When examining what factors make for impactful treatment for substance use disorder, it is important not to overlook the power of community in addiction recovery.
Friendships are very important in recovery. Positive engagement from friends can be an essential source of encouragement and stability.
Friendships In Recovery
Healthy friendships during recovery at a treatment center as well as outside the program can make a huge difference for people going through the recovery process.
It’s important to distinguish what makes a good friend for a person in recovery. While being a sober friend is certainly an important factor, there are other key qualities in people that can support your sober journey.
Healthy friendships with a person in recovery can evolve from before and after a person’s time in a recovery program.
Look for friends and family members who will be champions of your recovery process. These people should serve as key members of your support system who can celebrate your strides forward and provide encouragement during potential setbacks.
People in recovery often have to build psychological resilience (the ability to handle stressful situations and life changes) from the ground up. Supportive friends can be a vital part of this process.
A toxic friendship — that is, a friendship that typically causes emotional distress or harm — can be a burden to your addiction recovery.
If you’re coming out of a situation with little to no emotional support from peers, it may be difficult to distinguish healthy relationship from a harmful one.
Here are a few indications of an unhealthy friendship that may harm your recovery:
- one-sided relationship
- comparing you to others
- gossiping about you
- insulting you
- making you feel uneasy
- lack of empathy, especially as it relates to recovery
Toxic friendships can increase your stress and make you feel lonely and isolated. These are some of the most common relapse triggers for addiction.
Post-treatment is a time when it’s important to prioritize only positive connections in your life with people who will uplift and encourage you. If you’re in community with people who leave you feeling emotionally burdened, this may set back your recovery.
Where Healthy Friendships Come From
The recovery process is long, during which you may develop new connections or cultivate old friendships.
Cultivating Old Friendships
One of the first places you may look for healthy friendship is among people who supported you prior to the beginning of your addiction.
There may be work to be done to mend the relationship if it suffered during substance use. But it’s never too late to connect with the people who love you. For many, this is a crucial step in the recovery process that involves honesty, forgiveness, and a way forward in healing.
There are people in your life who care for you and want to be there for you. Lean into those existing supports and rebuild connections on a foundation of vulnerability and transparency.
Friendships Within A Family Support Network
Friends and family are not mutually exclusive. While many of the comments above apply to families, it is similarly true that families who support their loved ones through recovery can experience relational healing.
This provides a foundation for a stronger friendship moving forward and hope to keep persevering as part of your support system.
Friendships Made During Addiction Treatment
You can also find support among the people you meet in your recovery journey, particularly within a treatment program.
New friendships give you a new sense of purpose, especially if those friendships are built around a common purpose.
Friends who have gone through a rehabilitation program together can:
- support each other as a social network
- encourage each other to pursue a sober lifestyle
- live in community with one another in a sober living home
- help each other find sober activities
- help each other cope with cravings
The Importance Of Social Interaction In Substance Abuse Treatment
Treatment programs for alcohol and drug abuse often encourage social interaction and even base treatments on creating a positive support network that carries through to alumni associations post-treatment.
Friendships often develop out of the following settings in recovery.
Group therapy is a key part of most treatment programs. A group of people experiencing similar challenges can help each other uncover things about themselves that they might not have seen otherwise.
Peer Recovery Support
The support in a peer recovery setting is similar to group therapy but encompasses many aspects of a rehabilitation program.
Friendships often come out of peer recovery support, because it is where accountability and encouragement often take place in a small group or one on one setting.
12-step groups are often part of the recovery experience. You can be a part of a group both in a treatment center and outside of one.
Sponsors in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offer accountability and the growth of trust that can turn into friendship.
Find Addiction Treatment
If you are looking for addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today. We have more information for you on your treatment options and how to access them.Article Sources
- Frontiers in Psychiatry — Psychological Resilience, Mental Health, and Inhibitory Control Among Youth and Young Adults Under Stress
- Healthline — In a Toxic Friendship? Here’s What to Look For (and How to Handle It)
- Office of Addiction Services and Supports — Understanding & Supporting a Loved One's Recovery
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Recovery and Recovery Support
- Substance Abuse — The relationship of social support to treatment entry and engagement: The Community Assessment Inventory
- Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation — Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction
- Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment — How Social Relationships Influence Substance Use Disorder Recovery: A Collaborative Narrative Study