| Peter Cook
‘Can I still be friends with my using buddies?’
We all desire acceptance and relationships. We want to be close to those who understand and support us. Even if you’ve been addicted to drugs or alcohol, you still have the same need for camaraderie and friends.
Early recovery is a time of many choices. One difficult decision whether to continue with your old friendships. Old friends might still be using, and now, you’ve come a long way. There are already so many changes in your life – now you must give up your buddies too? Perhaps you might not even have any sober friends.
What must you do? This is what this blog is all about.
Tips for managing the situation
Here’s what to do if you should decide to maintain friendships with people who might not be sober.
Talk to your friends.
The very first thing you need to do is to be honest with your friends. They should know you are in recovery, otherwise they’ll expect the same old behaviors from you. Tell your friends about your goals and ask them to support you – that’s what friends are for, isn’t it?
Evaluate your buddies
It is sad to say, but unfortunately, some people will support you all the way, while others might not. Should you have friends that keep pressuring you to use with them, they might not be the friends for you.
Ask for respect
You should set boundaries by asking your friends not to use in front of you, for example. It would help if you avoided high-risk situations such as the happy hour at the bar or parties.
Ideally, you should meet using buddies for coffee or a movie – suitable, sober activities to protect you and your recovery. You owe it to yourself.
Your sobriety is your responsibility.
You are the only one responsible for yourself. You can’t expect your friends to regard your recovery as high as you do.
It is, therefore, a good idea to plan for the possibility that your using friends might drop you. Have escape routes ready while you are spending time with friends who are still using. It is a good idea to drive yourself to these meetings, for example, so that you can leave when you feel overwhelmed.
Don’t stay stuck!
Relationships evolve and change. Once you’ve been sober for a while, you might see that your old relationships are not that fulfilling anymore. Don’t be afraid to build new friendships.
Not everyone is on the same page.
People, and even friends, might not always have your best interests at heart.
It would be best if you kept in mind that your old friends might hinder and even try to sabotage your sobriety. They might not be ready to seek help themselves, so they'd instead drag you down with them.
Your old friends would never tell you:
To stay away. They want you back in their group! If you hang around with them, you surround yourself with triggers and temptations. Is it really worth the risk?
That your life was a mess previously. No, they'd instead revert to the 'good old days’ and their fond ‘memories’. In reality, though, although you might have had some fun times, you've damaged relationships, had financial problems, legal troubles, and more.
That you should never use drugs or drink again. They won’t warn you off! In fact, you are much more likely to hear ‘You can control your drinking,’ ‘You’re not really an addict’ or ‘Your life must be so boring.’
Let’s face reality. It is most likely that your old friends are stuck in their same old mentality of active addition. They’ll tell you ‘Just one more time’ or ‘You can handle it, man.’
Unfortunately, just one time can hurt. Addiction is a vicious circle, and it is easy to relapse. Friends who are still addicted will put drugs and alcohol before you or your friendship. It is not that they wish you harm, it is just part of being addicted.
To move forward, you should focus on yourself and your recovery. Distance yourself from old friends – it is the best thing you can do for yourself.