If you’re in recovery – be it for drugs, alcohol, or any other addiction – the daily fight to stay sober can be an uphill battle.
The decision to leave an addiction behind and seek recovery is one that is personal and may require you to make additional decisions about who you want to bring on your journey, and who you may need to leave behind.
The question arises: Is it safe to stay friends with users during recovery?
Should you stay away from people you like because they may be doing things you have stopped? Will they have an impact on you? Could going to a simple birthday party where spirits are around be too much to handle?
While these aren’t easy decisions to make, at some point you will have to deal with them during your sobriety. After all, you don’t want to put your sobriety at risk, but on the flip side, you also don’t want to say goodbye to people you have known and cherished.
It could be that some of your friends or family are still using, making it a risky situation for you. If you decide to stay away from them, you could add to the loss(es) you are already experiencing. Ask yourself if you can handle losing a longtime friend or distancing yourself from a family member as you fight for sobriety.
The truth is these individuals could upset your sobriety; this could force you to look for new friends which can also be stressful. However, there are things you can practice while deciding who to mingle with while maintaining sobriety.
Is the Risk Worth It?
If you have friends who aren’t sober and who have no interest in becoming sober, you might want to stay clear of them. If they see how successful you have become or how hard you are working to stay sober – be it a few months or years – they could potentially be resentful. If you feel they are more interested in pushing you to start using, it may be time to say goodbye.
However, if you think your friends are happy, supportive of your decision, and truly respect your sobriety but are still using, try cutting down on engaging with them.
Be upfront, honest, and let friends and family know you are sober and winning your war, and that this is what you need in order to stay sober.
Tell your friends how you are doing with your sobriety, what your goals and dreams are, and how you could use their support moving forward.
Always tell your friends to respect your recovery by not using when you are near them. Also, you mustn’t put yourself in a precarious position like going to a bar to meet a friend, attending parties, or going to a friend’s home where you know there could be a potential risk of using. Instead, do activities and go places where you won’t be tempted, such as a coffeehouse, or a park.
Set healthy boundaries to protect yourself and your recovery before any meetings or get-togethers. You can absolutely decline certain activities and events that might be too risky.
Bottom line: know that your recovery is in your hands so be ready for the possibility that maintaining some friendships could put your recovery at risk. If you want to test the waters, start by spending a short time with those friends who still use. A good plan is to drive yourself so you can get up and leave when you want, as opposed to having to stay in an uncomfortable situation.
Make New Friends
Old friendships are something to cherish but it never hurts to make new friendships, too. As you continue down the challenging road of sobriety, you might discover older friendships are something you have outgrown. Perhaps they are no longer appropriate for your new lifestyle.
Ask for Help
Most relationships come and go and change as you grow. If you feel it’s worth it (and without too much risk), you can certainly maintain those relationships with old friends but try to bond with newer individuals.
Often during the early days of sobriety, it may be difficult to make these decisions on your own. You might benefit from hiring a sober coach, or an addiction specialist if you are able. Even one of your old, close friends could be utilized as an accountability partner.
Sobriety takes work and you need people around you who can support, offer advice, and keep you on the right path versus those who want to bring you back down.
The choice is up to you, which can sound scary, but it can also be the most empowering thing you do for yourself.