Getting sober is scary for a number of reasons. Not the least of these is what it means for an alcoholic or addict’s social life—if they still have one. It is something that our OC alcohol and drug treatment center has encountered a lot, and we’ve seen a lot of people lured back into the disease out of the fear of losing old friends once in recovery.
For many alcoholics, losing old friends doesn’t happen in some dramatic fallout between each other. Instead, the “friendship” dissolves because once the drugs and alcohol are removed, many addicts and alcoholics realize that they actually didn’t have very much in common with these supposedly close friends in the first place.
Many won’t want to face the facts. They will try to make it work, but eventually, it becomes very evident that you are now on a different wavelength. Sitting around and watching your buddies drink or get high, telling the same stories they’ve told a thousand times before, while they are too broke to do anything else because all their money goes to either drinking or drugs—it all gets very old very quickly if we are really serious about recovery.
Not to mention, these relationships eventually just get awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved anyways. Losing old friends in recovery often has a familiar pattern to it. Your friends begin thinking you’re judging them for doing something that you used to do, and stop calling. They might be supportive at first, but eventually, there is the awkwardness of the one person who doesn’t get loaded but used to party like an animal. If you are “lucky” enough to keep these friends, you essentially turn into a babysitter. You drive them around as the permanent designated driver, you talk to the police when things get too rowdy, you play mediator when people start to square off on one another. But when you ask for a favor or help, how often do they rise to the occasion?
That is not to say that these people are bad. That’s just not true—well, most of the time. We used to be just like that. But once we clear our heads a bit, a lot of times we see just how empty and boring our lives really were compared to the possibilities that lie ahead.
Here’s a challenge: organize those old friends to go on a trip or do something special. Give plenty of time so they can budget accordingly. It can practically be guaranteed that you will be the sole person who has saved a single nickel when the time comes to actually commit to that final goal and put the money down.
And that is sad. Most of us can remember plenty of times telling stories about how we wanted to go do this or that, if only we had the time or money. We sacrificed all of those great things we wanted to do because we were constantly giving our money to the dope-man or the liquor store. That’s all changed now.
Now, we have the freedom to go out and do those things, whether our friends join us or (more likely) not. We have the means, we have the drive, and we are responsible and trustworthy enough to go do these things because we finally accepted what happened—that we had been beaten by drugs and alcohol, and that we could not continue living life as we had been living it. Losing old friends may be hard, but for us it is often a matter of survival, and some great things can come out of it.
What are some of the things you always talked about doing, but only got around to it once you got clean and sober?
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