In the midst of recovery, an alcoholic or substance abuser may go through severe withdrawal symptoms as well as emotional and behavioral ups and downs. Everyday annoyances that usually do not strike that person as bothersome might become unbearable. He or she may lose a measure of interest in eating, performing in socially interactive settings, and have difficulty concentrating or staying focused. Everything may seem to require effort, depression may run frequently, and past memories and future expectations alike may seem to carry negative tones.
Positive Reinforcements are Needed in Relapse Prevention
A support system can reinforce addiction recovery regardless of the substance at issue or addiction treatment plan. One medical journal published by the Society for the Study of Addiction points out that “more social resources, especially supportive relationships with family members and friends, are associated with both treated and untreated remission.” The Handbook of Motivation Science points out that the recovery process may begin even surrounded by unsupportive people, but that “these conditions greatly hinder their ability to sustain their initial efforts over time.”
Correctly Identifying Unsupportive Friends
For anyone close to the addict in recovery, addiction treatment can likewise be a trying experience. It can be difficult to try to understand the behavior of the one who is struggling to overcome destructive habits. Tolerating thoughtless actions in a mild and supportive manner is often not the natural inclination. Frustration may result, which can actually antagonize the addict into a stressful state that may tempt them to rely once again on their addiction for support. If you are seeking addiction recovery, or someone you know is, it is important to consider the effect that supportive and unsupportive friends and interpersonal relationships have on the recovery process.
Friends and family may come to feel exhausted and they may not realize that they are being less than supportive to their one in need. Note the following comments published in the book Recovery from Substance Abuse: The Role of Unsupportive Social Interactions by Michelle Marie Schmitt of the Virginia Commonwealth University, which reflect the thoughts of a recovery patient who may feel unsupported.
“When I was talking with someone about trying to stay sober/clean, the person did not give me enough of his or her time, or made me feel like I should hurry.”
“Someone didn’t seem to know what to say, or seemed afraid of saying/doing the ‘wrong’ thing.”
“Someone told me that I had gotten myself into the situation in the first place, and that I now must deal with the consequences.”
Not every situation is easy to decipher. It can be very helpful to have an addiction counselor to talk with if you are concerned about your friends. Only you can decide if your friends are truly helping your recovery.
In many cases, friends cannot assist the recovering person all of the time, especially if the friends also have family, jobs and other obligations. It is very important for the person in recovery to keep a variety of supportive friends, and also make new friends in recovery groups.
Unsupportive Friends – The Danger Triggers
Associations play an extremely dangerous role in recovery when friendships are maintained with ones who encouraged abusive habits in the first place. Exposure to drugs and alcohol is the first step toward relapse. The Comprehensive Handbook of Clinical Health Psychology points out one reason that family members or old friends may pressure one to continue with their addictive ways is that the decision to quit may be seen as a threat or abandonment. This pressure may come verbally or in subtleties, but it is pressure nonetheless.
Sometimes the pressure comes by inviting the recovering person to participate in abuse directly. It may come through subtle comments, such as “you’ve been doing so well, you deserve just one.” Friends who promise not to tell anyone about your indulgence should be monitored and avoided if possible. They likely do not have your best interests at heart. If your addiction was to an illegal substance, such as heroin, cut ties completely with all you know who are involved in illegal substance use and distribution.
What if your addiction has been to a substance that is not necessarily socially stigmatized, such as alcohol or prescription medications? A popular intervention help resource in the state of California recommends that “you do not necessarily need to stop seeing your friends if they drink socially. But it is important that you only allow people into your life who are supportive of your recovery. Unsupportive friends have a tendency to pressure you into imbibing.”
Seeking Out New Lifestyle
Some associations can be avoided during recovery. However, if distance is not a possibility, such as in the case that the unsupportive association is a child or mate, for example, group therapy and counseling for the family may help to establish an agreed upon rule of conduct within the home that will facilitate a recovery inducing environment. With some substances such as tobacco and other addictive drugs, It is recommended that terms be developed that prohibit using the substance in front of the patient during recovery.
Sadly, not all of your companions will be proud of your decision to rid yourself of the woes of your addictive lifestyle. Do not let that discourage you from taking whatever steps are necessary to regain control of your health and behaviors. By all means, develop positive relationships with people who are of the same mind that you are. Cultivate a sense of community with ones who see your former habits as reprehensible. You will feel a great deal of pressure disappear simply by eliminating the bad associations who spoil useful habits.
If you need help overcoming addiction or avoiding a relapse, please call us at our toll-free helpline. Recovery is possible, and relapse does not have to be a part of the process. If you or someone you love has begun or maintained a program of addiction treatment and sobriety, that is very commendable. However, it will soon become evident that recovery is much more than substance abstinence. It is a changed form of living. May your choice of associates reflect your new values and keep you on the road to success. Good health to you!