ask-a-friend-for-help-drugsWhen it comes to rehabilitation, who you know can be as important as what you know. Your friends can help your recovery, but they can also hold it back. Think back to when you were drinking alcohol, using other drugs or gambling. As you got more and more involved in that scene, what you expected from your friendships probably changed.

Once you’ve decided to seek rehabilitation, you’ll find that your friendships will go through more changes.

Developing new friendships—and finding ways to make old friendships work with your new life—will be a challenge. A good place to start is to take a look at the friendships you have now. There are two big reasons you might want to do this:

  1. It will be easier for you to maintain your own recovery if the people you’re hanging out with are leading addiction-free lifestyles. On the other hand, if the people you’re hanging out with are all drinking, using other drugs or gambling, you’ll have a harder time with your own recovery.
  2. Sometimes the people you used to drink with, get high with or gamble with may want you to do it again. As long as everyone is doing it, no one has to take a look at their problems. But when one person in the group quits, the other people may question their own behaviour, something they will want to avoid at almost any cost. This may leave you feeling like you don’t fit in anywhere.

As you look at your friendships and how they influence your life, you may start to think some of them are better for you than others. You may even decide it’s time to make some new friends. Here are some tips and questions to help you make choices about friendships in a way that will be helpful to your recovery.

How to start a new friendship… and keep it going

Make the first move.

  • Find ways to stay in touch with each other.
  • Look for shared interests and other things you have in common.
  • Trust each other and believe in being honest.
  • Tell each other more about yourselves as time goes by.
  • Try to relate to where the other person is coming from.
  • Accept each other for who you are.
  • Care enough to let each other know when you are doing things that may be harmful.
  • Be sincere.
  • Make a commitment to the friendship.
  • Encourage and support each other.

How to build a HEALTHY friendship

Be a complete person.

AlcoholTake care of you first. Work on building strong self-esteem. Know what your interests are, what goals you have and what values you hold.

Listen and understand. Nothing brings people closer than listening to one another and trying to understand how the other person sees the world.
Communicate daily.

Sit down with your friends and take the time to talk over your feelings, ideas, hopes and concerns. Talk and listen without judgment or blame.

Work at it.

No relationship is without problems. Be ready and willing to work out your problems. It takes a lot of effort to keep honesty and trust in a relationship.

Find time for fun.

Do fun things together, even if it means planning ahead. Having fun is a good way to bring people together.
Get real. Don’t expect others to give you everything. Expect some ups and downs; that’s what life is about.

Remember, you can’t change anything about the other person. If you think you can, you will only end up frustrated and disappointed.

Five questions about friendships

  1. What kinds of experiences have you had with unhealthy friendships?
  2. What kinds of experiences have you had with healthy friendships?
  3. How would finding new, clean and sober friends help you in your recovery?
  4. What could you say to your old friends who wanted you to drink, use or gamble?
  5. What can you do to meet new people and make friendships that don’t involve alcohol, other drugs or gambling?

By Tri-Municipal Drug Strategy Team
(Source: AHS-Addiction and Mental Health)