If you have a friend who has just completed an alcohol rehab program, you are probably looking forward to resuming your friendship with them. You are probably proud of them for facing their problem, even if their drinking didn't affect your friendship. However, if you haven't been through the process yourself, it's easy to say or do things that can make it difficult for the newly-sober to stay on the path to recovery. Here are some ways to help a friend who is out of treatment and moving to the next step in recovery.

1. Don't enable.

It can be difficult for someone who is not an alcoholic or addict to understand another person's destructive relationship with alcohol. Be careful to avoid situations that could be enabling, such as taking them to events where alcohol is served, having alcohol around or simply talking about alcohol in a positive light. A person who is still in the early stages of overcoming addiction is still learning how to say "no" and how to avoid alcohol, and many people relapse simply because they were presented with the opportunity to drink. If rehab was court-ordered, there may be legal consequences if they drink, so providing them with alcohol or covering for them when they admit that they are drinking usually only makes things worse. Whether they relapse or not, enabling can complicate your friendship and interfere with your friend's recovery.

2. Don't assume they are "cured."

Alcoholism may be considered a disease, but it doesn't mean that rehab is an instant cure. Rehab programs teach people how to manage the triggers that make them want to drink, and the person has to put these lessons into practice every day, often for the rest of their life. While it's easier for some people than for others, your friend is still learning and developing coping skills. Just because they have completed treatment doesn't mean they don't still have the desire to drink. Going to bars, parties and other events where alcohol is served can be stress-inducing, so you may need to accept that there are some activities they can't share with you anymore.

3. Don't pressure them.

Most residential rehab programs are followed by therapy, group sessions, one-on-one counseling or other follow-up treatments. Recovering alcoholics have to learn a whole new way of thinking, dealing with problems and stress and developing healthy coping mechanisms. Your friend may have to adopt a new routine that often takes him or her away from the hobbies, interests and social scenes you once shared. You can help them by understanding and respecting their space rather than pressuring them to spend time with you. If they continually put you off because they have to attend meetings or appointments, it shows that they are committed to recovery and are doing what is best for their physical and emotional health. Until the new routine becomes second nature, they are more vulnerable to pressure, so don't bombard them with requests for their time and attention

Remember that the changes they are making will have life-long benefits but that learning how to live sober is a big adjustment. Rehab can change them, but it's not an instant fix and recovery can be difficult. Enabling them under the guise of friendship can make the process more difficult. Even if you have missed them terribly, giving them time and space can be the most helpful thing to do.

For more information and tips, consider talking with a rehab center, such as Pacific Ridge, about what you can do to best help your friend. 

Share