A lack of community and a sense that one doesn’t belong are some of the biggest factors in young adults’ addiction.
Young adults are particularly sensitive to these factors, especially during critical transitional periods of life. Starting college, being on one’s own for the first time, or simply trying to find one’s place among a group of peers can all be tough challenges that many young adults face. Women often specifically cite a lack of close, meaningful relationships as a major influence in the development of addiction. Many may start using drugs and alcohol as a way to relate with others, but they often find themselves more alone and isolated than ever as a result.
Although community and a sense of belonging are often lacking during the development of addiction, they can be powerful motivators in the journey towards sobriety. With a sober support network, sobriety is easier to achieve and maintain. There are a number of different types of communities that can help an individual through early recovery and life after treatment. Maintaining these networks often minimizes the likelihood of relapse and helps individuals replace enabling relationships with new bonds that motivate them to continue in their sobriety.
Recovery from addiction is as much a community experience as it is an individual journey. With help from a network of sober individuals, the recovery process is easier to navigate. The relationships built through recovery help individuals develop their interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence to cope with stressors and other challenges in positive ways. Rather than reverting to substance abuse as a means of escaping, a sober community helps its members overcome obstacles in a way that supports their new sober lifestyle.
Types of Sober Communities
A community that supports sobriety can be large or small in scale; each offers equally great benefits. There are a number of different types of communities that an individual may become involved with along their journey in recovery. These include:
- Addiction recovery groups: Many people have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), but there are countless similar support groups throughout the world. Some groups, like Women for Sobriety (WFS), are designed to empower women and build a strong sense of female community. Women are often motivated differently than men when it comes to substance abuse, and this group works to address gender-specific needs in a group environment. The group emphasizes increased self-worth, personal responsibility, and problem solving, while encouraging members to share with one another. Other groups, like Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS), are designed to help individuals in recovery who are not comfortable with the notion of handing their lives over to a “higher power”. This group focuses on self-reliance and does not use a structured program; rather, it builds a community that relies on taking ownership of sobriety and empowering oneself without the influence of religious or spiritual beliefs. Regardless of what appeals to an individual, there are countless groups out there with a wide range of beliefs and approaches to recovery.
- Sober living homes: Sober living homes are often part of the transitional period from residential living to independent life. In this setting, clients have the ability to experience more independence with knowledge that they have a safe, structured environment to return home to every night. Sober living homes are only available to those who are already sober, and they allow clients to stay in close contact with the friends they have made in recovery, as well as the staff members who have supported them along the way. Clients still participate in a number of therapies while simultaneously developing life skills that support them in life after treatment.
- Sober alumni programs: Some residential treatment facilities have an alumni program for clients who have completed treatment and wish to stay engaged with the community. Alumni programs provide former clients with resources that help protect the progress they have made in recovery while providing them with the opportunity to give back to those currently in treatment. These programs often hold events where former and current clients can come together and spend time with one another. Often this allows former clients to mentor those currently in treatment and gives them a chance to reflect on their own achievements in recovery.
In many cases, returning to the place in which an individual’s addiction developed can potentially lead to relapse. For some, relocation may be a viable option. While this comes with its own risks, there are several cities that have a unique recovery community in place that can help individuals continue to manage their sobriety.
- Boston, Massachusetts: Although the city has colleges that are known for heavy alcohol consumption, Boston also has a large recovery community. With over 2,000 meetings in the Boston area, the city prides itself on its “commitment exchange” program, in which members of local AA communities speak at other groups. This encourages sober individuals to network with sober people in the community, further enhancing their support network. It also allows individuals to experience different approaches to recovery that further strengthens sobriety.
- Delray Beach, Florida: Florida is a destination for spring break and partying, but this city has a large, vibrant sober community as well. Delray Beach even has unique offerings such as regular recovery radio shows, a recovery motorcycle group, and a coffeehouse with a regular therapy group. Out of a population of 64,000 people, over 5,000 participate in 300 different 12-step meetings each week. There are also a plethora of entry-level jobs that help many get back on their feet and establish an independent lifestyle.
- Houston, Texas: Houston is home to a number of 12-step “clubhouses” that serve as venues for those looking to connect with other sober individuals. These environments offer a comfortable atmosphere that provides the same social opportunities as bars, but without the alcohol. In addition, these clubhouses are known to be very welcoming to new members, and with 580 AA groups, there is no shortage of support.
- Los Angeles, California: Known for its vibrant and colorful culture, the sober community thrives here as well. There are approximately 3,100 meetings in Los Angeles every week, and these groups tend to be incredibly social, with many members arriving early to mingle and staying afterwards to enjoy dinner or a movie with friends. A number of celebrities often participate in meetings here too and will go to various meetings to speak to young adults fresh out of rehab. Sober living communities are plentiful and offer a wide variety of amenities that are sure to appeal to anyone.
- Nashville, Tennessee: According to data compiled by the Daily Beast, Nashville is one of the most sober cities in the United States. Offering 280 AA meetings a week, the city’s great year-round weather provides many with the ability to participate in fun and exciting outdoor adventures. The AA community regularly hosts sober events including picnics, camping trips, and cookouts. Nashville even celebrates AA Founder’s Day on June 10th with a home-made ice cream contest.
- New York City, New York: Even though it’s known as the “city that never sleeps” and boasts a “work hard, play hard” mentality, New York City has a massive sober community with no shortage of fun activities to keep recovering adults busy. With over 4,000 meetings a week, New York City has meetings for every type of person in recovery. From meetings for everyone from night owls the LGBT community, New York City has a plethora of options for those recovering from any type of substance abuse.
- Portland, Oregon: Known for its eccentric, “hipster” appeal, Portland has a diverse community of recovering individuals. With groups named “Knuckleheads,” “Boys Night Out,” and “Bill’s Angels,” it may appear that it caters to a tougher crowd, but the sober community is vibrant and boasts about its energetic crowd. People are eager to give back to their community and help one another embrace sober living.
- Prescott, Arizona: This recovery community has a vast array of detox centers, sober living homes, and halfway homes to support a sober lifestyle. The Prescott Daily Courier estimates that approximately 1,200 people are in active treatment on any given day, which is a ratio of about 1 in 30 residents. The city boasts of these opportunities for those in recovery and offers many the ability to work alongside those who have made a commitment to sobriety.
- San Francisco, California: San Francisco is well known for its open and accepting culture, making any newcomer feel instantly welcome. With more than 20 percent of San Francisco’s weekly meetings catering specifically to the LGBT community and nearly 500 Spanish-speaking meetings, the open-minded mentality of this city helps anyone feel accepted. The geography of San Francisco also helps individuals develop a tight-knit community close to home, allowing individuals to always be close to a supportive friend.
- Minneapolis, Minnesota: Sometimes referred to as “The Land of 1,000 Treatment Centers”, Minneapolis has teamed up with local rehab centers to build 11 of the country’s 35 sober public schools. This city is no stranger to the recovery process and awareness surrounding addiction is higher here than in many other locations.