Yes, You Can Have a Social Life After Rehab!

You’ve probably heard people say that rehab is the first step in a long journey of recovery. They’re right. But what will your social life will look like after treatment for alcoholism?

Here’s the truth: After what feels like a lifetime of alcohol addiction, rehab is really just the beginning of a new life.

When you leave treatment, you also leave behind the protective bubble that kept you sober. At this point, it’s really up to you to maintain your recovery. It can be difficult when we leave the safety of treatment and return to face our real lives – that includes damaged relationships, life’s ups and downs, grief and loss, and dealing with cravings.

And here’s the good news: With the right aftercare planning and recovery support, you can thrive in long-term recovery.

One critical element of long-term recovery is creating a solid foundation of social support. That might mean changing your relationships, developing new friendships, and maybe even repairing the friendships damaged during your addiction.

Let’s talk about the features of a sober social support system.

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The Importance of Social Support in Recovery

Numerous studies show a positive relationship between social support and the process of recovery. This underlines the importance of developing social networks with sober people.

Studies show that social support is an important factor in terms of accessing recovery. Further, peers can influence positive recovery outcomes, especially among sober living residents.

A study of social support programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), identified four of the most important social support benefits in recovery:

  1. Social support groups provide continuing peer support, guidance, goals, and structure.
  2. Peers focus on recovery-related, rewarding social activities.
  3. Mutual-aid support groups provide recovery role models.
  4. Groups offer an outlet that allows individuals to share their feelings in a safe setting, with a focus on developing coping skills and building self-confidence.

The reasons above prompted the American Psychiatric Association to recommend self-help groups for people in addiction recovery, but social support offers a wealth of additional benefits.

Some of these additional benefits include:

  • Peer support provides a sense of belonging and inclusion, which is critical for people in recovery to feel like they’re not alone in this journey.
  • Social support provides a sense of safety to openly share your experiences of recovery without fear of hurting someone else or worrying a loved one.
  • You find a sense of hope to broaden your optimism about recovery. You’ll see that your peers have overcome obstacles and stayed sober.
  • Peers keep you grounded in the reasons why you invested in recovery.
  • Peers reduce the risk of relapse by providing accountability.
  • Peers provide perspective on recovery and its highs and lows.

Will My Social Life Change After Rehab?

You might wonder if your social life post-rehab will continue to change in recovery. Almost certainly. If you want to hang around with the same friends you used to drink with, you’ll (eventually) find yourself in a situation where you’re tempted to use. And temptation can easily lead to relapse.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to cut ties with all your friends. Instead, you can implement boundaries that support your recovery. Some of those healthy boundaries might include only meeting your friends in places where you wouldn’t normally drink alcohol (like a coffee shop).

You can also plan healthy activities that don’t center around the use of alcohol. Some examples might be shopping, going to a movie, or going for a hike.

It may feel awkward initially…but your real friends will stick around and support you in recovery.

If you’re feeling unsure about whether or not a friend should be in your support network, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do they support my recovery?
  • Do I feel good when I’m around them?
  • Do I feel like they respect my recovery process and support me?
  • Do we engage in healthy activities?
  • Do they encourage me to return to my old habits?
  • Can I reach out to this person when I’m having a difficult time?
  • Do I feel judged or disrespected by this person?
  • What things do we have in common now that I don’t drink with them?

The answers to these questions should make it pretty easy to decide if that friend is someone you should keep in your social life after rehab. The goal is to identify any possible weaknesses in your support system, then reduce or eliminate those weak links.

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How to Build a Healthy Support Network

The next step is to bolster your support structure and set yourself up for success in recovery.

In your new social life after rehab, it’s important to develop a network of friends who are also in recovery. But where do you find these new friends?

A few of the best places to make sober new friends are:

  • Mutual-aid meetings: AA, SMART Recovery, LifeRing, Recovery Dharma, Women for Sobriety, or religious groups like Celebrate Recovery.
  • Recovery Community Organizations: These provide peer support services, recovery-related social events, workshops, and host many different types of peer support group meetings.
  • Sport/fitness venues: Places like Phoenix or the Recovery Gym or yoga studios are a great way to connect with others in a sober environment.
  • Alcohol-free venues: Sober bars, coffee shops, and other community organizations like Insight Meditation centers are visited by people in recovery and sober people.
  • Friends from rehab: If you made friends in rehab and found them to be supportive, you might stay in touch with them once you leave rehab. You’ll both be at the same stage in your recovery and likely to experience similar situations. That kind of empathy can be a game changer in your social life after rehab.
  • Professional social support: Your therapist or counselor qualifies as social support, too. Counselors are essential in providing a safe space where you can share your experiences in recovery, establish healing strategies, and explore challenges and solutions together.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a substance use disorder, help is available. Call 800-839-1686Who Answers? today to speak with a treatment specialist.

 

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