A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology earlier this year has explored the role of social networks and social identity in addiction recovery. If one subscribes to the social identity approach to wellbeing, these are key to success in health and recovery.
The study highlights the benefits of social group membership, even going so far as to say that it is fundamental in “shaping the recovery trajectory.” This supports the framework of Alcoholics Anonymous in terms of joining a group, having a home group, responsibilities, and a sponsor. However, additional findings about the importance of diverse social interactions challenge much of how we treat recovery culture.
Recovery culture, by nature, tends to be self-isolating. Meaning that the culture itself tends to be exclusive, often rightfully so. In a world where most social settings stigmatize drug addiction while simultaneously tempting alcoholism, exclusivity proves to be protective to many people in recovery.
Associating with only members of Narcotics Anonymous allows a recovering addict to talk freely and openly about their life experiences without having to choose between living a double life and being ostracized. Associating with only members of Alcoholics Anonymous allows a recovering alcoholic to attend parties and social events without rehearsing their response to a free drink in the mirror before they leave.
However, the study’s findings indicate that, “Those who are able to maintain a sense of belonging with a range of important groups prior to addiction are at an advantage to those who are socially isolated.”
In other words, associating successfully with people both in and out of recovery, and even those from varied cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds, improves outcomes for recovery.