Building Social capital in 12-step recovery

In a previous article, I wrote about building social capital and the network effect in recovery. By attending a lot of 12-step meetings, our friendships begin to branch in many directions. In our work life we can think of the co-worker that seems to know everyone and says hi to everyone. That person is valuable as they have touch points in many work groups and they are often the employee that is promoted.

There are 3 steps in AA that directly related to rebuilding social capital that we broke during our addiction, steps 8,9,10. By working these steps, we rebuild the relationships that we neglected during addiction.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

In step 8, we evaluate the damage that we did to our social capital. In addiction, we turned our back on lifelong friends. We embarrassed others and ourselves. Our families (our strongest network) became fractured and exhausted. We literally drained our social networks. To recover we need to take an inventory of all the damage that we did and be open to rebuilding this capital.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

This step is actually doing the work of repairing broken networks and rebuilding social capital. We put our ego away, and approach people that are important to us and make the attempt at repairing damage and seek forgiveness for what we have done. Repairing this damage may not come as easily as an apology, we have to show people the new us, the new person that is committed to recovery.

We rebuild social capital slowly. We rebuild our family network, our work colleagues, and our friendships.  A strong network is what helps to make sobriety lasting. Our friends want to know the “old you,” they want to be friends. They want their family back. All of these intricate structures help to keep me sober. The stronger the relationships of people around me, rooting for me and supporting my recovery, the stronger my recovery becomes.

Friendships become deeper, family ties develop again, and work colleagues show respect. 

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

In Step 10 we continue to build our social capital. We learn that we are human, we will make mistakes and we learn skills to reflect on our mistakes and take ownership. When we do damage, we quickly seek to repair that damage. When we lose our tempers, we apologize and show our networks humility and a sense of kinship that we want to maintain.  We are always working on maintaining our social capital in this step.

Addiction is isolating, we give up a lot of our social capital as we get more in our addiction, we turn our backs on family and friends. Our social networks get very narrow; bar friends become our best friends. To fully recovery from alcoholism, we need the help and support of many people. 


About Suntra Modern Recovery and Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist at Suntra Modern Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company that was later acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Adam recently co-authored Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery. In this lesson book Adam and John Roesch walk families through the entire intervention process. Suntra also offers a free video course for families considering hosting an intervention for a family member. 

More blog posts

Does 12-Step Work? Why I Still Go to AA Meetings

I am 13 years sober. But when I talk to people starting their recovery journey, they’re often surprised that I still attend 12-step meetings. “See! If you still HAVE to go to meetings, it doesn’t work!” they insist. To which I respond, “I CHOOSE to attend meetings BECAUSE it works.” AA has helped millions of people get...

I hit rock bottom 8 years into my recovery. Find out why.

e external things that defined me had disappeared into thin air. Feeling insignificant, invisible, and disposable, I began to sink into a deep depression. With no friends, no passion, no sense of purpose, I no longer had a reason to get out of bed. No reason to live.