You are who you surround yourself with. Although it may be a clichéd belief, for many, the saying holds true. If you’re in treatment, it is important to surround yourself with positive, healthy relationships that will be a source of support during and after the recovery process.
For many people, this may mean avoiding friends you used to hang out with before you entered treatment. It doesn’t stop there. Developing new friendships can also be tricky as you try to find a healthy network of friends.
The Difference between Healthy & Unhealthy Friendships
It might seem like a safe bet to turn to those who are not using, drinking, or engaging in negative behaviors, for friendship. However, even those friendships can negatively impact your recovery. In general, anyone who is insensitive to the difficulties of recovery, who makes hurtful comments, or who disrespects your boundaries can cause more harm than good.
Such behavior might include a friend questioning your food choices knowing that you’re in recovery for an eating disorder; engaging in emotionally charged situations such as an argument that can trigger you, or a friend encouraging you to skip meetings or counseling sessions.
Positive friends will accommodate your new lifestyle. They will never drink or use in front of you, make demeaning comments, or question your choice to remain sober or overcome your mental illness. A true friend will be considerate and supportive in your time of need and will never force you to do something that could lead to a relapse or mental break.
Positive, healthy friendships provide hope and support. These are the friends that will never place you in triggering situations, who will talk to you when you’re experiencing cravings, and encourage you to attend meetings or counseling sessions. Healthy friendships can encourage you through recovery, keeping a positive attitude that will help you thrive.
Unhealthy friendships can make it difficult for you to avoid relapse. These relationships can be physically or emotionally abusive and enable or even encourage you to go back to your former lifestyle. Any type of unhealthy relationship could trigger you to relapse.
After recovery, you can reestablish old relationships, however, you will need to examine if the relationship is healthy or not. Recovery can often help those in recovery make amends and renew relationships with family and old friends.
Healthy, new friendships may be formed through participation in support groups as well as through recreational organizations or religious organizations. Volunteer activities are also a great way to form new friendships. By making new friends, and being a good friend, you can find a network that will support you through recovery and beyond.
It’s important to recognize that loneliness can be a relapse trigger. Whether you’re suffering from a mental illness or recovering from substance abuse, loneliness can lead you to believe that life in recovery is disappointing and boring. You can also talk to your counselor or caseworker about these new friendships as they can help identify whether these relationships are healthy or unhealthy.