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Socializing and Friendships in Recovery

One of the best parts of recovery is emerging from the emotional and social isolation of addiction and reconnecting with friends and family. We begin to feel real human connection again and understand that the false happiness we were chasing with substance abuse pales in comparison to the joy of having real friends. That being said, socializing and dating in recovery is also fraught with obstacles and potential pitfalls. As we become more experienced in recovery, and as we rely on our newfound friends and mentors in recovery, such as those we meet at sober houses and meetings, we learn to navigate human relationships better.

Sometimes we become sober and return to a circle of friends who are still actively using in an abusive or problematic manner. This can be particularly difficult. Some therapists, sponsors, and others in recovery will recommend cutting such people out of your life. In some cases, when we become sober we realize that these “friends” were really just “drinking buddies” and there is little connection or meaning to the relationship besides the mutual interest in substance abuse. If this is true, it may be a good idea to stop associating with such people and to focus on building new,sober friendships.

However, we are often very close to friends who are using heavily and it may be deleterious to simply “get rid” of these people. We should, then, approach our friends and tell them that we are in recovery and cannot under any circumstances drink or use anymore. If someone then tells you “Oh, that’s a bit extreme, just have one!” or something similar, it may be that such a person is not really a good friend. But hopefully most of these people, even if they are still using heavily, will be understanding. It certainly is not a good idea at all to socialize in settings such as bars or house parties where substances and heavy use are prevalent. Ask your friends to other events or places when you can, and try to remake your relationships around non-drinking activities. Perhaps later, when our sobriety is much stronger and long-term, we can attend gatherings at bars or parties where substances are present, but even then it is not a great idea and it is certainly not good to do in early recovery.Perhaps more commonly we will have friends who continue to drink–or even use drugs, perhaps–in a light and social manner. Here, we may find ourselves at dinner with a friend who is having a glass of wine, or at a party where someone is smoking marijuana. If these friends are close to us, we can easily broach the subject of being in recovery and that we won’t be drinking or using anymore. These friends will likely be very supportive and even ask to double-check if it’s okay if alcohol is present at a gathering, or if it’s okay if they drink in front of
you at a restaurant.

Some of us in recovery do struggle with the idea of telling our friends in a straightforward and open manner that we are in recovery and sober. Doing so obviously acknowledges the fact that we have an issue with addiction, which is still quite stigmatized in society. We may find ourselves saying “I’m not drinking today” or “I’m on medication where I can’t drink.” This is all well and good, but it does run the risk of allowing us to violate one of the cardinal rules of sobriety–openness and honesty. It gives us a “backdoor” by which we can easily return to drinking in front of our friends without alarming them or having them think that we relapsed. Although it may be difficult, it is best to talk to your friends and mentors in recovery, and your therapist if you have one, and get yourself to a place where you can honestly and without shame tell your friends that you are now sober.

We will find that our newfound sober friends in recovery will give us some of the most meaningful and joyous moments we have ever had. With friends who are using and do not have the same shared experience of fighting addiction, we sometimes feel alone or left out. Not so with friends who are with us on the road of sobriety. Whether it is at a sober house like Harmony Haus or in an AA meeting or at a party with sober people, we find ourselves feeling very at home, loved, and supported. Austin, Texas, where Harmony Haus sober living is located, has an extremely big and strong community of people in recovery and it is easy to make good, lifelong friends. The friends you make in sober living, IOP, or rehab will often be friends for life. Sober friends can encourage us to attend meetings with them, to work the steps of AA, to be accountable and honest, and to live as the best version of ourselves. Many people in early sobriety choose to surround themselves almost solely with sober people doing alcohol-free and substance-free activities. Such a lifestyle can be incredibly empowering and full of freedom and happiness. We begin to understand, truly, that there is an entire world outside of using and that it is really so much better than our previous lives.

Building a strong network of sober friends can be greatly helped by choosing halfway houses, transitional living houses, and sober houses as an initial residence after getting sober. The continued presence of others who are serious about recovery and who can introduce us to sponsors, sponsees, and other friends, and who can invite us to activities and get us acclimated to the social world of recovered addicts, is invaluable. Harmony Haus is a men’s sober living home in Austin, TX. It offers a wide arrange of support for
those in recovery, in addition to luxurious accommodations and an atmosphere of serious recovery. Give us a call anytime.