A common crossroads for people returning to regular life after treatment is the extent to which they can safely return to their old friend groups. No two circumstances are alike and you can certainly attempt to forge a healthy connection with the people you used to associate with, as long as you keep an open mind and a critical eye focused on the state of your wellbeing. You also have numerous options for forging new friendships and developing new, positive relationships. Taking care to maintain your social life will help you stave off isolation and maintain emotional balance.
Part of your new lease on life involves taking an honest look at different aspects of your day-to-day activities to make sure that you make decisions in line with your ultimate values. If the thought of your old friend group brings up certain terms, like “enabling,” “peer pressure,” or “bad influence,” you may have to change your relationships to preserve your sobriety. While that isn’t necessarily to say that you need to cut ties with all your old friends altogether, your ability to maintain your past relationships depends on how careful you are with the boundaries you set.
As the person who’s changed, the onus to set terms is on you. Approach your old friend group with clear communication about what you will and will not do from now on. Despite the initial awkwardness, it’s useful to directly state any new ways you wish to be treated or any ways in which you will no longer participate in certain pastimes. People who have your best interest at heart will treat your new lifestyle with respect. Even if they don’t agree with your choices, your friends should never push you back towards your old habits. Try taking it day by day. Be honest with yourself about how your old friends make you feel about your recovery. If they make you feel confident and comfortable, they may be friends worth keeping.
At the end of the day, recovery marks a new chapter in your life. If you want to do what you can to transition your old relationships into healthy components of that new life, then, by all means, make it happen. Just remember that your stability and success are your primary goal and if you need to make difficult decisions to reach that goal, then stepping back from negative influences is the right thing to do.
While no one can replace the people you’ve known in the past, your life has room for countless positive relationships–and they may be easier to find than you might think. Continuing care programs, sober living communities, 12-Step groups, mutual aid meetings, and other forms of purposeful connection can all stem from reaching out to the staff and sponsors who have helped you through your recovery thus far. Forging relationships with people who can relate to what you’ve been through can provide immensely satisfying forms of human bonding.
Beyond finding sober relationships, you have the chance to find new friends by digging deeper into the things you like most about yourself and the world. Explore your passions, get more involved in your interests, give back to your community, and soon you’ll meet new people who share the same avenues of joy.
It can be easy to think that your old friend group will leave a painful hole in your life if you leave them behind. Remember that friendship and support can come from the most unlikely of places and that each chapter in your life will be filled with new faces who come to mean a lot to you. Although it might not always be easy, keep on putting in the effort to connect with people and share yourself with them, and soon you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who care about you and whose influences don’t detract from your mission to live in sobriety and health.
While it’s important to distance yourself from negative influences and unhealthy relationships, make sure you don’t fall into cycles of isolation. Being socially cut off is one of the worst contributors to cravings, depression, self-doubt, and pessimism. Staying alone with your thoughts allows negative feelings to build up without perspective or outlet, putting you at far greater risk of hopelessness and relapse.
Mental isolation is practically a necessity for addiction to form, so don’t let that happen. If you find yourself struggling to maintain healthy contact with old friends and aren’t establishing meaningful connections with new people, reach out to professional help. Even if it seems like nobody can properly understand or support you, sometimes all it takes is opening up to someone you choose to trust for your mind to regain a more stable perspective.
As you transition back to a life of independence, your personal relationships will play an increasingly important role in your long-term stability. Part of your self-assessment will mean looking at your old friends with a critical eye to ensure that you avoid any negative influences or pulls towards destructive behavior. At the same time, the people you’ve known the longest can provide powerful emotional support. Finding the balance between the established positive relationships of your past and the recent encouragement and accountability of your newfound peers in sobriety can lead you to a well-rounded social life that works in harmony with your wellness goals. In addition to comprehensive treatment and continued care for addiction and recovery, Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, can connect you with a network of peers and sponsors in sobriety to help keep you on track. Don’t go it alone. Call (800) 643-2108 to learn more.