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Should I Make Friends in Rehab?

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Going to rehab can be a powerful experience. Here, you’re giving yourself the chance to pick up a new set of tools that will allow you to proactively deal with life, addiction, and cravings. At the same time, moving to rehab can be an incredibly lonely experience as you leave friends, family, and your home behind. If you’ve never done so before, you might feel isolated, like everyone knows everything that’s wrong with you, and that you are alone.

Though that might seem true, it’s not. Everyone at rehab is experiencing similar issues. Everyone is battling their demons and for the first time in a long time, taking steps that will help them win. And every one of them has some insight into what you’re going through. That makes rehab a place where you can make real friends. However, there are pros and cons and it’s important to choose your friends with care.

Why Is It Important To Have Friends In Recovery?

Most people are aware of 12-Step groups, especially Alcoholics Anonymous. 12 Step is so common that more than 75% of all rehab centers in the United States offer it. And, studies show that it’s largely efficacious because it helps people make friends and creates social accountability.

If you have people who understand what you’re going through to be accountable to, you’re much less likely to relapse. If you have to tell your friends and people who have shared emotions about their own problems with you that you have relapsed, it will feel like letting them down. And, those kinds of relationships are incredibly and powerfully motivating.

That means that knowing your peers can be a good thing for you and your recovery. That’s without considering that friends literally make life better. They give you someone to share to, they give you shared experiences, and they can help you to destress, to build the sort of support networks to keep you sober, and to feel valued and wanted because you’re offering the same to someone else.

Of course, friends shouldn’t only be utilitarian, but there are plenty of great reasons to get to know the people around you in rehab. That becomes more true as you spend longer stints in rehab.

Choosing Friends in Rehab Carefully

Not everyone at rehab wants to be there. Not everyone is invested in getting clean and sober. Not everyone will build the right mindsets and will work to stay clean and sober. It’s important that you surround yourself with people who are motivated or want to be, who are trying, and who want rehab to succeed.

That’s important because mindsets are contagious. If you find yourself trying to impress friends, you might talk yourself back into wanting to use or drink again.

happy friends having a good time together

At the same time, it’s important to choose friends carefully. If people you talk to act in ways that make you uncomfortable, that break the rules of the rehab center, or that make you or them want to use or drink again, they are a bad choice.

For example, many people go into rehab because they have to. Or, they get there, and they realize they’re not ready. They still act and behave like an addict, sometimes using manipulation or emotional bullying to get what they want. Those are all behaviors you want to avoid – even if that person is trying to get better at the same time.

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Building Healthy Friendships in Rehab

Healthy friendships are based on honesty, boundaries, and being able to share. It means being honest with yourself and with your friends about what you want, listening to what they want, and trying to create a relationship based on give and take and compromise. That means:

  • Be honest with your friends about your recovery and your goals in recovery
  • Communicate about your relationship such as when someone makes you uncomfortable, when you have a boundary, or when people make you feel unsafe. Setting boundaries is difficult and you can ask your counselor for help. However, it is a skill that will continue to aid you as you move out of rehab and back into your everyday life.
  • Describe yourself as a non-user and engage with people in ways where you can say “no, using is bad”. If you can’t, you’re probably with the wrong group of people. That also holds true for binge eating and drinking, relying on caffeine, etc.
  • Avoid escalating relationships into romance, as romantic relationships are not usually recommended for the first year or more of recovery. That’s because the hormones and emotions created by love and sex can greatly hamper your ability to build skills to recover. Instead of dealing with your problems, you’ll be distracted. That won’t help you to recovery long-term.
  • Practice communication and make sure it’s going on both ways. If you’re communicating and they aren’t, you don’t have a friendship.

Eventually, good friendships should feel good and should benefit both sides. If you have doubts or are unsure, assess those feelings, talk to your counselor, or talk to the person.

Key Considerations for Evaluating Healthy Friendships in Rehab

Here’s a brief guide to help you figure out whether your friends in rehab are positively or negatively impacting your life:

Support and Respect: Look for relationships where mutual support and respect are evident. Healthy interactions should uplift your recovery journey.

Communication: Essential to any relationship, ensure there’s open, honest dialogue. You should feel comfortable sharing and receiving without judgment.

Boundaries: Healthy connections respect personal boundaries. Your recovery process should be supported, not hindered by overstepping limits.

Positive Influence: Surround yourself with individuals who positively influence your recovery, encouraging you to stay on your path without introducing negative behaviors.

Shared Goals: Aligning with peers who have similar recovery objectives can foster a motivating and understanding environment.

When it comes to rehab friendships, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of mutual respect, communication, boundaries, positive influence, and shared recovery goals.

Being Careful

a drug rehab staff giving advice to a female client about choosing friends

It’s important to keep in mind that when you make friends in rehab, you’re making friends who may relapse. Anyone you get to know and love while getting treatment could leave and could turn into another person. It’s important to remember that if they change or if they start using again, you have to cut them out of your life, because they can drag you down with them.

Friends are healthy and good for you to a certain extent, but learning how to say no, how to set hard boundaries, and how to avoid people when they become bad for you is a good thing to learn. That will also apply to any old friends you have at home or who might have used or frequently drank with you.

Finding supportive friends in rehab can be an important part of recovery. Our peers offer motivation, inspiration, and support in ways that teachers and counselors never will. Having the option to lean on people, to share emotions with them, and to get support from an equal is an important part of the human experience. At the same time, it’s important to choose your friends carefully and to avoid getting pulled into negative relationships, being surrounded by drugs or alcohol again, or being distracted from your treatment. You need balance and hopefully some support in making good decisions about your new friends.

If you or a loved one would like more information about drug rehabalcohol rehabdetox please contact us to speak in complete confidence with one of our experienced treatment advisors today.

Tips for Making Friends in Rehab

Forming new friendships in rehab can change your life and give you much-needed support for your recovery journey. Here are some practical tips to help you connect with others in a meaningful way:

Participate Actively: Stay involved in group activities and therapy sessions — even when you aren’t feeling up to it. Participation not only helps you learn and grow, but also opens the door to forming new friendships.

Be Open and Approachable: Healthy boundaries are important in recovery, but you don’t need to be so guarded that you become unapproachable. Be willing to open up, share your experiences, and listen to others. You never know; a friendship might form when you’re willing to be vulnerable.

Show Empathy: Everyone is on their own journey. Showing empathy and support for others’ struggles can help you build the trust that sits at the foundation of a long-lasting friendship.

Find Common Ground: Whether it’s a love for music, coffee, photography, or another hobby, common ground makes it easier to connect. Look for the passions you share with others in rehab to spark conversations and become fast friends.

Be Patient and Non-Judgmental: Building meaningful relationships takes time. Approach each new connection with patience and an open mind, remembering that the people around you are just like you — on a journey of growth and self-discovery.

The Bottom Line on Rehab Friends

Making friends in rehab can be a major source of support as you take your first steps into long-term sobriety. The connections you make during this time can become a pivotal part of your support system, helping you not only navigate the challenges of recovery but also celebrate the victories along the way. Trust us: the right friendships are worth the risk. 

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