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Life After Rehab: How to Build Your Support System

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Reviewed By: Barbara Rexer, DSW, LCSW, LCADC, CCS, ICCS, DRCC

No matter your situation, it’s never too late to build your support system. You can repair damaged relationships, forge new connections, and find community in meetings that help you thrive. If you don’t know where to begin, here are some tips.

Transitioning from rehab back into everyday life can be incredibly difficult. However, the journey is easier if you have a strong and reliable support system in place. When you have a network of people who want to help you succeed, it gives you a sense of security and confidence. During recovery, that can make a world of difference.

But when you’re suffering from addiction, you may struggle to develop a great recovery support system. Relationships with family can become frayed. Old friends can become distant. You might even worry that getting clean will mean losing friends who still use, even if you know those relationships are not healthy. 

Fortunately, it’s never too late to get the support you need. Here are five ways to strengthen healthy relationships and build new connections to make your transition after rehab easier.


Get Help Outside Friends & Family

Although friends and family play an important role in a recovery support system, most people need professional treatment to recover from addiction. A professional treatment program actually helps you build your support system in a number of ways. Not only will you have access to clinicians and medical professionals who can help you physically recover, but you will also have the emotional support of staff who understand the struggles of recovery and want to see you succeed.

Another advantage of professional treatment is access to aftercare. Aftercare is a critical part of the long-term recovery process that comes just after formal treatment. This transitional phase might include counseling, group therapy or classes, or treatment for a co-occurring mental health issue. 

Aftercare might also include staying in a halfway house or sober living home, or perhaps enlisting support from a sober companion. These are great options if you have limited support at home, but they can also help you rebuild healthy relationships at home by relieving some of the emotional pressure that can arise when your support system is limited to friends and family. By creating some space for yourself and loved ones while you adjust to life outside rehab, you can focus on re-forging connections without adding the stress of day-to-day living. Unfamiliar with these options? Here’s a quick guide:

Halfway House (Sober Living Facility) 

In context of addiction recovery, a halfway house is a transitional place to live between treatment and everyday life. Staffed with a house manager who understands addiction, these facilities also offer the support of a sober living environment and the structure of house rules. These homes are often near jobs and public transportation, and residents have the freedom to work, see friends and family within the guidance of that residence’s rules, and attend additional treatment or counseling. Read more.

Sober Companion  

A sober companion is someone you can hire to help you through triggering situations after you complete treatment. Sober companions usually have personal experience with addiction and can offer a first-person perspective on what recovering addicts are facing. Unlike sponsors associated with 12-step programs, sober companions provide flexible support catered to the needs of the client. Read more.

Whether you choose an inpatient program or a more flexible outpatient plan, your treatment center should provide aftercare. Before you enroll, be sure to ask about these services and what you can expect as you transition from structured treatment to life in recovery.


Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out

Rebuilding connections can’t happen if you bury your emotions or avoid having hard conversations. While you may be embarrassed or fear that a bridge is irreparably burned, you won’t know how another person will respond until you approach them. Don’t be afraid to reach out. 

On occasion, you’re going to need help during recovery, and that’s okay. And while it can be hard to ask, your friends and family may not know you need help unless you ask them for it directly. The people in your life may not want to overstep, so they may not act unless you make it clear that you’d like assistance.

During rehab, take advantage of therapy sessions to learn strategies that can help you start the conversation, even when you’ve been estranged or if a relationship has frayed. Having the courage to reach out can make a difference in building your recovery support system.  


Stay Open and Honest

When you’re struggling with substance abuse, it’s hard to be honest with yourself and others. The feeling of needing to hide your emotions or mistakes may not go away overnight. But honesty is crucial to building strong relationships. For many people in recovery, sobriety does not follow a perfectly straight line. Few people leave rehab and walk right into a dream job. Rebuilding takes time. 

By answering truthfully when loved ones ask how you’re doing and whether you need help, you’re more likely to get the support you need. You will also be more likely to avoid misunderstandings or over-reactions that can fray relationships. Here are some tips for staying open and honest with loved ones: 

  • Expect a positive outcome. Even if what you need to communicate is difficult to share, start with the expectation that you will be heard. 
  • Involve a third-party. If you don’t feel that you will be understood, consider family therapy or reach out to a neutral friend to mediate. 
  • Accept others’ emotions. Accept that your friends and family have emotions, and their initial reactions may not reflect how they really feel once they have a chance to process a conversation. 
  • Put it in writing. If you find it hard to express yourself verbally, put what you need to say into a letter or text. This gives you time to think about how you want to come across, and others time to process how they react.     


Need to talk to someone today?
Call us at 855-430-9426 to speak with a recovery specialist.

Find People Who Understand

Speaking with others who have struggled with addiction makes a difference. When you participate in treatment alumni events, go to AA or NA meetings, or head to other support groups, gathering with people who understand you can help you feel supported. People who understand can offer you support in a different way, mainly because they know what it’s like to be in your shoes. Plus, you can do the same for them. A little bit of shared empathy can go a long way.


Discover Healthy Interests

Developing new hobbies and community connections can also help you build your recovery support system. You’ll meet new people who share your interests, allowing you to expand your social circle. Plus, it may help you develop a new sense of self that doesn’t involve using, giving you an identity that can carry you forward long-term.

Written By: Sprout Editorial Team

The Sprout Health Group editorial team is passionate about addiction treatment, recovery and mental health issues. Every article is expert-reviewed.

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