We’re just going to say it: it’s hard making friends as an adult. If you’re in addiction recovery and no longer feel comfortable spending time with your old group of friends, what can you do? Fortunately, there are ways to find more sober friends and activities to enjoy.
You’re Not Alone in Feeling This Way
Do a Google search, and you’ll find numerous articles about the challenges adults have in all age groups—including their 20s—in finding new friends. There are plenty of reasons why social circles change, such as work responsibilities, relocation, new romantic relationships, having children, being a caregiver, and addiction recovery.
Loneliness is a major factor for many people, not just those in recovery. While it’s important to learn how to enjoy your own company and recognize the difference between the value of being alone and feeling lonely, between 29 and 45 million people in the U.S. are chronically lonely.
Interesting Facts About Friendship
Interestingly, some studies indicate that we replace our friends every seven years. Sociology researcher Gerald Mollenhorst noted that this rotation is because “our friend choices are limited by the opportunities to meet.” His research also revealed that “people frequently choose friends from a context in which they have previously chosen a friend. Also, whether or not our friends know each other strongly depends on the context under which people meet.”
Friend pools also decrease as we get older. Researchers at the University of Oxford explain why:
- You’re not in school any longer. Most of the people you once saw daily have moved on to new careers, relationships, and locations.
- Your friends have new relationships. This redirected focus on partners rather than friends creates a natural shrinking of social circles. This happens when you find a new love, too.
- Your work environment shifted. Often many people make friends among co-workers, but changing jobs, remote working, and other factors might alter this built-in friend base.
- Someone has moved. Whether it’s you or people you once knew well, relocation impacts many relationships, and texting only accomplishes so much to help stay in touch.
- Your interests changed. As an example, as a person in recovery, it’s okay to acknowledge that you’re not the party-all-night type of person you once were. So your friends who only know you—or want to know you—in that context will fade away.
- You recognize and avoid “one-sided” relationships. This is an important realization for all of us, but especially when you’re trying to live healthfully and other people are unsupportive or even toxic to this intention. Codependency is also problematic, and in the end, doesn’t make you feel supported or cared for like you deserve.
Remember: your friend circle is about quality, not quantity. So consider what you’re willing to try to eventually fill it with people who matter, including new, sober friends. If you demonstrate an interest in their lives, practice responsive listening, and work toward finding authentic connections, friendship will grow.
Tips for Finding New Friends
There’s really not a magic elixir that solves this problem. It’s just a steady approach to understanding your worth and what you have to offer, then selectively inviting people into your circle. You already know that friendships can’t be forced, but you may find that with your newfound clarity and peace of mind, it’s easier to consider even the most casual connection fulfilling.
Reach out to your sober networks
During and after treatment, you likely encountered many people through various groups dedicated to sober living. While it’s understandable that you don’t want every conversation for the rest of your life to center on aspects of recovery, many of these people have a deeper understanding of who you are and what you’ve been through, so honest, positive relationships can grow from sober socializing.
Focus on what you like to do
For every sport, hobby, spiritual pursuit, exercise activity, charitable cause, and other aspects of life, you can be certain other people share your interests—you just have to find them! Staying busy during recovery is a guaranteed way to interact with individuals who have your same passion and enthusiasm.
Stay open to new experiences
Even someone with the most introverted personality can open up and seek out friendships worth sharing. Meet some of your online support group members in real life. Consider the value of making friends of all ages. Try some non-dating apps and sites, such as Meetup.com, Sober Grid, Meet My Dog, Skout, FriendMatch, Peanut, RealU, Next Door, and others. Always put safety first, but allow yourself to explore and find new sober friends.
Be a friend to other lonely people
This approach is different for everyone, but sometimes a simple invitation for a morning walk, coffee in the afternoon, or an early movie is a bright spot for someone who can’t talk about how loneliness makes them feel. This is especially true for seniors. And even if you feel like cancelling, don’t: stay true to this commitment for them and for yourself. You might not become best friends, but socialization helps both of you in the long run.
More Connection Through Willingway
We understand that life is more enriched by meaningful friendships and other connections. So we offer a vibrant Facebook page, the CaredFor app, and weekly continuing care community groups throughout the Southeast so you have many opportunities to meet people and make more sober friends. We hope to see you soon!