Perhaps you live far from family and friends, or you have relocated to receive treatment. Whatever the case, you can be successful with recovery when far from family and friends.
Recovering from alcoholism can be a challenging process. After all, an alcohol use disorder is a diagnosable clinical condition that requires treatment.
Given the challenges associated with giving up drinking, having supportive family and friends in your corner can be important for achieving success during your recovery journey. However, in some cases, you may be away from loved ones while you are recovering. Regardless of your distance from friends and family, you can still be successful on your journey to sobriety.
Understanding the Importance of Social Support in Recovery
The reason that recovering when far from family and loved ones is so difficult is that having support can influence your success with treatment. In fact, a 2019 study in Substance Use & Misuse found that people who felt they had supportive friends were more ready to make changes in treatment, whereas support from both family and friends was linked to less substance abuse (1).
Feeling as if you have someone cheering you on can motivate you to make positive changes and stay sober, so family and friends are an important part of your recovery journey. Fortunately, if you are recovering far from those you love, there are ways to get the support you need.
Attend Support Group Meetings
If friends and family are not physically present, you can seek the social connection you need during support group meetings. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is perhaps the most popular support group for those in recovery. These meetings provide you with a sense of community and allow you to interact with others who are also experiencing the challenges of recovery.
According to Alcoholics Anonymous, meetings are open to anyone who wants to confront their issues with drinking, and groups are available in almost any location (2). No matter where you’re located, it should be easy to find a nearby AA meeting for support.
Attending these types of meetings has been shown to be effective for people in recovery. According to the results of the study in Substance Use & Misuse, participating in AA is linked to wanting to change; people who attend AA are also less likely to use substances, per study results (1). In the absence of family and friends, AA appears to provide the level of support needed for success in recovery.
Involving Family in the Treatment Process
Even if you manage to find new sources of support when you are far from loved ones, it is important to find ways to include your family in the treatment process. As doctors writing for a 2017 edition of the Journal of Addiction Medicine have reported, research shows that when family members are a part of the recovery process, everyone in the family experiences better health, and people are more successful with addiction treatment. These doctors have also recommended that treatment centers should do away with policies that prohibit people in recovery from making phone calls to family members (3).
Since family can play a critical role in your success with recovery from alcoholism, you may need to find creative ways to include them in your treatment if you are far from them. Fortunately, with today’s technological advances, you can include your family in your recovery journey, even if they are thousands of miles away. For example, you can use Zoom or FaceTime to involve them in the treatment process. You may want to have a conversation with your therapist about setting up regular Zoom meetings with important family members, such as your parents or spouse, to keep them informed of your progress in treatment.
If you plan to enter an inpatient treatment center, it may be beneficial to discuss the center’s policies regarding phone calls and contact with people outside of the residential facility. Given the importance of staying connected with loved ones, it would be wise to choose a treatment center that allows regular phone calls with family. Some treatment centers still prohibit outside phone calls, which could be detrimental to your recovery from alcoholism.
Other Ways of Staying Connected
Technology allows you to stay connected with family, but it is still beneficial to have friends nearby. If most of your friends are still drinking, it may be especially important to connect with new friends who are sober, so that you are not triggered to begin drinking again.
Beyond meeting friends in support groups like AA, you may find friends by partaking in alcohol-free hobbies. For instance, you may decide to explore local music or join a new fitness class. Going to a gym to take exercise classes may be an especially helpful way to meet new friends and support your recovery, as physical activity can help you to stay sober. In fact, a 2014 report in the medical journal PLOS ONE evaluated the results of 22 different studies and concluded that exercise increased abstinence rates by 69 percent among people in treatment for substance abuse (4). Not only can going to the gym provide you with an opportunity to meet new friends; it can actually promote your sobriety.
If you’re away from friends and family, meeting new people through exercise or other hobbies can provide you with the social support needed to be successful in recovery. Attending support group meetings like AA provides you with additional support from people who are also going through the recovery process. Even if you are able to make new friends at support group meetings and through exploring hobbies, it is important to stay connected with supportive family members. With technology, this can be possible, and you can incorporate loved ones into the treatment process, even if they are living across the country. Many programs also offer family interventions, and you may be able to explore treatment centers that host family weekends, where relatives can come participate in the treatment process.