Making Friends in Treatment: Should You Do It?
This is a hot-button topic when it comes to treatment facilities. It’s natural to bond with people you spend time with for days at a time, but is it healthy when considering the setting? Do friends in drug treatment help or hurt your sobriety? Should you avoid your peers during treatment and focus only on yourself? Here, we will try to answer some of these most confusing questions.
Peer Groups in Treatment
The nature of treatment facilities can mean you are around other clients for a significant amount of time. Between recreational activities, group therapy, exercise, therapy classes (art, music, etc.), meal times and meditation, it’s unlikely you’ll be alone for most of the day. While it may sound like a summer camp or sorority, treatment is much different from most group situations which can, in turn, form even closer bonds.
Unlike social groups, like those at recreational camps, clients at treatment centers spend much of their time speaking about emotions, significant life events, goals, past regrets and spiritual beliefs. Hearing about the deepest crevices of someone’s life can be a naturally bonding experience for any two individuals. For example, if you suffered from anxiety as a teenager and used to self-harm by cutting and the woman next to you shares with the group that she did that as a teenager as well, it is natural to feel a “bond” immediately. However, when do those bonds form friendships, and is that healthy?
What Is a Friend?
This question may seem trivial, but it is possible to be supportive of individuals in treatment without being friends. A friend is typically considered an affectionate bond between two people which excludes family or sexual ties. Friends are considered people you trust and openly show mutual affection with on a regular basis. Think of someone you get along with but do not turn to for personal advice or help. Is that a friend? Likely not. That person is a peer, but not a friend. At the beginning of treatment, you will likely consider the other clients your peers.
When Does a Peer Become a Friend?
If everyone in a treatment group begins as peers, when do they become friends? There is no simple answer, and many times the answer is never. A peer becomes a friend after you have established mutual affection and ongoing trust between the two of you. In treatment, this can be difficult to do while you continue to rebuild your life outside of treatment and focus on your own recovery. It is recommended that you consider your peers in treatment people you support and respect, versus people you show affection for and trust with most anything.
Can Peers in Treatment Become Friends?
It is possible for clients in treatment with you to become your friend, but it can be a troublesome process. Your treatment peers are battling addiction and mental illness and may not have enough room in their recovery to be a true friend. At the same time, the focus and attention you need to put in your own recovery can prevent you from being a good friend to others. In treatment, it is best to focus and love yourself versus trying to gain affection and trust from others.
Should I Avoid Connecting With Others?
While we do support that you consider your treatment group peers versus friends, we do not encourage you to avoid interaction or connection. The bonding you feel when sharing similar experiences with others is a natural, fulfilling part of healthy relationships. Consider others as a part of your personal recovery and avoid any bonds or interaction that encourage relapse or substance use. Connecting with others who support you in your journey to sobriety is encouraged as a helpful part of participating in treatment.