How to Navigate Old Friendships After Completing Drug Rehab

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

  • The addict doesn’t want to be criticized by friends or loved ones about his or her drug abuse.
  • The addict wants to be able to use drugs freely.
  • The addict wants to fit in with a certain social circle.
  • After a person completes a drug and alcohol rehab program and re-enters 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 in a challenging and transitional time. Despite the obstacles that come with facing old friends after rehab, there are some great things that can bloom from questioning these relationships and establishing new ones.

Benefits of Social Support In Addiction Recovery

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) firmly states that the process of recovery is primarily supported by relationships and social networks.1 As such, family members and friends play an important role in helping a loved one maintain his or her sobriety.

Social support for addiction recovery comes in many different forms. A loved one may choose to support a person in recovery by acting in one of the following ways:

  • 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

In whatever way social support is given, it is extremely beneficial to the recovery process and can keep a person from turning to drugs and alcohol even in the most difficult of times. Mentalhelp.net cites some of the main benefits of social support in addiction recovery. They 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/family members don’t understand your new lifestyle.
  • Friends/family members try to pressure you into using drugs again.
  • Friends/family members treat you like an outsider so 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 you 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 is something that begins early on in drug rehab, but once a person has completed a rehab program, it’s up to them to continue building those relationships and also to address old ones.

Some old relationships are worth mending and fixing, especially if the relationship one that supports and encourages 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 is never an easy process, but it’s an important one, nonetheless. In some cases, ending a relationship may just require that you 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 actually be very 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, just 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.

To learn more about establishing social support in recovery and rehab, contact Extra Mile[maxbutton id=”1″ ] Recovery Center today. A member of our admissions team would be happy to share more information about our long-term rehab program and the many benefits it provides.


  • https://www.samhsa.gov/recovery
  • https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/recovery-from-addiction-social-support

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