A 2016 study conducted by Maria Pagano of Case Western University concluded that helping others can indeed help to keep you sober. Her studies lasted for well over a decade, and they focused predominantly on the way that social interactions affected the lives of recovering addicts and alcoholics. Ultimately, Pagano and her colleagues found that reducing time spent isolating, regularly meeting with a supportive group of peers, and – most of all – helping others, helped reduce the chances of relapse by nearly 50 percent.
The Significance of Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous was originally founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. The founding members, Bill Wilson, and Bob Smith had no idea what a lasting impact their organization would have on recovering men and women for years to come. The very backbone of AA is the idea of fellowship – the belief that one cannot recover without the guidance and support of those that came before him.
Of course, the fundamentals of this conviction make sense; if you surround yourself with other sober folks (especially those with long-term sobriety), you are more likely to stay sober. Those that came before you can teach you what worked for them, and show you have to have authentic fun in recovery. The opposite is also true – if you are newly sober and you spend most of your time with a group of people that are drinking and drugging, you are far more likely to relapse. Spending your time with solid sober supports can truly make all of the difference.
Recovery and Social Anxiety
Unfortunately, finding a supportive network can be quite difficult for those new to recovery. In many instances, those in early sobriety struggle with some degree of social anxiety. Generally, early sobriety suggests that an individual is still within the first year of their recovery. The first year of recovery is an exceptionally difficult time, regardless of pre-existing disorders. However, many individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol will usually do so in attempts to self-medicate. They may be struggling with undiagnosed mental health issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or anxiety.
If an addict or alcoholic is using chemical substances to alleviate untreated symptoms, it is extremely likely that the symptoms will worsen as soon as use is ceased. In the case of anxiety, symptoms may worsen significantly, leading a newly sober individual straight back to using. In order to combat anxiety in early sobriety, it is important that you put yourself in “uncomfortable” situations – step outside of your comfort zone in order to familiarize yourself with day-to-day social situations. This may mean sharing at meetings, or introducing yourself to other newcomers, or approaching people after meetings and asking for their numbers. Do what it takes to begin feeling comfortable within your own skin. It may not seem feasible during your first several weeks, but it could – literally – mean the difference between life and death.
Garden State Treatment Center and Fellowship
We at Garden State Treatment Center understand the importance of social support during early recovery; thus our team of licensed and dedicated professionals has developed a program of recovery-focused around group therapy. In group therapy, individuals will be expected to open up, sharing their own personal struggles and experiences with their peers. If you or someone close to you has struggled with drug addiction or alcoholism and is looking to begin on the road to long-term recovery, we are here to help. Please feel free to give us a call with any questions or concerns you may have. We look forward to speaking with you soon!