friendship addiction treatment support opioids portland oregon recovery doctor clinic Have you ever heard the phrase, “show me who your friends are and I’ll show you who you are?”

It’s a common phrase because, in many ways, it’s true. 

It’s especially true for people struggling with Substance Use Disorder – whether that’s with alcohol, opioids, or any other substance or substances. 

Friendships can make or break recovery. 

In this post, we’ll look at the facts: why friends matter in recovery, how they can sabotage recovery, and how to best leverage friendships to build and sustain a long-term recovery. 

How Friends Can Sometimes be the Enemy of Recovery 

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Friendship is one of the greatest joys in life. Our friends are not blood relatives, nor are they romantic partners. They are simply people who choose to walk with us through life, through the ups and downs, often outlasting lovers, and even family members. It’s often true that our friends know us better than anyone else on the planet. Not everyone puts equal emphasis on friendship, but those who do cherish what it brings in their lives. 

However, friends can also be our worst enemies when it comes to addiction. 

Often, as we become more and more dependent on substances to get us through our lives, our relationships start changing. Those who were our friends, cease to be our friends. Those who we never thought we’d be friends with – those are the people we start having the most in common with. Our shared interest? Our substance of choice, of course. The people we use with, or the people who will tolerate us when we are using, become the people closest to us. 

While these “friends” might care about us, and we might care about them, it’s not our mutual care and concern that is what is holding us together. Instead, it’s our shared commitment to our addiction that forms the basis of our relationship. These “friends” simply “get us” because they, too, are living a lifestyle that is centered around active addiction. 

These are the “friends” who will help you score, or will help cover your bar tab after a night of heavy drinking. They will validate your reasons for using or drinking. They will normalize problem behavior. They will excuse negative consequences as “unfortunate” incidents and reassure you that they are unlikely to reoccur, even when you’re actually putting yourself in dangerous situations. 

These “friends” will do many things to help you continue using – but you’ll quickly notice a change if you seek treatment for addiction. Recovery is the one thing that they refuse to help you do. In fact, they will often reject you for seeking help or seek to actively derail your recovery after you do get treatment. 

How Friends Can Help During and After Recovery 

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When you do seek treatment for the disease of addiction, it will quickly become clear who your real friends are. Those who wish for your health and wellbeing, who applaud your decision to take control back from addiction and start living life independent from the control of drugs and alcohol, will show themselves to be your real friends. These are the people who want the best for you, who believe in your ability to get well, and who are cheering you along as you make brave and difficult changes in your life. You’ll want as many friends like this as possible in your corner during your early recovery process. 

Often, because addiction is so isolating, we don’t have a huge community of people supporting us in early recovery. That is difficult, and upsetting, but it is, unfortunately, normal. Often those who were our friends distance themselves from us because active addiction causes us to make decisions that alienate us from trusting relationships, with ourselves and with others. Other times, we were already isolated and that same lack of community was a key driver behind the loneliness that contributed to developing SUD in the first place. As we recover and regain control over our lives, and learn new coping strategies for dealing with negative emotions as they arise, it becomes easier to renew our old friendships and even build new ones.

How Recovery Can Transform Your Experience of Friendship for the Better 

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Ultimately, we can’t be a good friend to others unless we are a good friend to ourselves, first. 

We can’t be close with others until we are close with ourselves, first. 

Relationships of all kinds – even friendships – thrive when we can intimately know ourselves, and use that self-knowledge as a solid base for knowing others. 

But the negative cycle of addiction keeps us from truly knowing, or being intimate, with ourselves. When we are using substances to cope with life, we are actually actively fleeing ourselves. We are running from our emotions, our situation, our embodied experience. Often, it’s too painful, too stressful, too uncomfortable, to sit with ourselves without turning to substances to help mediate the experience. When our feelings are so big that they become overwhelming, this is actually a normal and understandable response. Because so many of us start using at an early age, many of us have never gotten to know ourselves as adults without substances. 

Recovery offers us an opportunity to deepen our relationships with ourselves and others. 

What we often find is that, in recovery, patients discover a new depth of connection that they never dreamed was possible when they were still using. Friendships become stronger, deeper, more intimate. Mutual trust and mutual care and concern take on a more vibrant existence. Friendship – not only with others, but with yourself, as well – takes on an entirely new dimension. 

What you’ll find at Shanti Recovery and Wellness… 

Portland residents tend to gravitate towards our programs because we offer a warm, family-style environment with knowledgeable clinicians in a comfortable setting. Our building is a converted craftsman that looks and feels more like a chiropractor’s office or a naturopathic family medicine clinic than it does an addiction treatment center. We tailor our patient-centered treatment plans around your preferences and goals, taking the whole patient into consideration, rather than treating addiction in isolation. 

Interested to learn more about how we can help? Give us a call today to begin your journey to freedom from addiction!