Those who have tried recovery before and may be feeling sad about their lack of progress may ask “Is recovery even possible?” Recovery is a life-altering change whose difficulty cannot be overstated. Those who are new to the recovery process may wonder “How do I go about being sober?”

Guiding Principles of Recovery

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. In their pamphlet titled “SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Recovery,” they outline what are known as the “10 Guiding Principles of Recovery.”  Four out of the 10 principles outlined by SAMHSA are focused on the importance of having positive peer relationships in recovery. One of the principles, titled ‘Recovery is supported through relationship and social networks,” states the following:

“An important factor in the recovery process is the presence and involvement of people who believe in the person’s ability to recover; who offer hope, support, and encouragement; and who also suggest strategies and resources for change. Family members, peers, providers, faith groups, community members, and other allies form vital support networks. Through these relationships, people leave unhealthy and/or unfulfilling life roles behind and engage in new roles (e.g., partner, caregiver, friend, student, employee) that lead to a greater sense of belonging, personhood, empowerment, autonomy, social inclusion, and community participation.” (SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Recovery.)

is recovery even possible

is recovery even possible

Remove Negative Influences

Having a support network of healthy, like-minded people is vital for the success of the person in recovery. One of the earliest goals of substance abuse treatment is to urge the individual to remove negative peer influences and increase positive social influences. This frequently involves an element of sacrifice and often requires the person in recovery to sever ties with those for whom they care deeply yet undermine their ability to get sober.

Recently, the topic of how positive peer relationship affect recovery was brought up in one of the group therapy sessions that I was leading. One group member, talking about how positive peers influence her, stated “It’s nice to know that I have other women who I can talk to and they just get it without me having to fill them in too much.” Another group member said, “It’s good to have people in my life who can call me out when I am lying or slipping back into old behaviors.” One more group member went on to talk about this element of accountability, saying, “Having a positive support group in my life keeps me accountable. I need that in my recovery.” Finally, another group member reported, “It was really hard to stop talking to my old using friends, but I just can’t be sober around them. It took me a long time to realize that. The people around me really influence me a lot, and I have to make the choice of who I want to surround myself with.”

Find People That Believe in You

The difficult journey of recovery is made slightly easier with positive peer relationships. Having those who believe in the person’s ability to recover, offering hope and support, are a vital piece in the puzzle of recovery. For those who are new to recovery or those who have been trying for years to get clean, evaluating the relationships in your life is always positive. Set boundaries with those who are unhealthy, and increase involvement in social activities where there are positive healthy relationships to be made.

Written by: Tyler Beckstrand, CSW, Next Level Recovery

References: SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Recovery. (2012, January 02).