Making Friends in Sobriety
When I first got sober, one of the things that seemed the most overwhelming to me was the idea of making new friends without the use of alcohol. I was in my mid-twenties and had spent the past ten years of my life drinking. I often experienced social anxiety, and meeting new people wasn’t always easy for me. During my drinking days, I thought that alcohol made it easier for me to start talking to new people. But even if this was true to a degree, the benefits of drinking never outweighed the negative consequences of it I experienced.
One of the things that I quickly realized when I sobered up was that many of the people I thought were my friends were pretty negative influences in more ways than one. When you spend most of your time drinking, the people you surround yourself with usually drink too much as well. It’s easier to be an alcoholic when you hang out with alcoholics. People who drink too much don’t like hearing about how they drink too much. I have found that usually, the people who don’t critique people who drink too much frequently drink too much themselves.
Not only did the people I hang out with have drinking problems, but they were also depressing to be around. They were the type of people that liked to bring others down and make fun of people. Negative attitudes may not seem like such a big deal when you already feel down about yourself, but each little cheap shot slowly began to build on top of the others, and after a few years, my self-esteem was in the dirt. The worse I felt about myself, the more I wanted to drink, and the more I drank, the worse I felt about myself.
When I began to feel better about myself and my head began to clear up, I realized that I didn’t want to spend time with people who tried to make me feel bad. I didn’t want to hang out with people who drank all of the time, and I no longer wanted to hang out with the people that I thought had been my friends but, in all reality, weren’t. I wanted to spend time with positive people who inspired me to live up to my full potential.
I once heard that the term friend is often too freely given. We shouldn’t throw the title around too loosely. A friend is a beautiful thing to have, but not everyone you meet deserves the title of friend. If someone treats you poorly or enables you to do something that harms your health, then they aren’t a good friend. On the other hand, a good friend will be there for you when you need them, and they will help motivate you and build you up. They will help cheer your successes and mourn your losses.
During my addiction treatment program, I decided I only wanted to have friends that would positively impact my life. I no longer wanted to waste my time with people who made me feel bad about myself or bad about life in general. Throughout my recovery, I have found that there are standard qualifiers among the people I now consider good friends, and they are as follows.
5 Qualities to Look for In Friends to Support Your Sobriety
1. They respect your sobriety.
I quickly learned that if I wanted to stay sober, it wouldn’t be wise for me to hang out with people who did not respect my sobriety. In the early days of my recovery, I hung out with someone who didn’t appreciate my sobriety or my boundaries of not drinking around me. I realized that if that person could not respect something so important to me, then she didn’t respect me as a person, and she was not someone that I wanted to have in my life. When you learn to respect yourself, it becomes easier not to tolerate people who do not treat you with respect. The people I consider friends respect me enough to know that sobriety is an essential aspect of my healthy lifestyle, and they don’t want to do anything to compromise that for me.
2. They are willing to help without being enabling.
For a person in recovery, it is unwise to have people in their life that enable them to continue living a destructive lifestyle. Helping people better themselves is one thing, but allowing them to continue messing up without consequence does more harm than good. A true friend will be willing to help you but will know that they cannot enable you because it would hurt you.
3. They are positive and build you up.
No one likes to be around negativity all the time. Being around someone that is constantly complaining and insulting people is depressing. I have spent time with people who act this way and always felt drained after being around them for too long. So choose friends who are positive and supportive. They may have bad days from time to time or even go through a difficult period; that is normal and to be expected. But it becomes a problem to you when the person is consistently negative and unwilling to do anything about it to change.
4. They speak truth into your life.
Sometimes we need people close to us to let us know when they see us slipping or messing up. Being upfront and honest with someone can and should be done in a loving, non-judgmental way. Hard truths spoken in love are what I call speaking truth into someone’s life. It is always helpful to have someone you know will tell you the truth instead of what they think you want to hear. A real friend will do this for you because they care about you.
5. They are someone you enjoy being around.
A friend should be someone that you enjoy spending time with. A friend is someone that you can laugh with and is fun to be around. If you don’t enjoy spending time with someone, then can you honestly consider them a friend? The beautiful connection of friendship is what makes a true friend so unique because they are fun to be around.
It is up to us who we allow in our lives and who we choose to disconnect from our lives. While there are certain times where we must keep in contact with people, we may not necessarily like due to work or family situations, friendships are relationships that we choose to have. Just because you have known someone for a long time does not mean that you have to continue a friendship if that relationship has become harmful.
Some people are in our lives for a season, and we drift apart from them at a certain point. Other people are in our lives for a reason, and we can learn lessons from them, whether they be good or bad. Very few people are in our lives for the long run. If you happen to have a friend who is a positive force in your life and your relationship stands the test of time, then consider yourself lucky; not everyone is afforded such a fantastic opportunity.
Reviewed by Matt Hawk, BS, CADC-II, ICADC