No one is born an addict. No one says, “Today I’m going to try a drug that will ruin my life and may kill me.” Addiction is never planned, but all too often, it takes over your life and the lives of the people with whom you interact at home, at work, at a neighborhood get-together, or just driving down the street. Unfortunately, you may not have planned to become addicted but plans don’t always turn out as we anticipate.

Peer pressure

is often cited as an initial cause of addictive behaviors that start early in life. If you hang with the geeks, you’re a geek. If you hang with the stoners, you’re a stoner.

Peer pressure comes from a lot of different sources, and influences some of the most important decisions we’ll ever make.

Peer pressure is usually based

on our need to belong – to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Your friends in school drink, so to belong, you drink. Your friends smoke pot, you smoke pot – to be accepted by the group.

In a detailed study called “Measuring Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Conformity in Adolescent Boys and Girls,” the authors define peer pressure as a “subjective experience of feeling pressured, urged, or dared by others to do certain things, or actually doing particular things because others have pressured, urged or dared you to.”

We feel peer pressure daily in the things we do – the clothes we wear, the music we like, the places we go – we tend to bond with like-minded people to re-enforce our beliefs and values, and to create self-esteem through acceptance by a peer group – people just like us.

Peer pressure plays to our need for acceptance by others. If we believe what others believe, behave as others behave, we identify ourselves as members of this peer group or that one.

In turn, this supports our dreams of being popular and accepted by others – our “tribe.” By following group behaviors – even if they’re unhealthy behaviors – we create the illusion that we belong.

This kind of peer pressure – to do certain things, wear certain clothes, act a certain way – is most often felt in adolescence when fitting in is critical. As people mature, the need to fit in with one group or another becomes less important.

However, conforming to your group’s conventions and rules strengthens the bonds between group members. Everybody in the social circle abuses drugs or exhibits habitual, unhealthy behaviors like excessive gambling. People tend to seek out others like themselves and will conform in order to fit in – to be a part of something larger.

As time goes by, and we move on, the needs to fit in, be popular and conform to lose their importance. Unfortunately, those addictive behaviors acquired during that time don’t disappear.

You may not see the old gang anymore, but the addictive behaviors you picked up in the past, well, they’re still with you.

You may also encounter peer pressure when you decide to take control of your life again by getting clean and sober – tossing aside those old habits that have been undermining the quality of life, sometimes for decades.

Going to Your First 12-Step Meeting Alone
Going to Your First 12-Step Meeting Alone

While in treatment, you probably attended 12-Step meetings with peers from the program. Read more about 12-Step Meetings.

More info

Substance abusers

tend to stick together so when you announce that you’re entering a recovery facility to address your alcoholism, your group may pressure you not to enter a recovery program. Why?

Misery loves company. That long-time, hard-drinking friends may recognize their own problems with substance abuse when you enter recovery. They’re still drinking at 8:00 AM while you’re taking steps to regain control of your life.

It shines a bright spotlight on their substance abuse problems, and the fact that you’re moving on to a better phase of your life may cause that old gang of yours to feel rejected.

Don’t be swayed by people who have the same addictions, or who exhibit the same addictive behaviors. This only re-enforces unhealthy behaviors with the veneer of acceptability.

The positive side to peer pressure

comes into play when you finally decide to take over control of your life. Beating an addiction is hard. Chances are, you’ve tried to change addictive behaviors in the past without success. The urge to continue the abuse – even at the risk of your life – is simply too strong. This is where peer pressure turns from a negative to a positive factor in your life.

Hang with substance abusers and chances are there’s no incentive to change your behavior – even though it’s ruining your life, destroying your family, and holding back career advancement.

Conversely, hang out with addicts who are battling for their freedom from addiction, and you suddenly feel peer pressure to improve the quality of your life. Hey, if they can do it, you can, too.

A residential recovery center surrounds you with substance-abusing peers, counselors who’ve beaten their addictions, and professionals in changing behaviors through a broad spectrum of traditional and holistic therapies.

Peer pressure is both positive and negative.

If the group is pressuring you to do something dangerous or unhealthy – to do something that may change your entire life (and not for the better) – peer pressure is negative.

If your peers are supporting your efforts to take back your life, these friends can prop you up when temptation confronts you. They can take steps to keep you moving toward sobriety. They form a support network on which you can rely to get you through the tough times of substance abuse recovery.

Is it easy? Not always, but having peers around 24/7 is huge support when coping with an addiction. These friends have been there and done what you’re doing now – eliminating destructive behaviors.

At Hawaii Island Recovery (HIR), located on the big island of Hawaii, you receive the support of peers and a professional staff experienced in a variety of therapies. And you do it in one of the most beautiful places on the globe.

Hawaii Island Recovery

Contact us at Hawaii Island Recovery today and turn peer pressure from a negative force to a positive force in your life. You never intended to be an addict but you are. That’s why you’re still reading. Contact Hawaii Island Recovery and discover a brighter future without addiction and without peer pressure.