When you’re headed to an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program, you may wonder if it is a good idea to make friends while you’re there. Maybe you’ve heard stories of people who’ve befriended individuals in hopes of camaraderie and support, only to find someone to relapse with instead. Perhaps just one person relapsed, causing the relationship to go sour and leaving the other person in heartache. At any rate, the question of making friends in rehab is a valid one.
The answer depends on several things. Making friends with someone in recovery can be amazing, but it can also turn into something difficult if one decides to take a different path or is just not emotionally ready. Sometimes, the friend you find could also be an “energy vampire,” a person who sucks your good energy with their negativity and emotional immaturity. To ensure that you’re only making healthy friendships in rehab, keep the following three tips in mind:
1. Set your boundaries first.
When building a friendship, whether in or out of recovery, it is important to set and keep boundaries. If you are sober and you want to befriend those who are also sober, set that personal boundary and maintain it. If you become friends with someone in rehab who down the road decides to go back to drinking, you have every right to cut ties with them and let them know why. Tell them that you’ve made a choice not to be around people who drink because you don’t want that kind of energy or temptation around.
Unfortunately, there are some people in recovery who are eager to start drinking again and will put some pressure on their friends to do the same. It is then up to you to know your boundaries should you find yourself associated with someone who can potentially hold you back from your new life.
2. Make rehab about you.
Having friends to walk the path with you can be a great experience, but keep in mind that rehab needs to be a time and place where you come first. Once you’ve built a wonderful relationship with yourself, good people will naturally gravitate towards you and you’ll be able to choose friends who have the same level of respect for themselves. Ultimately, friendships in which you look to each other for love and affirmation make for healthy relationships.
3. Hold off on the romance.
Many experts and others in long-term sobriety advise against dating anyone in rehab. Chances are, you and the other person are not emotionally or mentally ready to date while trying to get sober. Give yourself some time to heal and grow in all areas of your life before becoming romantically involved with another person. While it’s tempting, many people are simply not ready to handle the highs and lows of a love life during such an unstable time in their lives. To give yourself a better shot at forming a solid relationship, it may be best to hold off on dating until you’ve done enough inner work on yourself.
Know that there are people who have made wonderful friendships during rehab and others who have had terrible experiences. The truth is, it’s just the luck of the draw. However, if you feel inclined to make a friend, it wouldn’t hurt to tread cautiously. For as long as you set your boundaries and always remember the main reason why you are there, you may very well leave rehab with your sobriety in check and a lifelong friend to walk in it together as well.