In a recent article, we’ve talked about how to support a friend in recovery—how to be there for a loved one struggling with addiction. But what happens if you are the recovering addict…how does this affect your friendships? Once you are on the road to recovery certain changes in your behavior need to happen. You choose sobriety and are dedicated to maintain it. Inevitably, this will affect your relationships.
Families are generally encouraging and pleased to see improved behavioral changes and healthier living in a loved one. A change from destructive behavior and a sense of commitment in staying clean can often heal relationships that suffered from the ravages of drug or alcohol abuse.
Friendships can vary. Some of your friends may continue to be strong networks, as they want to play a supportive part in you life. But sometimes the relationships that were forged around the old patterns of your addictive behavior will inevitably end. Your drinking buddies from the bowling alley or weekly golf game might not understand your sudden need to refrain, and therefore cannot offer you the support you need. Perhaps they are in denial about their own addictive tendencies. Lasting friends need to be aware of your new path and be willing to make changes in their behavior as well if needed. If this can happen, then certainly relationships can be reformed and strengthened, perhaps even becoming stronger than they were before.
Friendships are a living, organic entity, and they ebb and flow over time. If fed continuously with energy from both parties, they may be maintained throughout the course of an ever-changing life to flourish regardless of the obstacles they may face. If only one friend is participating in feeding the relationship, it will wither and die over time. And if the interests of both parties are going in separate directions, they will be hard-pressed to maintain a steady relationship for long. Friendships will come and go regardless of you being in recovery. Sometimes people just drift apart; sometimes people will drift closer, bonded by life’s occurrences. Essentially, a a wide network of friends is ideal, where different people can fulfill different needs, but all are supportive and understanding.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.