A sense of community, a feeling of support and understanding, and a genuine connection with others are all human desires and needs. However, when many clients seek addiction treatment, many of these feelings can be quite distant to them. They can feel very isolated and disconnected due in part to stigma and shame around addiction. Additionally, when an individual experiences a substance use disorder (SUD), the nature of the disease may have caused them to become alienated from friends and family. They may have been hurtful to the people they love, or maybe they simply withdrew from them.
When entering into recovery, it can feel as though they don’t fully belong in either world, addicted or sober. This feeling of not belonging can push people further into isolation and loneliness and can be a risk for relapse. Long-term recovery success depends in part on healthy, supportive relationships and finding a sense of belonging and purpose in one’s life.
Helping clients develop their sense of belonging in recovery can help improve their chances of long-term recovery. Having a sense of purpose and feeling a part of a community is an essential need for everyone, especially those who may have lost that feeling. This purpose comes from engaging in meaningful daily activities, such as working, going to school, caring for family, taking up creative endeavors, or participating in a group or club. These communities are comprised of relationships and social networks that offer love, support, hope, and friendship.
However, being an active part of a community and developing a sense of belonging can take some effort, especially if relationships were damaged in the past. This requires clients to put themselves out there, trying new things, and being willing to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Growing Into Their New Lifestyle and Identity
Addiction affects a person’s thoughts, behaviors, and lifestyle, leading them to take risks and do things they may not normally do. These things can erode their self-esteem and lead them to have negative self-worth. In recovery, as they create distance from this lifestyle and identity, they focus on unearthing themselves and developing a new lifestyle and identity.
Focusing on building up clients’ self-esteem is critical to help them let go of damaging emotions they once had towards themselves. How individuals perceive themselves can significantly impact their sense of belonging and willingness to put themselves out there and participate in community activities. Growing into a positive, healthy lifestyle and identity that fosters self-worth can help individuals reach out to various communities to find that sense of belonging.
Repairing Old Relationships
As humans, we need to belong to our friends and families, our culture, and our communities. In recovery, the intense need for belonging may cause an individual to want to rekindle old relationships that may not have been healthy or beneficial. Other times, they may have developed tension with loved ones and family members that needs repairing. It is essential to recognize that although someone may share a history or DNA with someone, it does not mean that person is good for them. In recovery, clients need to focus on healthy, supportive, and positive relationships that add value and confidence to their lives. If an important relationship was damaged and there is value in repairing it, doing so can help regain this sense of belonging from the people who are important to them. However, this process may be difficult and will not happen overnight.
Building New Relationships/ Connections
Trying to make new friends and connections can be intimidating yet valuable for someone in recovery. Some people may find a handful of friends they connect with and feel like they truly belong. It may take some time to find these people, develop new friendships, and grow their social network. Making meaningful connections will require individuals to have an open mind, let go of stereotypes and focus on commonalities rather than differences. They may find that common ground can serve as the foundation for an enduring friendship despite any differences.
Finding Where They Belong
A large part of finding meaningful friendships is finding communities with people who have common interests. Being aware of the kinds of activities, hobbies and pursuits they are passionate about can make meeting new people easier. There is likely a community of enthusiastic individuals surrounding any subject, such as gardening, reading, hiking, cooking, fashion, music, art, and everything in between. The more an individual engages with other people who enjoy similar things, the more they can develop a sense of purpose, meaning, and belonging.
A sense of belonging is a primal need and fundamental to our well-being and happiness. When an individual seeks treatment for a substance use disorder, they may feel isolated and distant because of the nature of addiction. This is why it is essential to help clients develop a sense of belonging in recovery. Ways to do this include guiding them as they grow into their new lifestyle and identity, repair old relationships, build new connections and find a community where they feel like they belong. This process is not always easy and will not happen overnight. It requires effort and willingness to be open-minded and put themselves out there to meet new people and find new communities. At Alta Centers, we focus on providing a community environment, a place to feel safe, and the opportunity to find a newfound sense of stability and belonging. For more information, call us at (888) 202-2583.