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Setting Boundaries When Supporting a Recovering Addict

Group Therapy: Supporting an Old Friend After Rehab and Betrayal

This question is from a Group Therapy post in our TrèsSugar Community. Add your advice in the comments!

A friend of mine recently completed a rehab program and contacted me to make amends. As you might imagine, our friendship went from close, to strained, to non-existent for reasons both directly and indirectly related to her addiction. There was a straw/camel’s back situation a few years ago, which led to me completely cutting her off.

Despite that, I’m still the only friend she has left. I really want her to lead a happy and sober life. I do care about her and we have lots of good memories together from the years we were friends. But peppered throughout those years were all sorts of betrayals, drama, and negativity. My life since I cut her out has been drastically better; the people around me are people I trust and drama is rare. I guess I just don’t know where she fits into my life anymore.


I should add that when we spoke, it seemed like she was really committed to staying sober and not engaging in the other destructive behaviors that caused our friendship breakup. But you can imagine why I would be hesitant to believe that after years of lies.

I guess my question is: Is it an obligation of mine to be one of her main support systems since she doesn't have other friends? Can I be supportive of her new life without really letting her back into mine? Can people really change, not just get clean, but actually change how they interact with and treat people during rehab? Also, I’d just be interested in hearing from anyone who has gone through rehab themselves or had a friend or loved one transition to a sober life.

Have a dilemma of your own? Post it anonymously to Group Therapy for advice, and check out what else is happening in the TrèsSugar Community.

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Burkina Burkina 6 years
It depends. What the drama in your friendship a result of her addiction? I think if she is sober and has changed it might be good for you to give her a second chance. Hey, she might surprise you and make up for her past betrayals. You sound like a good influence and I think she needs that right now. You don't have to be best friends..test it and see how it goes. If things go back to the way they were cut her off and never look back.
Bettye-Wayne Bettye-Wayne 6 years
With addiction, some people are well-balanced but encounter circumstances that cause them to turn to drugs, and some have a predisposition for self destruction and drama no matter what, and drugs fit in well with that disposition. Speaking of my baby-daddy, he's been sober for almost 3 years and he's still nuts. Always has been, always will be. I don't know what your friend was like before her addiction, but proceed with caution. Helen is right, making amends is just part of the process, it's too early to tell what she wants out of this relationship. Keep her as a coffee shop acquaintance until you know for sure that her drama was caused by her addiction, not her disposition. In this situation, your only obligation is to take care of yourself.
Helen-Danger Helen-Danger 6 years
If all she did was contact you to make amends, I don't get how that means you have to be her only friend and support system. She can make some sober buddies at NA. You taking her on as a project would be damaging to her recovery, actually. I'd accept whatever apologies she has to offer and see what she does. If she acts like someone you want to be around, give her a (conditional) chance. If not, let her know she's forgiven, wish her well, and create some distance.
testadura67 testadura67 6 years
I have never been to rehab, but I have been an addict. When I look back on how I behaved during those years, I don't recognize that person. I also don't have any friends left from that period in my life, so I completely sympathize with your perspective. However, I have gone on to complete a degree, have a solid career, close relationships with my family, and healthy relationships with friends and my boyfriend. 10 years later, it's like that part of my life never happened. I hope the same can be said for your friend. This is going to be a very tough time for her, and while I don't think you should welcome her into the center of your life with open arms, I think having someone who knew her and can forgive her will be a huge help for her. Whether that's something you're willing to be at this point is up to you, and if it's not, that's perfectly ok. You have to make protecting yourself the priority over supporting her.
GTCB GTCB 6 years
Meh. She screwed up and threw everything away. No need for you to suffer any more than you have to. People have to deal with the consequences of their actions and the loss of your friendship is one of them. Maybe you can meet for coffee or something every once in a blue moon but I certainly wouldn't invite her to your wedding, etc.
atraditionalist atraditionalist 6 years
*Shel = I
atraditionalist atraditionalist 6 years
I am not an addict nor have I dealt with someone coming out of rehab. But I would say by one of your questions: "Can I be supportive of her new life without letting her into mine" that you aren't willing to be close to her. Not yet anyways. If you genuinely don't feel ready to fully let her into your life then don't. SheI like BiWife's advice about slowly getting to know her again but that is if you are willing. Don't force anything and don't be a martyr. She still did those things to you in the past and needs to apologize for them-whether she was under the influence when she did them or not. GL!
JoeTyndall JoeTyndall 6 years
OP, The big problem is her drama. She uses drama to deal with her personal problems, and it may only be a matter of time before the drama starts up again. Or not: what do you think? You would have to sit down with her and have a deep discussion about the way she uses drama to handle her uncomfortable situations in life. Are you willing to have such a conversation with her? She still needs to go back and give you what I call 'full' apologies for all the stupid things she did in the past. Do you want to listen to these kinds of apologies? If you want to be friends with her again, you cannot afford to sweep these things under the rug and pretend these problems do not exist.
BiWife BiWife 6 years
I have both dealt with addiction myself & helped others deal with addiction. To answer some of your questions: yes, it is possible to clean-up & live a normal/sober life. No, it's not your obligation to be her main support structure. However, if you think it might be possible to forgive her & rekindle the friendship, it would be helpful for her to have sober friends to help create new & beneficial habits to replace the old & destructive ones. Since she has abused your trust in the past, it would be unwise to immediately forgive & forget & pick up where you left off. Making amends means more than just saying you're sorry, it involves regaining the trust & respect of those who were previously wronged. If she's serious about making amends, she'll understand this & not expect you two to be best friends immediately. Set boundaries, don't say things you aren't sincere about, and be consistent. If you don't want her calling at all hours on a regular basis, don't say "call me whenever you need me". In the beginning, I would spend time together just the two of you. If she proves to be turning her life around, then start introducing her to other people, etc. Don't make any financial or legal promises (tho I'm sure that goes without saying). Let her know that you're being cautious but sincere, and that with time you two can become closer. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Unfortunately, rehab is all dependent upon the motivation and determination of the addict & not their well-meaning friends, family, peers, etc. I've seen people quit & then hit the rock again a short time later. I've been ripped off for a large sum of money (learned that lesson the hard way, but the first time). I've also been married to a former addict for nearly a decade and have seen the positive results of a person truly reforming & kicking the habit. So it can go either way depending upon the individual, it's not a hopeless cause nor is it a sure thing, proceed with due caution.
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