11 rules for Making Friends and Creating a Support System

By David Joel Miller.

Positive social networks can keep you healthy.

True Friends

True Friends
Photo courtesy of Flickr (HaPe_Gera)

Modern society moves at a fast pace. People move a lot and there are smaller families than there used to be. One challenge for all of us is how to create or strengthen those support system. Networking is just as important in your personal emotional life as it is in your professional life.

The best professional networks should include some people who you would want as friends and supporters. Here are some suggestions on how to strengthen those connections with others by making friends, developing networks and strengthening your support system.

1. Shared interests build friendships.

Most friendships develop around shared interests. If you want to make more friends go where people who like the same things as you hang out. Hang out at a bar and you meet drinkers. Go to the book club and you meet readers. The activities you enjoy are the best places to meet people who like what you do. Do not wait till you have friends to do things. Do the things you love first and you will make friends who love the same things you do.

2. To meet new people come early and stay late.

Arriving late for a meeting keeps you from talking to others. So does running off before the meeting ends. If you want to meet others you need to budget your time as well as your money. Come a little early to meet people and plan to hang around a few minutes after meeting ends so you can talk to other like-minded people.

3. Help others – get into services.

Offer to help out. Set up chairs make coffee or hand out programs. Doing things to be of service makes you more a part of the group and is a great way to meet other people.

4. Be a giver, not a taker.

If you are only there for what you can get out of a gathering you are likely to be disappointed. A selfish person is not high on the desirable list. Learn to do things for others just for the joy of giving and you will find that others appreciate you and what to get to know you.

This does not mean that you need to let others abuse you or that you need to buy your way into a group by doing or paying for things. What is important is that to make friends and supporters you need to act like the kind of person they would like to have for a friend.

5. Take someone with you.

Friendships are networks. Invite someone to go with you and you are not alone. They may well invite you the next time. The best way to meet people is through the people you already know. Make sure that the friends you hang out with are positive people. Your friends tend to introduce you to others just like they are.

6. Stay on topic.

If you are in a group that is talking about school activates do not try to take over the group and tell the stories of your last trip to where ever. Even in small-talk conversation try to share about the things others are talking about.

7. Help others join in.

The fastest way to make new friends is to help others to join in. Put your hand out, say hello and you will find you are the go-to person for making friends.

8. Pay attention to the person you are talking to.

Remembering people’s names is a blessing. Work on it. Refer to others by names some of the time. Be careful that you have something real to say rather than punctuating every other sentence with their name. Having someone repeat your name several times in a sentence makes them feel like you are talking to a creepy call-center person.

One way to develop a deeper connection is to really pay attention to the person you are talking with. Look at them and stop looking around. Looking over your shoulder for the next conversation victim tells the person that you are talking with that they do not matter that much to you.

9. Don’t cling on desperately – be ready to mingle.

In new situations, once you meet someone and engage them in conversation be ready to let them go. Having someone you just met latch onto you and follow you around the rest of the evening can feel like you now have a stalker.

10. Try to reconnect. Send emails, friend, connect on social media.

Whenever possible get a person’s contact info. Make sure you send them an email, friend them on social media or give them a call. Reach out to them like you want to be friends not like you are trying to sign them up for your multi-level marketing company.

11. Be sensitive to others needs for privacy.

Some people are all out there. Their life is an open book. Others, they are more private people. Do not push to invade others privacy. Some people keep their social media set to only a handful of close friends and family. Others have 15,000 best friends in their circle.

Know whether the person you met is open to you just dropping by or do they keep their home a sanctuary for just them and their family.

When adding friends to your support system think first about how public or private you want this relationship to be and make that clear if there is a chance that the person you just met will friend you and show up for dinner.

You will have some friends that are in all parts of your life and others that may be in only a few shared activities.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How do you develop a support system?

By David Joel Miller.

5 tips for developing a support system.

In the early stage of recovery developing a support system can be a challenge. We all know we need someone to support us, but who and how do we enlist their support? Let’s start with a description of a person in recovery from alcoholism and then expanded the description to other forms of recovery.

Newcomers in A.A. are encouraged to find a sponsor. It can be embarrassing to ask someone you hardly know to sponsor you. This relationship needs to be a good fit. The sponsor should be someone who has something in the way of recovery to offer and someone you feel comfortable in discussing your life with. They should also be someone you can trust to tell you the truth.

Have you ever done anything to help someone else? Let’s say you did something to help a child or an elderly person, how did that feel? Did it feel good to be able to help that person?

Sponsors do things for the person because it feels good to do so. They also work with others as part of the A.A. program because helping others keeps them sober. You are not imposing on a sponsor when you ask them to be your sponsor; you are offering them a chance to feel good about helping and to further their recovery. Don’t cheat a potential sponsor out of the opportunity to be of service.

Here is the process for selecting a sponsor that will likely be helpful.

1. Attend a variety of meetings

There are lots of A.A. and N.A. meetings. Most areas have central offices that can give you the address of a meeting nearby. With the changes in technology, there are lots of online resources, meeting lists, and even online meetings. If at all possible attend in-person meetings; it is important to make personal contacts.

Look for fellowships or places that have frequent meetings at the same location. Your car can find the bar without you steering it. Make it easy for your car to find the A.A. meeting on its own. Make a habit of going even when you don’t think you need to go. Someone there may need to see you. Support systems work in two directions.

There is likely to be one meeting that feels more comfortable than others. This may become your home group. Don’t stop there, however. Try out other groups for that time when you can’t go to your regular group but need a meeting. As you make friends at your home group consider going to other meetings together.

2. Get phone numbers.

At each meeting listen for people who say something that strikes you as helpful. After the meeting ask for their number. Many meetings will send around a phone card for members to give the newcomer their numbers.

Should you ask someone and they say no, please do not take this as something about you. Some people are very busy and don’t think they have the time for phone calls. Others, because of their jobs or situations, are not supposed to give out their phone number. If the potential sponsor says no keep asking till you find someone who is able to give out their number.

3. Every day call one other person in recovery.

When an alcoholic is thinking of drinking they will find that the phone receiver weighs two thousand pounds. They can’t lift the phone to their face to talk. By practicing phone calling every day you strengthen your arm and your habit of calling a recovering person. Sometimes you will find the other person needed the call even more than you did.

Don’t stop after one try. If the first person you call is not home or can’t talk keep calling until you reach someone. Having more than one person in your support circle is a huge plus.

It is also recommended that you not wait until after you are drunk to call. Call before you drink. Call as a way to manage the urges. Call as a way to build that connection with your support system.

4. Select someone to be your sponsor

One of those people you are calling, the one that is there for you, that is the person you are likely to ask to be your sponsor. Ask them. If they decline ask them for a recommendation. If you trusted them enough to ask them, trust them to refer you.

5. Develop social relationships with other recovering people

The best meetings are often the meeting-before-the-meeting and the meeting-after-the-meeting. Sit and talk. Go for coffee or dessert after the meeting. People hang out and talk not only about recovery but about the challenges of living life after drugs or alcohol.

Attend your fellowship’s social events, potlucks, picnics, sporting events and so on. The more you develop social friendships the more people you have as potential support systems. Don’t wait till the crisis strikes to form strong friendships.

The process for finding sponsors at N.A. or other twelve-step programs is much the same.

What if your problem is a mental illness, not addiction, or both?

There are an increasing number of peer-run centers and peer-run groups. Ask at your local mental health providers about peer groups. Many areas have local NAMI chapters they can be especially helpful in referring you to peer support groups, so should local mental health agencies.

There are also online groups for mental health issues.

If you have both a substance abuse issue and a mental health issue look for co-occurring groups. It can also be helpful if you have multiple issues to attend more than one fellowship.

Think about how you would like your support system to support you.  Write out the things you would like them to do and not do. Make sure you discuss your wishes should a crisis strike. Make sure your support system knows about your professional providers or who to call if you have a crisis.

So there are some suggestions for creating and strengthening a support system. What have you done to create a support system?

Other posts about support systems can be found at:

How supportive is your support system?

Can one person be a support system?

How do you develop a support system?

Support meetings for family members?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How supportive is your support system?

By David Joel Miller.

Support system – Resource or stressor?

Recovering people, those with mental illnesses, addictions or alcoholism, are reminded of the need for a support system. The evidence seems clear. Those who have a good functioning support system do better. Alcoholics and addicts with a good support system are less likely to pick up, to use or drink again. The mentally ill with an encouraging support system are more likely to stay in treatment and less likely to end up in a psychiatric hospital.

Not all support systems are equal. The quality and the quantity of supports are both important. Who is in your support system? Who should be a member of that group? Making up a written list of the people in your support system before the crisis can help you find resources when the time of need comes.

We speak of support system as if it was a single group, one recovering person – one support system. That is not the best way to build support.  People in recovery need multiple people and need more than one support group. Any single person may not be available when support is needed. Too much reliance on a few support people can burn them out. Not every person in your support system can provide all the support you need.

Here are some categories of the people who might be included in your support system.

Family members can support you.

Family members have been with you for a long time. Even when friends leave you the family remembers you and feels an urge to help you. They will likely feel a desire to help you when no one else will. Support from a parent or sibling can be very helpful for a recovering person, as long as the family is not also part of the problem.

If your family members have a mental illness or an addiction themselves, and often problems run in families, they can’t always provide the support you need. If the course of your illness has been long or serious your family may be burned out on you. They may be unable to provide the help you need at the time you need it most. Many recovering people have a circle of family members in their support system but that is often not enough.

Family members can also be a huge source of extra stress. One study of veterans with PTSD found that family members were rated as the most supportive but also the most stressful relationships those vets had. The stress caused by family members exceeded the support provided.

While it may be helpful to have family in your support system you will need more.

Spouses, partners and longtime friends can be supportive.

Spouses and partners can be very supportive. People with Schizophrenia who live with a supportive partner were half as likely to end up back in the hospital. If you have a partner they should be a part of your support system, but no partner can carry that full burden. Over time if your partner’s main job is to support you the relationship will suffer. Good relationships need to be maintained with positive interactions. People in recovery do lots of damage to their relationships.

It is hard for a partner to listen to you talk about your symptoms and your urges. They may want to be helpful but being your support system is not a one-person job.

Longtime friends can also be great sources of support. Sometimes these old friends feel like family. Just be sure of how much support any one friend is able to provide and keep people who are unhealthy off the list. An alcoholic can’t get much support on their recovery from someone who is still drinking.

People like you can be a part of the support system you need.

Finding a group of people with problems and interests like yours can be extremely helpful. Addicts relate well to other addicts. Veterans find support groups of other veterans hugely helpful and people with a mental illness should look for a support group of other people with the same sort of problems they have.

Twelve-step groups are highly effective because they are made up of people a lot like you. Alcoholics find A.A. useful because not only does it include a process of change in its “working the steps” it also is helpful in creating a support system of people who, like you, are struggling with their issues. Your 12 step support system will include not only your sponsor but other members of your group whom you can call when you need to talk. Many recovering people also socialize with members of their recovery group.

Veterans often report that they feel able to talk about things in veterans groups that they can discuss nowhere else. Rape victims say the same thing.

In the mental health field, “consumer” groups are becoming more common. So are “dual-diagnosis groups.”  If this is your situation, look for groups like this and participle when you can. If no group exists in your area consider an online group or starting a local affiliate of one of the national groups.

Sponsors and mentors belong in your support system.

Sponsors and mentors can be an especially important part of your support symptom. Most often these will be people from the group like you category above but they develop a special relationship with you as they help by sharing their experiences and hope. They will most likely be focused on one issue, your alcoholism or addiction but every support system needs at least one “old timer” who can help you along in your recovery.

People who are less like you can still provide support.

People in recovery need to develop outside interests and activities. The longer you are in recovery the more likely you are to become involved in groups that are centered on things other than recovery.

Religious and spiritual groups can be extremely supportive. Include these activities when possible. If you have a hobby or vocation, consider belonging to a group for that interest.

As you move into groups outside the focus of your recovery, think about how much it is appropriate to share with the members of this group. Some people will be anxious when they learn about your mental illness. You may need to keep the discussion of your recovery for a recovery group while talking with members of your spiritual group about your spiritual issues.

Include professionals in your support system.

In developing your support system make sure to include professional people. They may not be available as often as friends, family or members of support groups but they can be just what you need when you have a crisis.

Keep an up-to-date list of Doctors you see and the meds you take with you. Have phone numbers for the counselors and therapists you see or have seen in case you need to get more help.

Make sure you invest the time in creating and strengthening your support system.

Other posts about support systems can be found at:

Can one person be a support system?

How do you develop a support system?

Support meetings for family members?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.