all know that trying to achieve recovery alone is challenging. It is difficult to keep committed to our recovery goal at the best of times, never mind when life keeps throwing curveballs! Anyone in long-term recovery will tell you that recovery is full of challenges and losses no matter how long you’ve been sober, from grief to the loss of a job to dealing with difficult people and relationships. This is why it is crucial to have a supportive community.

What are the benefits of a recovery community?

The benefits of a sober community are huge! They help you to avoid the slippery slope of feeling like you’re on your own, wanting to isolate yourself, and feeling depressed, especially in early recovery. A recovery community:

  • Provides a network of people with similar recovery goals of improving their health and wellness
  • Helps you to establish new routines
  • Inspires you to establish a sober lifestyle
  • Can help give you perspective
  • Keeps you accountable and encourages you to stick to your recovery goals
  • Helps you to practice having healthy relationships
  • Provides support in challenging times
  • Gives you social activities
  • Helps you to focus on helping others
  • Might help you to identify with others who have had similar experiences

What are the different types of recovery communities?

Recovery communities come in many forms. They can be structured and formal or they can be informal support networks, including:

• Online recovery communities. Not everybody recovers in a mutual-aid program like AA. And that’s okay — we support all pathways of recovery. Some people find their support entirely online and others use a combination of in-person support and online support groups. Facebook has the largest platform for support groups, and Instagram hosts many inspirational pages and social media influencers. There is also a hashtag #recoveryposse to be found on Twitter. Facebook groups are one of the most interactive forms of support. There are hundreds of these support groups on social media and they incorporate a range of recovery goals, from abstinence from drugs to recovery from grief and codependency. They provide the opportunity to share your journey and have an almost immediate response from others in recovery all around the world. Groups include: SHE RECOVERS TogetherReimagining RecoveryBreaking Free CommunitySoberful Life,The Recovery Circle for WomenSober EvolutionRecovery DharmaEnGaging SuccessYou, Me, Empathy CommunityHOMEies, and Recovery Buddha.

• Friends, family and partners. They can help keep you on track, support you through challenging times, and encourage you as you maintain your recovery.

• Mutual-aid meetings. These provide a formal support meeting where members typically take turns in sharing their experience and anything they’re struggling with. These include: Recovery DharmaSMART RecoveryAARefuge RecoveryLifeRing Secular RecoveryModeration ManagementSecular Organizations for SobrietyWellbriety MovementCelebrate RecoveryMilati IslamJewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others.

• Recovery community organizations (RCOs). These are independent nonprofit organizations that arrange recovery-focused education and outreach programs, and provide peer-based recovery support services. According to recovery researcher William White, the sole mission of an RCO is to mobilize resources within and outside of the recovery community to increase the opportunity and quality of long-term recovery. You can find these throughout the US, listed on the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO).

Image caption: Photo by Perry Groneon Unsplash

Friends in recovery. Just like family and loved ones, friends who are in recovery can help provide support and give us the empathy that might otherwise be missing from our loved ones who don’t understand the challenges of recovery.

Health and fitness communities. Some people use CrossFit as a pathway of recovery because the group is focused on achieving a goal and working toward improving their health and wellness. Phoenix Multisport is a CrossFit gym specifically for people in recovery.

Peer support. Some RCOs offer peer support services where a trained peer will help guide and support you in your recovery goals.

LGBTQ+ community support. This helpful article lists specific recovery resources for members of the LGBTQ+ community

Sober living communities. Sometimes referred to as Oxford Houses or sober living homes, these environments are for those who wish to maintain abstinence and can provide a supportive peer environment. You can find houses through the National Alliance of Recovery Residences.

Collegiate recovery programs. These programs are designed for students in high school and collegewho wish to study in a recovery environment.

Please contact us for more information or for help to find the right type of support for your recovery goals.

Credit: Feature Photo by Rosie Fraseron Unsplash