A common conundrum that many people in early sobriety face is what they should do with their old friends now that they are sober. For many of us these friendships may be decades old and the thought of losing those people and having to make a whole new circle of friends is enough to make you want to drink. Well I am here to tell you that this proposition is not as bad as you may think and this seemingly insurmountable stumbling block is in actuality not that difficult to deal with. This process of making new friends begins when we embark on this new way of life will be challenging and difficult. Whether you started this process while attending a residential inpatient treatment or attending 12-steps meetings you will meet new people along the way. Some you will want to keep in your life while others you may want to let go.
The problem is that we are people of extremes and so when we hear slogans like “avoid people, places, and things” we can think that that means every single person we have ever met before getting sober. This is just not the case but simply refers to the people who we drank or drugged with. For instance, let’s say you have had a best friend since you were in 1st grade. This person saw you through the tough times that your addiction brought, but never participated in your proclivity towards substances. Why would you have to remove this person from your life? Well you don’t and more than likely your relationship with that person will improve given your newfound sobriety.
However, for most of us the people that we tended to attract during our active addiction were people just like us. People prone to drink too much and use other illicit substances. That being said we may still feel that these were genuine friendships that are worth saving. While I will not debate that there probably was a level of friendship in all of these relationships the reality is that once you get sober, you will no longer hear from a majority of these people. You may be thinking that won’t happen to me, but I assure it is the truth. The reason being is that your interests and theirs no longer match up and so if they are still in active addiction they will not want to hang out with you because it doesn’t suit their agenda. More positively, as you get sober and start to experience the changes that occur from working the steps you will no longer feel the desire to hang out with these people either. So no love lost, just a growing apart of people.
The above growing apart is what I have seen happen with majority of the people that I have known who got sober. There is some period of transition where you may still talk to those friends who you used with, but if you have an honest desire to stay sober then more likely those friendships will drift away with little to no intervening on your part. It is usually the people who do not have a genuine desire to stop that remain in contact with those friends for longer than necessary. Think about it like this, those people who you drank and drugged with, what was the main topic of conversation? Usually it was how much we could get, where we could get it, and when we could get more. If you are no longer involved in those activities then there won’t be much to talk about. Plus nothing so much kills the buzz of someone actively drinking or drugging then hearing about the 12 steps from someone newly sober.
This brings about the second anxiety that comes from leaving behind old friends, the need to create new ones. Luckily, 12 step programs are the greatest environments to have this happen. It can be overwhelming going to meetings for the first time or in a new place. There are so many people and they all seem to know each other. Couple this with the fact that you have a week sober and mostly just think about how you wished you were dead and it can seem like an impossible task to create new friends. In any 12-step program you will find many people who were in the same position as you and who not only want to help, but also want to be your friend.
I have found some of the best friends in my life in the rooms. These friendships are more than just bonds between people who are sober. They run extraordinarily deep. This is not only because of the commonality shared between people in the rooms, but also because we are taught to share openly and honestly in a way that is foreign to most of the outside world. I don’t know about you, but I never talked to my drinking or drugging friends about my fears, insecurities, or anything internal. This is not so with my friends in sobriety. We share everything and because of this we have created friendships that are lasting and meaningful.
Something that is often not addressed is the need to leave old friends that you’ve made in the rooms behind once you’ve been sober for a while. This can be a little trickier than leaving behind your drinking and drugging buddies, but it is something that everyone who stays sober for an extended period of time will experience.
Once you have been sober for a while, you start to notice that people begin to take different paths in sobriety. Some stay involved and continue on, while others fall off. Some may relapse, while others just revert back into unhealthy behaviors. The question will arise during these times, what should you do with these friends? The tenants of the 12 steps are to be of service to your fellows and it can sometimes feel like you are abandoning people if you decide to cut them out of your life. This however is not the case and it is important to understand that those people made decisions to place their needs above your friendship and sometimes the healthiest thing to do is let them go. This can be very difficult to do but once again the collective wisdom and experience of those in your 12-step program can be invaluable and they can help you get through this.
So if you are currently at a point where you are worried about what to do with your old friends once you get sober, fear not, for if you continue to just put one foot in front of the other things always seem to take care of themselves. Continue to focus on yourself, while building a fellowship in the program, and good things will come to pass.
Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.