New friends can help addiction recovery efforts

May 1, 2014

For someone who wants to give up drugs for a healthier, more fulfilling life, time spent in an inpatient substance abuse treatment center can have a transformative effect. Professional counselors, therapists and medical specialists do everything they can and use every tool at their disposal to help someone in recovery break the habit of self-destructive drug use. After a successful program, many people are equipped with the necessary skills to forge a new, healthier life.

Part of that new life, however, is giving up certain problematic activities of the past. For example, someone who is in recovery from alcoholism may be tempted to indulge in a drink when hanging out at a bar or club. Someone with a history of drug use may experience the urge to relapse when driving by a spot where he or she used to purchase illegal substances.

Avoiding certain locations and events may be easy, but one of the hardest facts that those in recovery must face is the need to cut out former friends who are still using drugs. However, with new acquaintances who care about the success of a person’s recovery efforts, those with histories of drug use may find a new support system to help them through tough times.

Reducing triggers through new recovery friends

Recovery from drug abuse extends well beyond the walls of rehab centers. In many successful cases, it is a complete lifestyle change that ensures long-term sobriety, and while it may be sad to hear, letting go of friends made because of drug use is a necessary step of the recovery process.

ChooseHelp.com explained that by keeping old friends around, some of whom may have participated in drug use with the person in recovery, the risk for triggers that cause cravings may drastically increase. If a long-time acquaintance is still using drugs, simply crossing paths with that person may be enough to remind those in recovery of the times that they engaged in problem behaviors. This can cause instant cravings for drugs or alcohol that can otherwise be easily avoided.

Though avoiding the occasional run-in with a friend is as simple as taking a different route to work or school, Psych Central explained that these ties to a former network of drug users may extend well into the life of someone in recovery. If the person working toward sobriety depended on a drug-using friend for financial assistance or housing, this can be an especially difficult transition to make.

Moreover, because drug treatment can alienate friends who still choose to participate in those activities, it may seem like choosing sobriety has come at the cost of sacrificing one’s social life. This may prompt those in recovery to think that occasional meetings – if only for the sake of socializing – can be separated from any urge to relapse. Psych Central recommended that those serious about maintaining sobriety should not even consider this risk.

Making a new life with new friends

Just because those in recovery have lost the social network associated with their past histories of drug use does not mean that they cannot make new friends. The desire for companionship is universal for all humans, and there are healthy ways to fulfill that need.

DrugRehab.us explained that being alone can actually be a dangerous thing for someone in recovery, so making new friends and a new system of emotional support can help those in recovery. Many former drug users choose to meet like-minded people in communal therapy sessions. Not only does everyone in the room understand how hard recovery can be, but it is likely that they are looking for a new network of friends as well.

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