Healthy Friendships: How to Enrich Your Recovery

“Peer pressure” is a term with typically negative implications—and you’ve experienced its negative power if your drug addiction began with a “friend” urging you to “try just one hit; you won’t believe how great it feels.” But peer influence also has its positive side, which means that healthy friendships can make all the difference in staying sober after detox and primary treatment.


Environment Can Make or Break Recovery

Relapse after detox is more common than many people acknowledge, partly because returning to an old environment may reactivate old temptations. Especially if detoxification involves a long period of inpatient care, the first days home after discharge may be akin to culture shock. From a quiet, restful environment to the hustle and bustle of the everyday. From a setting completely free of drugs to one with beer ads on every other corner. From an atmosphere of ongoing support to one where no one seems to understand what you’re fighting.

If your treatment was properly managed, you were prepared for much of this with a long-term recovery plan, which includes solid goals for enriching your recovery with positive activities. And these activities should include building healthy friendships.


Healthy Friendships Are Built on Shared Interests

If your addiction experience was mostly private self-medication, you may not have to deal with “drinking buddies” urging you to rejoin them at the bar (and complaining you’ve gone holier-than-thou when you don’t). But whether you fed your cravings in a group or alone, one symptom of addiction is losing interest in everything except the addiction. So an essential part of recovery is developing new non-drug-related hobbies or rediscovering old ones.

That’s also a proven way to make new acquaintances and reestablish connections with old friends. Consider what favorite leisure activities you’ve been neglecting—and which ones you’ve always wanted to try. Join (or resume membership in) a group dedicated to one of these activities. Invite someone to join you for a golf game, or to catch up over a virtual cup of coffee. Get to know others who share your interests: catch their enthusiasm to enrich your life and focus on something healthier than drugs.


Look for Empathy

Whether it’s a support group peer who’s been on the same journey, or a caring family member who’s never even tasted beer, a true friend will accept your challenges and actively support your recovery. Relationships don’t have to encourage you to relapse, or even mention drugs, to be bad for recovery: when a “friend” subtly attacks your self-esteem, makes unreasonable demands or constantly focuses on the negative, the option of returning to drugs to escape the stress can begin to seem attractive. Better to escape the person, and invest your valuable time in healthy friendships with those who applaud your successes and let you cry on their shoulders after tough days. Remember to do the same for them: even people who’ve never had addiction disorders have days when they need emotional support.


Do You Have an Honest Relationship?

If your addiction experience was typical, you have some acts of dishonesty to make amends for: lying about the extent of your use, asking for money under false pretenses or even outright theft. Besides doing material damage, such actions destroy trust and undermine relationships. Effective recovery means banishing dishonesty from your life, and rebuilding trust by learning to live authentically again.

But honesty means more than “thou shalt not steal.” It has a proactive face with the courage to confront someone who’s heading in the wrong direction, and the wisdom to kindly but firmly steer them back on track. If your recovery journey began with an intervention, you’ve experienced one form of this honesty. It can also take the form of warning someone they’re flirting with relapse—or of telling them the positive truth about themselves when they’re belittling their achievements.


Healthy Friendships Are Built on Considering the Other’s Needs First

Your recovery support network probably includes someone to call with an SOS if you’re attacked by a relapse temptation you can’t fight alone. It takes a good friend to fill such an on-call role: someone who doesn’t object to being interrupted and dropping whatever they’re doing to help out in a crisis.

Whatever the specific point of concern, “your needs before mine” does not mean being an enabler of bad habits, or ignoring one’s own needs in favor of catering to someone else’s whims. It means understanding that when a friend genuinely needs help, it’s not the time to grumble about how you had other plans, or how they should have known better than to get into that spot. It means accepting that no person and no life is perfect (a point also important to recovery in general), and it means understanding that helping others enriches both your lives—and may make all the difference in someone’s staying on the healthy track.

Which may make all the difference in a life’s long-term effectiveness.


Finding Strong Relationships for Effective Recovery 

We understand that if you’ve struggled with addiction for a long time, you may feel you have no friends left outside the drug-use world. The team at Cumberland Heights can help you find a recovery support group and re-connect with loved ones. If you are feeling isolated or facing other special challenges beyond health issues, reach out to our team. We’ll be glad to connect you with resources for making a fresh start on establishing enriching relationships.