How to Navigate Old Friendships After Completing Drug Rehab

Most people who abuse drugs and alcohol spend the majority of their social time with other individuals who do the same. This often happens for several reasons:

  • The person doesn’t want to be criticized by friends or loved ones about their drug abuse.
  • The person wants to be able to use drugs freely.
  • The person wants to fit in with a certain social circle.

After completing a drug and alcohol rehab program and re-entering society as a sober individual, old friendships with drug-abusing people are automatically jeopardized, and so is the person’s newfound sobriety. These situations can be difficult to manage and can cause additional stress during a challenging and transitional time. Despite the obstacles that come with facing old friends after rehab, questioning these relationships and establishing new ones can lead to positive changes.

Benefits of Social Support in Addiction Recovery

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that the process of recovery is primarily supported by relationships and social networks. Family members and friends play an important role in helping a loved one maintain their sobriety.

Social support for addiction recovery comes in many forms. A loved one may choose to support a person in recovery by:

  • Sharing valuable advice and information
  • Giving someone a ride to a support group meeting or a job interview
  • Helping someone find a sober living program after finishing rehab
  • Babysitting someone’s children so they can attend classes or go to work
  • Listening to someone’s problems or emotional difficulties
  • Providing personal insight and suggesting solutions

Social support is extremely beneficial to the recovery process and can keep a person from turning to drugs and alcohol, even in the most difficult times. Benefits of social support in addiction recovery include:

  • A sense of inclusion and belonging
  • Safety and security
  • Reduced stress
  • Less loneliness
  • A more hopeful and optimistic mindset
  • An opportunity to get outside of oneself and one’s own problems

Social support also helps individuals in recovery to fight shame, secrecy, and the tendency to isolate themselves from others.

Common Social Issues People Face in Recovery

Upon completing drug and alcohol rehab, many people in recovery face similar social issues, especially if they return to a living environment that is not particularly supportive of their sobriety. Common issues may include:

  • Friends or family members don’t understand your new lifestyle.
  • Friends or family members try to pressure you into using drugs again.
  • Friends or family members treat you like an outsider, making you feel ostracized and lonely.
  • You have trouble communicating your new lifestyle and intentions to friends and family members.

If you have recently completed drug rehab and do not have a safe, sober, and supportive living environment to return to, enrolling in a sober living or transitional housing program is a great way to connect with other sober people and continue a lifestyle of sobriety.

Addressing Old Friendships and Establishing New, Healthy Relationships in Addiction Recovery

Establishing a new peer support community begins early in drug rehab, but once a person has completed a rehab program, it’s up to them to continue building those relationships and address old ones.

Some old relationships are worth mending and fixing, especially if they support and encourage ongoing sobriety. On the other hand, some relationships should be cut off completely and left in the past. These typically include:

  • Relationships with drug dealers
  • Friendships with people who regularly abuse drugs
  • Friendships with people who are not supportive of your addiction recovery

This process is never easy, but it’s important. In some cases, ending a relationship may just require you to back away and cease all contact. This might include deleting a person’s number from your phone, disconnecting from that person on social media, and avoiding all phone calls, text messages, and in-person contact.

Other relationships might require a more personal approach, such as a face-to-face conversation about your recovery, why you have decided to end the relationship, and what that looks like for you. These conversations can be fruitful and may even encourage an old friend to get help for their own addiction and drug abuse.

However you choose to approach old friends, know that many of them may not be understanding or supportive of your new sober lifestyle—and that’s okay. By remaining active in your recovery support groups and enrolling in a sober living program, you can continue to prioritize your recovery while building new, healthy relationships with your peers.

Navigating old friendships after completing drug rehab is a challenging but necessary part of the recovery journey. By understanding the importance of social support, addressing old relationships, and building new, supportive ones, individuals in recovery can strengthen their commitment to sobriety. If you or a loved one needs help establishing social support in recovery, reach out to a rehab center for guidance and support.