When trying to abstain from drugs or alcohol, it is very important that you build positive, healthy relationships to support you throughout your recovery process. For most people going through a professional rehab program, it can mean making a whole host of new friends.
Avoiding your former drinking pals or drug-using friends is an important step in maintaining your recovery, but it doesn’t stop there. It can be even more important to make new positive friendships with people who can support your recovery efforts.
Avoid toxic relationships
If you’re like many alcoholics or addicts, you are likely advanced enough that your primary relationship was with the drug of your choice. As your addiction deepened, your behavioral repertoire narrowed, so you spent more time and effort on drug or alcohol-related activities.
If you still had friends, it was most likely those you were in touch with in order to get your medication, keep your supplies up, or those you simply drank or used drugs with. For someone trying to maintain recovery, relationships with these former employees can be extremely toxic.
There is a saying, “If you hang around the barber shop long enough, you’ll get a haircut.” So, if you keep hanging out with the same people you used to work with, you will eventually return to your previous habits.
It is possible that during the development of your addiction you also developed relationships with other people who were co-dependent, perhaps a spouse, friend, or even an employer. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines codependents as those who “have learned to believe that love, acceptance, safety, and consent depend on taking care of the addict as desired”.
The danger of having a relationship with someone who exhibits excessive caring behavior is that it can encourage even greater dependence on your part.
Co-addicts have enabled you to define their reality, and if you are an alcoholic or an addict, your “reality” was heavily skewed during your drinking or drug days.
Often times, code pendants display empowering behavior by encouraging you, either directly or indirectly, to keep drinking or using drugs. Activation can take many forms. Activating behavior can range from excuses, lies and cover-ups for you – protection from the consequences of your actions – to giving you money directly for drugs or alcohol.
Of course, the “friends” you used to drink with, those who supplied you, or who used drugs with you are your main activators. These two types of unhealthy behaviors, code dependency and activation behaviors, can help make your decision to drink or use drugs again, research shows.
Develop healthy relationships
Once you find yourself in follow-up care with your professional rehab program, your counselor will attempt to help you identify harmful or unhealthy relationships in your life that could lead to relapse. The counselor will help you change these relationships and get involved in them.
Your counselor or case officer will also try to help you identify positive, healthy family or social relationships that can aid you in your recovery. If you are not in a relationship with people who do not drink or use drugs, your counselor will highly recommend that you establish new relationships.
Make new, healthy friends
Often times, these new, healthy relationships arise through participation in mutual support groups – in scholarships like Alcoholic Anonymous. Your counselor will also encourage you to find new relationships within any religious organizations you may be associated with, or even recreational organizations. Finding new friends in recovery is described in 12-level support groups as “holding on to the winners,” a slogan that emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships in trying to maintain abstinence.