Some friends might not be a problem. Some friends you may have to reevaluate. Were we just friends because we used together? You have to look at it.
When you first come into your recovery, it will take some time to figure out who your actual friends are, especially if they have a substance use disorder or drinking problem. This is normal and all of us in recovery have gone through something similar, if not the same. This is part of the process. It takes time, and you should not rush through it.
Your feelings and your adjustment to your new life are valid. The values you have will often change, and that is normal and part of the recovery journey. Your personal recovery is about you, not only staying free of substances, but also learning about yourself, your friends, and interactions with family via gatherings.
But how do I know?
To be brutally honest, in most cases, breaking up with your friends is necessary when you are sober, and they are not sober and don’t support your new recovery. It’s hard to do but is important if you are to maintain your sobriety, be it with substances, alcohol, or behavioral addictions.
In some cases you may have a friend or two who will respect your decision to engage in recovery. These friends are great people but need to be approached with caution. There are a few ways you can tell if breaking up with your friends is necessary.
- Your friends don’t respect your decision to transition into recovery. If they truly respect your decision, they won’t make fun of you for your sobriety and may even reduce their use in front of you. They will understand that you have a problem that you are recovering from and that you are seeking a lifestyle change. A good friend is proud of healthy choices and shows their love to you through words and actions.
- If your friends try to pressure you into drinking and/or using not only do they not respect your decision but they may even want to see you fail so they can relate to you on the same level prior to recovery.
- Your friends stop talking to you or talking to you often because you don’t engage in drinking or using drugs. If your friends only contact you when they want to engage, and you have nothing in common with them other than using, that might be a sign it’s time to break up.
- If your friend’s lifestyle is declining while you are trying to improve yours, they can easily drag you down with them. You want to maintain your sobriety, and it is very necessary to make sure you do not fall into the same patterns.
Respecting your boundaries and your recovery
Your recovery is the most important thing and people, be it your friends or family members, need to respect that. You made the choice to focus on your health. The next step is to make sure those around you are doing the same or how to surround yourself with support during a difficult time.
If you know that you are easily influenced or prone to peer pressure, it’s even more important for you to think about having the right support around you. Doing so means it’s okay to choose to stay away from those individuals who try to engage you in old habits that are not conducive to living a healthy and happy life.
Setting boundaries includes identifying how you share your choices for sobriety with people, what you choose to do or where you choose to go for fun that isn’t about drinking, and who you hang out with. If you’re having a hard time setting boundaries, here are some tips we know can help:
- Being around people that have been in recovery longer than you and have some legit advice to give that can aid you with your journey. Individuals that have been in recovery longer than you have a lot of experience and advice to offer that comes in handy.
- Seek the assistance of a trained professional that can help you focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses. A Certified Peer Specialist, a therapist, or a psychiatrist are great examples of trained individuals that may be able to help you maintain your recovery and respect your boundaries.
- Keep a journal about how you are feeling and dealing with your recovery journey. It’s important to document this, not just for professionals but for yourself in case you need to revisit old lessons and remember why you are in recovery.
Thinking about your friendships
When thinking about friendships it can sometimes be hard to analyze them and figure out who is a good friend and who is not. There are a few questions we can ask ourselves when looking at a friendship to see if there is a positive connection and if the relationship is worth saving after you are in recovery.
- Does your friend(s) support you in your recovery? It’s important that your friends understand that you are in recovery and that you abstain from all things not conducive to your recovery. They should encourage you to make decisions that support your new lifestyle and don’t impede all the work you have done on yourself.
- Can you do healthy activities with your friend(s)? If you can do things that are not related to drugs and alcohol, such as going for a walk, going swimming, or taking a bike ride maybe the relationship is worth saving. If all you did was use together, that relationship might not be one you need to save.
- Do you have a trusted person in your life that can help you look at your friendships? It’s okay to have a therapist or a peer support specialist to help you figure out what true friendships consist of. Do not be afraid to ask for help.
Building new relationships
One thing about AA, a lot of the people are a lot of fun and you don’t have to be drugging and drinking…it’s a different crowd but you still have a fun experience.
From my lived experience, I have found that building new relationships is a lot easier than you think. It’s easy to connect with individuals if you have similar goals and priorities.
People in recovery aren’t just in recovery to be in it, they are in recovery to change their lifestyle and habits. They also want to build new relationships with people as well. Having meaningful and positive connections with other people is an important way to maintain your recovery and to still enjoy your life-without drinking and without substances. A few ways you can build new relationships:
- Talk to people at your meetings. Everyone there wants to connect, and everyone is in the same boat. We are all learning about ourselves and our recovery. Some just have more experience, but this wealth of experience is ready to be shared and connections can be made. Do not be afraid to share your story. There are many people who can relate to you on a deeper level than you think.
- Join other groups for people with similar interests. You may like to paint for example. If that is the case, wouldn’t it be fun to take a painting class and connect with people that are living a sober life?
- Talk to people out in public. It’s okay to strike up a conversation with someone who is friendly while waiting in line at the grocery store. It’s okay to ask a friend from church out for coffee. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask people for their information.
Moving forward into recovery is a hard and a powerful step to take. Knowing that you have support from other people that can relate to you on a personal level is very important. Do not be afraid to honor yourself, even if it means letting go of those that no longer are part of who you are as you journey into your new life of sobriety.