Interacting With Friends After Recovery From Alcohol Addiction
By Alanna Hilbink
One of your biggest worries about recovery may be whether or not you can still hang out with friends and have fun without alcohol. You may romanticize your past drinking or party lifestyle. But before you’re tempted to drink, pause to remember that your version of the past may not be an accurate reflection of how things were.
Think about what fun, joy and contentment really are. Was any of your recent past fun for you? Was alcoholism fun? Were regrets, hangovers, illness, loneliness, anger, depression and anxiety fun? Did you actually like the people you spent time with or the things you did together? Were they really your friends?
You can stop defining fun by other people’s measures or perceptions. You can have fun in recovery because you can finally learn what you think is fun. You can create real relationships with the people around you.
Will I Still Be Fun?
It’s easy to remember the drunk you as the outgoing, interesting, life of the party. But is that any truer than what seemed like fun? You saw yourself as fun because you were loud and had no inhibitions. Maybe you made other people laugh, but you probably didn’t do so in a good way. You probably upset or lost as many friends as you made.
Psych Central shares, “Addiction drives away most of an addict’s true friends.”1 The people who care most about you didn’t want to watch you destroy your health and your life. They didn’t like the drunk you. They didn’t find that person fun or entertaining.
Real friends want the real you. When you’re in recovery, you can finally make genuine friends and surround yourself with people you actually like. And these new friends will actually like you! The real, sober you. You deserve to be valued for who you are. Recovery finally gives you the option to be just that.
Can I Keep My Friends in Recovery?
Alcohol addiction slowly replaces good friends with new friends. And these new friends you made? Are they still around? Are they willing and eager to support your recovery, to support you becoming healthy and happy?
U.S. News explains, “Many relationships formed prior to rehabilitation can be considered toxic – friends that consisted of a recovering addict’s drug dealer and perhaps even other ‘friends’ that used with the addict prior to his or her treatment. It’s important to note that these ‘friendships’ were, in fact, never friendships at all.”2
So why are you worried about impressing, entertaining or even staying in touch with these individuals? If the sober you isn’t good enough, fun enough, for them, you’re better off parting ways anyway.
Building Honest Friendships in Recovery
When you’re in recovery, you’re taking steps to become a better you. You’re taking steps to stand up for yourself and make friends who will stand up for you. Don’t expect your friends, or yourself for that matter, to get it right every time.
Recovery is a process. Learn what works for you, and advocate for yourself so friends can learn too. Jezebel suggests, “If you’re the one quitting and you’d like your friends to make adjustments — like, say, meeting up for ice cream rather than beer — bring it up early rather than letting yourself get resentful.”3 Say what you need. Speak up about what you can and can’t manage right now. Don’t be afraid to simply say what you do and don’t like.
The more you advocate for yourself, the stronger your recovery. The more you talk about what you feel, what you need and what you have to offer, the more open and honest all your relationships become.
Making New Friends
As you speak up and explore your recovery, you will also begin to discover if you and your friends really do have a lot in common. Outside of alcohol, what interests and hobbies do you share? You may find you and your friends truly enjoy being around each other. You may discover new places to see, new things to do or simply new pleasure in spending time just relaxing and chatting or watching movies. You may find fun new friend activities.
You may also find it’s time to meet new friends whose values and interests are more like yours. Recovery is an opportunity to explore old friendships as you build new ones. It’s a time to get to know yourself, get to know new friends and find healthy, meaningful relationships with the people you love.
1 Sack, David. “Stopping Haters from Derailing Your Recovery.” Psych Central. June 22, 2017.
2 Jordan, DeAnna. “Finding Friends After Addiction Rehabilitation.” U.S. News. February 10, 2017.
3 North, Anna. “How to Have a Sober Social Life.” Jezebel. October 27, 2011.