Friendships born in sober living are the gifts that keep on giving

Thoughts from Jeanie Gschweng, General Manager, Clean & Sober Transitional Living

I’ve been thinking about the impact of the real connections that can be built in sober living. Those foundations of friendship can change lives today - and tomorrow. Over the years, I’ve seen some great bonds that began here grow stronger with time.  Thanks to social media and familiar faces at meetings, I‘ve kept in touch with some past residents, and it’s joyful to see friendships that flourish and stand the test of time. Here and there, a relationship has even blossomed into marriage. Now, there’s an unlikely gem that no one anticipated when they signed up for sober living. And that makes it even more special.

At CSTL, we provide an environment that is clean and sober. We provide the housing, the food, the basic necessities of life. We’ve intentionally structured our community to require heightened levels of accountability. We’re like a little city with 12 Step meetings on site and random drug testing to fortify that accountability. We provide the basics of success, but beyond that, residents need to take some action if they really want to build a foundation…lifestyle…stepping stones  - whatever you want to call it - to help maintain long-term sobriety. That’s the resident’s responsibility. 

While we’ve attracted a wide and diverse group of people into the CSTL recovery circle, this place in and of itself cannot keep you sober. So, here’s where the intention part comes in. You got here because, at some point, you acknowledged that you haven’t been able to stay clean and sober but that you are now willing to take the steps to ensure your sobriety. One of those steps is getting out of your insecurity and ego to reach out and form some new, sober friendships. What does that look like? That looks like sitting with someone new you don’t normally hang out with in the common areas like the dining room or the meeting room. It starts in the dining room.  It starts in the meeting room.  It continues afterwards: “Do you want to go to the gym? Do you want to grab a coffee?”  What begins as a “social friendship” can grow into a deeper, authentic relationship when you make an effort and take the time to develop a real connection.

When you create bonds in recovery, you are building a network of people who you can tell the truth to, and be genuine and vulnerable with. When you let people know the real you, they’ll be honest in return. They’ll call you out on your negative behaviors and commend your positive behaviors. And they’ll root for your recovery, unlike the old circle of friends who most likely drank or used.

Watching from the distance, I see those who isolate in their rooms or always sit in the back row at meetings. I also see people building new social circles and friendships. True and meaningful friendships don’t happen overnight. They require intention and effort as you take tiny baby steps away from  yourself and towards others.  By being open to friendship in sober living and staying engaged, the “friendship net” expands. By showing others how it’s done, friendship grows inside and outside our walls. It’s the butterfly effect in action: One tiny change in here can change the world out there.

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