In our addictions, so much of our life was spent with a negative peer-group. The people I surrounded myself with in my active addiction were not “real friends” because they didn’t have my best interest in mind. Simply put, the people I hung out with in my addiction were detrimental, by motivating me to use more, and encouraging me to continue the risky behavior. So once it came time to get sober, an integral part of that for most addicts is to build a community, one that’s both supportive and involved. I got lucky and was able to find, develop, and nurture this vital community with the help of my aftercare.
Aftercare is a program that people go to after primary care, which helps one transition into a new life and integrates recovery tools into their lifestyle. But, just as importantly, it is a place that can introduce you or a loved one to a community that will remain with them throughout their sobriety. I’m a huge proponent of age-specific aftercare programs because they have an uncanny ability to surround one with people their age (by design). Being surrounded with people I could, and still can, relate to had a direct impact on the longevity of my sobriety.
Having a community in sobriety promotes the longevity of the sobriety of the individual because it keeps one surrounded by like-minded peers who happen to be on the same life path. Furthermore, it helps alleviate the tension between people that don’t use and people that do, because it minimizes a number of times a person must “stand-up” for their sobriety, which happens often enough as is. There’s even evidence to show that being a part of a community has a positive effect on the well-being of a person, and these relationships, if nurtured appropriately, have an even bigger impact on the happiness one obtains in their life.
In my experience, the community I built in my aftercare program has stuck with me for years after treatment. We still get together at each other’s houses, still go to meetings together, and I even still live with a guy I went through my aftercare with. This community that I was primarily introduced to through my aftercare program has been interwoven into my sober lifestyle, and I couldn’t imagine my life without it at this point. I call these friends often just to say hi, and we all keep each other on the same page with what’s going on in our lives. They’ve been there to support me when I’ve been struggling, and I’ve been there for them, and they’ve even helped me move from one apartment to another. In fact, the community that I gained as a result of my aftercare program has been full of the best friends that I’ve ever had in my life; all thanks to the age-specific program that I went to.
Aftercare programs should be designed in a way that encourages the integration of a community into one’s new life, and as I said, I was incredibly lucky to go to one that did. In this respect, the aftercare program that a person picks should have this communal factor integrated into their design because it is an essential part of recovery. I would encourage people to only look at aftercare programs that provide and nurture a space for its members to build, and creates a community that can stay with them throughout their sobriety to help them achieve long-term recovery.