11 rules for Making Friends and Creating a Support System

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

True friends.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Positive social networks can keep you healthy.

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

Three 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.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

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

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

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. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Friends can be like jumper cables or emotional vampires.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Jumper cables

Energy.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Friends either get you started or drain you of all your energy.

Are your friends helpful or do they drain your batteries?

Do your friends help you get going or do they hold you back? This thought, that a good friend is sort of like a set of jumper cables, came to me the other day when I discovered that in my haste to get to work and get going I had left the lights in my car on. By the time I noticed, the battery had gone dead.

Most of us have had this experience. Some people carry jumper cables in order to be prepared. The cables, of course, are not the only thing you need. You need someone with a good battery to help give you a jump.

Not only do you need a willing person to help you jump-start your car but their battery and charging system needs to be strong enough to run their car and start yours.

Trying to find someone who not only had jumper cables but was willing to give me a jump got me thinking. At this point, it occurred to me how much like a jump-start our friends can be.

Some people do nothing but drain you. No matter what sort of help you go to them for, they need you to do something in return or do something before they can help you. The experience of going looking for help is so draining that you leave thinking that you are now in worse shape than when you started.

Some people described these emotionally draining people as Emotional Vampires; they suck all the joy and pleasure out of your life. Asking them for help is like requesting an emotional bloodletting.

Many recovering people discover that those around them, the ones they call their support system are not very helpful. Some so-called friends want you to fail. Others have so little energy left that they drain you rather than recharge you.

Friends should be someone we are close to and we can trust emotionally. Too many of the people, we call friends are in fact acquaintances. People we have to be around because we run into them often, but who are not especially dependable or close.

One of the dictionary definitions of a friend is an “ally or someone who is not an enemy.” From a lot of people’s description of their friends, it is hard to tell the allies from the enemies. Does your friend encourage you to live well and happily? Or is that person in a friend disguise telling you to go ahead and stay in your addiction or disease? Do they build you up and encourage you to move forward or are they telling you that it is someone else’s fault and there is nothing you can do in life?

Does that person encourage you to be a victim or a survivor?

There are those people in our lives that brighten our day anytime we see them. We all need more of those kinds of friends. Happy positive friends are out there but they can be hard to find especially if you don’t look in the right places.

Clients tell me they can’t trust those around them. They have trust issues. Their friends are unreliable. How did you meet them, I ask?

The most common answers I get are in bars, dope houses, a friend of a person they met in jail and so on. If you look in hospitals you will find sick people. If you want to improve your support system and have friends who energize you then look in places where people are trying to improve themselves.

The word friendship includes not only being on good terms but also giving mutual assistance, approval, and support. That is something we all can use, support in times of struggle. A full dose of approval will go a long way also.

In looking for this supportive friend be sure that the relationship is mutual. Good friends get tired of you if every time they see you, you have your hand out for something. This works in two directions. People who are only your friends for what they can get out of you are abusers, not friends.

Look for people who are full of enthusiasm and love life. People who want to spread recovery and not those who want to stay in their disease.

This does not mean you should avoid other recovering people. Far from it. If you have a mental illness, look for those who have overcome their emotional problems. They have something to share with you. Those who use their diagnosis as an excuse to stop trying will drain your battery. Those who have recovered or are well along in their recovery can help energize you.

What kind of friends do you have? Are they the kind that energizes you or the ones that drain your batteries?

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.

Can one person be a support system?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Support system.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How many people make a support system?

Morning Question #16

Having a close, significant person as a support system can be extremely helpful. People with a serious and persistent mental illness who are in a long-term supportive relationship are less likely to end up back in the hospital. There are several reasons why a one-person support system is risky for them and for you.

Expecting one person to carry the full load of supporting you is an awful lot to ask. It is too much for someone to care for your needs and to be in a close relationship with you. How does that person get their needs met? If you need a support system, can you be fully present to meet your partner’s needs? Having people other than your partner in a support network increases the support you can call on and avoids pushing that one person who is around you all the time to the breaking point.

More people in your support system spreads the burden around and increases the joy of being able to help each other. Building a support system is important, so is making sure they are supportive.

Support people are often relatives or close intimate partners. Having someone to love and who loves you can be very supportive. No relationship is ever conflict-free. If you and your partner have a disagreement, if there is a fight, you risk your support system being unavailable just at the time you most need one.

We tend to be attracted to and close to people like ourselves. There is no reason why two people who have depression or any other mental illness can’t be in a relationship. If your partner has issues also they may not always be available or able to cope with your issues.

Too many people in your support system may be just as much of a problem, as too few. It is difficult to stay in contact with many people. A support person should be someone you know well and who knows you well.

How many people do you have in your support system? How many do you believe would be ideal?

Other posts about support systems can be found at:

How supportive is your support system?

Support meetings for family members?

How do you develop a support system?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three 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.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

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

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

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. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

4 Stages of recovery

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Ball recovery

Recovery and Resiliency. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How does recovery grow and develop?

Recovery does not happen suddenly, out of nowhere. It takes time and work. From my way of thinking there are customary predictable stages of recovery. People may move through these stages at varying rates, some people move backward at times, but the goal for all should be to reach a final place where recovery is stable and less at risk.

The concept of recovery used to be mostly applied to substance abuse. Recently the concepts of wellness and recovery have been incorporated into Mental Health and physical health issues.

In a series of earlier posts, we talked about stages of change. Those stages begin with Pre-contemplation, the I don’t have a problem and even if I did I wouldn’t want to change anything, to Contemplation, yeah so – maybe I do have a problem but I am not sure I am ready to do anything about it. After that is Preparation, sometimes called Determination, and finally the action process, which we divided into Early Action and Late Action phases. The last part of this recovery journey was Maintenance.

In this model, Relapse is seen not as part of recovery but as the inability to maintain recovery once we reach it. This is understood as a common result of failure to do the maintenance activities. There has been lots of literature on relapse, triggers and lifestyle changes to make to avoid relapse. Much less has been written about what someone might expect during recovery.

Here are the four stages of recovery as I see them

1. In recovery.

People in this stage are seeking answers, working on themselves and investing time in their recovery. This is the time when people are taking action steps or may begin to do maintenance to hold onto the gains they have made. Lots of people will describe themselves as “in recovery”

2. Recovering.

People who describe themselves as recovering have moved from the point of being hopeless and lost to having hope and seeing their symptoms reduced. The urges and cravings may decrees even if they are never totally gone. People with mental health symptoms, while not fully back on their feet, may find they are able to do more things more days. Symptoms while present are shrinking.

3. Recovered.

Some people are afraid to say this. They are afraid that feeling recovered, they will let down on working on themselves and relapse. The A.A. Big Book uses this language on the title page of Alcoholics Anonymous, “The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Woman Have Recovered from Alcoholism.”

People who call themselves “recovered” are quick to point out that they are not cured. Just as when someone is diagnosed with diabetes they may get their disease under control but they will never go back to being a non-diabetic. With any chronic, relapsing disease you may recover but you are never really cured.

People who are recovered begin to get their life back. They may go back to work, volunteer or be able to participate fully in everyday life.

4. Life on life’s terms.

Every recovered person will have bumps on their road of life. This is a real life, good happens and bad happens. A person’s recovery is secure when they are able to withstand the things that happen, good or bad, in life without a return to active symptoms.

Doing the maintenance steps helps, so does building a comprehensive support system. The real test of someone’s recovery is – can bad or unexpected things happen in your life without triggering a return of your symptoms.

Best wishes on your recovery and having the happy life you deserve.

Other posts on this topic can be found at: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Early Action, Late Action, Maintenance, relapse, recovery, triggers, support system, more on support systems, Resiliency

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, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Supporters

Support system.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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.