Stress is commonplace for those pursuing sobriety. Managing social pressures and navigating difficult questions in recovery will always be a trying task. However, peer pressure can further exacerbate these challenges. Even those who have graduated from a dedicated treatment program and are focused on effective sober practices can still be profoundly influenced by peers. Learning to employ strategies that mitigate the effects of peer pressure is crucial, especially as an individual embraces the freedoms and opportunities outside of a dedicated treatment facility while continuing to manage their sobriety.
The Challenges of Peer Pressure in Sobriety
Those continuing through their recovery journey will be faced with a myriad of stresses, even after they graduate from a residential treatment program and are balancing their sober lives in the “real world.” However, peer pressure can be a wholly unique type of anxiety. Not only can peer pressure affect one’s decision-making and potentially expose an individual to unnecessary high-risk situations, but it also comes with a profound social component that can be difficult to navigate.
For those in recovery, being invited by peers to after-work gatherings at the bar or to a party can bring difficult feelings. It is common to feel torn between prioritizing one’s sobriety and further ingratiating oneself in a community. These challenges can be further exacerbated if one’s workplace or social peers do not understand or support the idea of addiction recovery. Such pressures are also commonly coupled with sentiments like “just one drink won’t hurt,” or other statements of the sort.
Peer pressure can cause those in recovery to feel as if they have to choose between their sobriety and social standing. Maintaining sobriety in the face of such stress is exceptionally difficult. However, learning to say “no,” manage these unique stresses, and focus on effective sober efforts are essential skills for those managing their sobriety outside of a dedicated recovery facility. Thankfully, there are many strategies available to empower each individual to continue advancing their sober goals in the face of peer pressure.
Overcoming Peer Pressure
Peer pressure can come in many forms – from being actively offered addictive substances to others passively voicing hurtful stigmas surrounding substance use disorder (SUD) and recovery. However, learning to prioritize one’s sobriety in social situations is a necessary skill for preventing relapse and furthering a sense of agency and identity. Utilizing a combination of skills is necessary to successfully navigate trying peer pressure situations and maintain each individual’s hard-earned sobriety.
Those in recovery may not always want to address peer pressure by providing their story with addiction. Depending on the social group, a person may feel that their reasonings may not be understood or accepted. Rehearsing potential excuses ahead of time, especially if an individual is aware they will be in a social situation where they may be offered drugs or alcohol, can be instrumental for employing them effectively.
Keeping responses simple can ensure that each individual is heard clearly. Those in recovery should never feel they have to divulge any more information than they are prepared to. Simple excuses, such as “I have work in the morning,” “I’m feeling a bit ill,” or “I’m driving today,” can all be effective ways to shut down a conversation and navigate the pressures to engage with addictive substances.
Staying busy at social gatherings can mitigate exposure to pressure to reengage with addictive substances. For some, this can be as simple as ensuring that they always have a non-alcoholic drink in hand. Others may benefit from keeping busy in other ways, such as engaging in festive games or providing a service to the party, such as cleaning, taking out the trash, or organizing other planned events.
Stay Connected to Supports
Peer pressure can feel overwhelming. For those navigating their hard-earned sober lives, such pressures can introduce doubt into their abilities or sober goals. This is especially true if a group of peers is pressuring an individual to engage with addictive substances, as it is common to feel ostracized from a social group as a result. However, reminding oneself that there are just as many people who support and understand the importance of their sober journey as there are people who may not is crucial.
Keeping connected to supports, either by bringing a friend or family member along to social events or making regular calls and sending texts throughout the event, can challenge the idea that one is somehow not accepted. Supports can remind an individual of their sober goals while providing an understanding ear to overcome the effects of peer pressure. Having supports who know where potentially risky events are taking place and when can enable those in recovery to better stay connected to those who are prepared to support and further each individual’s sober goals.
Peer pressure will always be difficult to navigate. Continuing to attend regular group meetings is essential for keeping focused on each individual’s sober goals. However, consistently and politely refusing offers to engage with addictive substances or partake in events that may put one’s sobriety at risk will eventually make the message clear. Keeping reminders of sober goals accessible, such as mantras or photos on a phone or in a wallet or purse, can all keep an individual focused on their goals in otherwise difficult situations.
Navigating these peer pressures with specific groups or individuals does get easier with time. Continuing to focus on oneself and setting effective boundaries with peers is necessary for maintaining sobriety in the face of peer pressure.
Peer pressure can be difficult to navigate, especially as you balance your continued recovery while engaging in social situations and communities in sobriety. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand the challenges present in transitioning out of a dedicated treatment facility and into the “real world”, and we are prepared to continue supporting your and your sober efforts both inside and outside of our dedicated recovery facility. From continued outpatient programs and community support, we are committed to helping you maintain the profound transformations made in recovery as an alumnus. Whether you are looking to embrace new grounding strategies or ingratiate yourself in a continuously evolving community, our unique approach to rehab in Hawaii can help. Call today at (866) 390-5070.