We’re social beings at heart. Your relationships will inevitably affect the pace and quality of your healing process. While going into recovery doesn’t automatically mean that you have to sever ties with all your old friends and find new social groups, it is important to approach this area of your life with caution and honesty. For many people working to overcome addiction, destructive social influences act as a key factor in unhealthy decision-making. Examine your friend group with a critical eye, gain trusted insight from an objective party, and evaluate whether your pre-recovery relationships will, at the very least, not hinder your progress.
Looking out for yourself doesn’t have to mean abandoning all your old friendships and starting from scratch. For the most part, the people in your life may accept this new version of yourself. Remember that this change appears most drastic and obvious to you; while your friends and family will notice, it probably won’t mean as large of an adjustment for them.
It can help to be proactive in initiating a conversation with the people close to you in which you open up about what you’re going through and discuss your new approach and values. The people who care about you and respect you will understand this change and are likely to have little issue modifying their behavior around you to a reasonable degree.
No matter the strength of your conviction to stay sober, it’s possible that some people in your life will continue to act as a negative influence. Even if you are so committed that you think your willpower can stand up to any amount of peer pressure, cynicism, or unhealthy persuasion, your inner confidence can and will change over time. It’s important to set firm boundaries at the beginning of your transition back into your social circles; this way, if your state of mind does change, you’ll have a safety net in place.
While it’s never particularly fun or easy to step away from unhelpful relationships, doing so is a layer of protection around the investment you’ve made in your future wellness. Consider your friends, family, and other people around you with a careful eye. If you have the uncomfortable feeling that someone near you might be detrimental to your recovery or if you find yourself coming up with justifications to keep a negative person in your life, think long and hard about whether your sobriety is worth it.
If the time comes to set a boundary between yourself and someone who’s influencing you for the worse, do so honestly. You’re not necessarily cutting them out of your life for good; right now, you’re in a delicate spot, and you need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to succeed in becoming the person you want to be. It won’t be a joyful conversation, but there’s a chance that they’ll understand and accept your choice. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from people who care about you in navigating this difficult decision.
As you reform your social circles, remember to make room for new relationships you’ve kindled throughout treatment and for the friends you’ve yet to make with your peers in sobriety. While it won’t be as simple as a one-for-one exchange rate, you may find that you can approach your less-helpful relationships with greater intention and care by balancing them with the more actively positive influences of your recovery peers and sober companions.
There’s no reason that your old and new friends can’t meet and mingle. You don’t have to keep your sobriety a personal objective, separated from the rest of your personality; in time, your friends, old and new alike, may think of it as no more than a fun fact about you, the same as if you were allergic to peanuts.
Beyond providing positive influences, the people who contribute to your recovery can act as resources as you reconfigure your social circle. Even if you aren’t used to discussing your relationships with others, especially people who haven’t known you for as long, it can help to talk out your concerns and desires with someone who has your best interests at heart. Whether it’s a sponsor, mentor, therapist, or a peer in sobriety, try opening up to someone new to lighten the burden of stepping back from destructive relationships.
Remember, recovery is a process. No decision you make, from stepping back from a bad influence to spending more time with your new friends, is a permanent one. All you have to do is focus on making the best choices you can each day. This is the time to release your previous conceptions of yourself and become the type of person you want to be in every way, including in your social life.
“No man is an island” rings especially true when navigating the churning tides of recovery from addiction or mental illness. Humans are social beings, and you’re likely to find your way towards self-improvement is aided greatly by the helping hands of friends, family, and peers in sobriety. As you’re reconsidering your relationships in this new chapter of your life, be sure to incorporate the support of people who can encourage you and hold you accountable. At Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, we’re more than just a medical facility–we’re a family. We know the importance of the social aspect of recovery, which is why we provide dedicated programs to keep you connected with peers and companions during the critical first year of your sobriety and beyond. Whether you’re just starting on your journey of healing or are ready to transition into a more fulfilling life post-treatment, we’re here to help. Call (800) 643-2108 to learn more.