The secret to a successful recovery isn’t just to stop using: It’s to create a new life where it’s harder to turn back to your old way and easier to move forward. Without letting go to your old life, you will find it more difficult to accept the support and practical solutions you need in recovery.
Once you’ve escaped your addiction, spending time with former drinking or drugging friends is not healthy in maintaining your sobriety. These friends are strong links to your past, and can easily pull you back into addiction. Breaking strong ties can be difficult but if you’re serious about staying sober, there is no other choice. Saying goodbye doesn’t mean the end though, it means building new friendships and refusing to allow yourself to be lonely.
Do Your Friends Support Your Sobriety?
This is the time to think about the kind of friend you want to be and the kind of friends you want to have. Begin by asking the following questions:
- Does this person allow me to make sobriety and recovery the most important thing in my life, without exception?
- Does he/she threaten that mission?
- How do I want my life to look?
- Who do I want around for the journey to achieving that life?
Cutting off some of your unhealthy relationships may be hard, but it’s crucial for recovery. In some cases, these friendships will fizzle on their own. Talk honestly, one-on-one, and let the person know that you’re working to improve yourself as a person and as their friend and that you need to be surrounded by people who are positive and supportive when it comes to your sobriety. Then simply ask your friend if he/she is able to do that for you. All you can do is state your needs and expectations clearly and then allow your friend to decide what place he/she wants to continue to occupy in your life.
Making Amends to Friends
During recovery, you will also likely need to repair some friendships that were harmed by your addiction too. They must learn to trust you again and the best way you can rebuild a damaged friendship is to give the person time and show him/her that you have indeed changed and are working hard at maintaining your sobriety.
In Revolution Recovery’s 12-step program, part of your recovery will involve making amends to the friends (among others) whom you’ve wronged. Your sponsor and new friends you meet in support will help you as you attempt to figure out your best approaches to making amends – but they can’t do it for you. What works for someone else in recovery may not be right for you, but others’ stories and support will prove invaluable in your quest to correct past wrongs.
Repairing every friendship is different, but you may have a number of fences to mend. Did you steal or lie, or were you simply unreliable, disappointing your friend time and again? Did you cause the person embarrassment or shame? Did you physically and/or emotionally harm them? Remember that making amends should be done only if doing so will not cause harm to others. So you can’t think only of your own needs in this process; you must also consider how your reappearance in your friend’s life will affect them too.
Starting Over. Putting yourself in situations where you can meet new people is only the first step to making new friends. If you go to meetings or community events, but never speak to anyone new, friendships won’t come easily.
Now that you realize why you need to make some new friends, it’s time to actually take action and do it:
- Support Groups
One of the easiest ways for those in recovery to start connecting with new people is through support groups. You automatically have at least one thing in common – your recovery. You may have shared similar experiences and through these discussions you can find other things that you have in common. Also, you know that these friends are also committed to achieving long-term recovery and you can motivate and encourage one another. It can also be comforting to have someone to talk to about your challenges and struggles who understands firsthand what you are going through.
- Hobbies, Clubs, and Other Activities
As you explore new interests, you will also meet new people. Sign up for a painting class, start attending yoga, join a Frisbee golf club, or try other new activities. Other participants will share common interests and you can learn together. As you build your skills, you can also build your friendship. Have confidence and strike up a conversation. You never know what else you may have in common, and you may make a good friend for life. Even if you don’t become best buddies, you’ll have someone to chat with while you’re there, and this can help you to feel more comfortable and begin socializing with others.
- Friends of Friends
You most likely have a few good friends who have stuck by your side and are a positive influence in your life. As you continue to hang out with these friends, you may meet some of their other friends as well. Use these resources to start developing new friendships. Introduce yourself and keep an open mind. If your friend enjoys their company and hanging out, you just might too. If nothing else, it can help you to keep expanding your circle of acquaintances.
Not only is volunteering good for your emotional health and the community, it can bring about new friends too. You never know who you will meet or what they bring to the table. Volunteering on a regular basis can help you keep connections and get to know people better. Ask questions and take an interest in finding out more about others. Making friends requires some effort, so put yourself out there.
Just remember to be selective about where you spend your time and avoid situations that you know are triggers for you. Keep a list of options for places you can go and things you can do that are relatively safe where you won’t be surrounded by people who are drinking or who will pressure you do to the same. Remember that making friends is a process that takes time, so be patient and keep trying.