One of the common experiences people have after leaving drug and alcohol rehab is a sense of isolation. You may have lost a lot of friends while you were using substances, and you need to break contact with the friends who enabled you. You are left with your core support system, and for many people, this doesn’t scratch the friendship itch.
Unfortunately, making friends as an adult is not so easy. In school and college you got to be in an open environment with like-minded people. But now as a working adult, you do not have access to such environments. If there is no one you connect with at work, you have no natural spaces in which to find friends.
The pandemic has made this even more difficult. While making new friends after rehab has always been a struggle, especially since going to bars and most parties is not advised, there were always gatherings or meetups you could attend. Now, gatherings are risky and people are more likely than ever to stay at home.
There are ways to make new friends after leaving rehab, even in this new world. Consider the following ways to meet people.
You should be going to support groups after leaving rehab whether or not you are trying to make friends. However, these support groups are less frequent and more static than regular recovery meetings. AA and NA meetings are the most readily accessible, but there are alternatives if your recovery principles do not align with the 12 Step Program.
Meetings provide a great way to meet people who are moving in the same direction as you. These are people who no longer use substances and who understand your experience. They are the type of people who will call you out when you are going off track. They become real friends, not because they happen to be of a similar age or from the same culture as you, but because of a shared understanding.
Find a Meetup
Meetup is a website where people form groups to engage in shared activities. There are meetups around various hobbies and passions, including everything from hiking to gaming to writing to music. There are groups that have been meeting for years and groups that have only just formed.
The pandemic delayed many planned meetups, forcing some of them to move online, but there are plenty of people organizing meetups now with social distancing protocols in place. This is a great way to make friends in a safe environment, without having to search far and wide for people with similar interests.
Even if you struggle to make friends, spending time with people at a meetup can lead to organic friendships, and soon you will be going out for coffee with people you never knew before rehab.
Reach Out To Those With Whom You Made Amends
One of the reasons you may not have friends after leaving rehab is that you burned bridges when using substances. This is an extremely common experience with people in recovery. After all, substances cause us to act contrary to our principles, leading people to betray friends in ways they never thought they could.
Making amends with people you have hurt is part of the 12 Step Program. But even those who have apologized and asked for forgiveness may not feel comfortable reconnecting with these old friends. It makes sense that you may feel ashamed of your behavior and assume that the people you hurt no longer want you in their life.
However, the reality is that many people will be willing to give you another chance if they can see that you have done the work. It is the people who care most that we tend to hurt the most when using substances, but that does not stop them from caring.
Reach out to your old friends after leaving rehab and see if they are open to getting together. You can meet in a pressure-free environment and reminisce about old times. Give them the chance to see that you have changed and are no longer the person you became when using substances.
Making new friends after leaving rehab is difficult, but it is important that you do so. The above ideas will help you meet people in low-pressure environments, giving you the chance to organically form bonds with like-minded people.