Your friends should be happy about your newfound sobriety and relieved that you’re no longer endangering your health by drinking or using drugs, but that’s not always the case. It’s unfortunate but true that when you get clean and sober, you find out whom your real friends are. Here are a few ways to handle situations with friends—or people you thought were friends.
If you met most of your circle of friends while hanging out at your favorite bar, you’re totally aware that some or all of them have problems with alcohol. The easiest way to avoid your old barroom buddies is to just stop going to that bar, but dealing with other friends won’t be so simple.
Maybe you were part of a gang of coworkers who used to go out for drinks after work and keep drinking into the night. Hopefully, those coworkers will be sensitive enough not to ask you out to happy hour after you return to the office following rehab, but there are likely to be some who are afraid you’ll feel left out if they don’t invite you, or just aren’t sensitive enough to care.
Obviously, you should not endanger your sobriety by going along with the gang, especially early in your recovery, but you don’t want your coworkers to feel rejected, since you have to keep working with them. Just politely decline but do it in a friendly manner. Be sure to avoid acting superior.
Casual friends aren’t really that hard to deal with, because you weren’t really close, intimate companions. The most difficult and delicate situations involve those people with whom you shared deep, personal bonds—and those bonds included alcohol or drugs. Some of those people may disappoint you by attempting to sabotage your recovery.
Why would a true friend do something like that? There can be several reasons. One is the feeling that you have somehow betrayed the friendship by going over to the “other side”—the straight, sober people. There may be someone who feels that you think that you’re “better” than they are because you have conquered your addiction and they haven’t.
If you really want to keep this person as a friend, the two of you need to have a heart-to-heart discussion about your circumstances and get everything out in the open. Maybe you’ll reach a deeper level of understanding—or maybe you’ll realize that your “friend” is not really a friend at all, just someone you used to party with.
There are other types of friends who may need a bit of winning over. If there are people that you hurt while you were using, and they’re the sort of good, caring people that you may want in your life right now, try reaching out and making amends. Tell them that you’re sorry for past deeds and would like to see more of them in the future. It’s possible that the wounds go too deep and can’t be healed, but at least, you tried.
The deadliest category of “friend” is the outright saboteur. This person is not at all happy about your getting sober and has every intention of dragging you off the wagon. Why? Perhaps misery loves company. In any event, set your intentions on finding new, sober friends.
Whatever you do, don’t allow the saboteur to lure you back into the habits you fought to be free from. As much as it may hurt both of you, it’s crucial that you sever ties with anyone who deliberately tries to tempt you into drinking or drugging again. No friend is worth dying over.
Which former friends you choose to include in your new, sober life has to be your own decision. Ask yourself some hard questions, like whether this person has your best interests at heart. Can we go out and have fun together without drinking or using drugs? Does being with this person make me feel better about myself?
Widen your circle
Maintaining your sobriety is likely to cost you a few old acquaintances or running buddies. That’s why you need to reach out and meet new people that can become your companions in a new, sober life. This will also help you to learn what it means to be a true friend.
Support groups & 12 step meetings are a great place to meet new friends who share challenges & a solution to staying clean and sober. Just by being there, you know you have something in common. Show up and participate!
Spend the time you used to waste hanging out in bars on more productive activities, like taking classes or pursuing your favorite hobbies. You probably have interests that you never really gave a chance. Why not take up scuba diving or yoga? Take a cooking class or learn a new skill. The important thing is to be with people who can enjoy themselves without relying on drugs or alcohol.
If you once belonged to a church but haven’t attended lately, why not go back and see whether you enjoy it? If you’re interested in exploring your spiritual side but don’t know where to go, check out several churches in your neighborhood. You never know where you’ll meet kindred souls!
Mourning the loss
Losing old friends hurts. It hurts you and it hurts those who are no longer in your life. When you mourn the loss of an old compadre, remind yourself that this former pal may someday “see the light,” get sober themselves and come to you for help. If that happens, your past experiences could help them and make your friendship deeper than ever.
Have you lost any friends due to getting sober?
If you need help with your sobriety, go to http://nycsoberliving.com.