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Should I Make Friends in Rehab?

a group of happy people

Going to rehab can be a powerful experience, basically giving yourself the chance to pick up a new toolset 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.

That’s never true because 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.

Peers Can Be Powerfully Motivating

Most people are aware of 12-Step groups especially Alcoholics Anonymous, the self-help group that uses spirituality and peers to help individuals move past addiction. 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 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

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.

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.