Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a disease in which a person is compelled to take alcohol or drugs despite negative effects. “Not only can substances harm your mental and physical health, but your behavior and actions when under the influence of drugs or gripped by addiction can harm your relationships.” Says Bryan Alzate CEO of United Recovery California.
There are many ways this can happen. People who have an addiction may find themselves isolated from friends and family to avoid feeling shame or being caught out.
They might also lie to those close to them to protect their addiction, or even steal from loved ones in order to obtain more drugs. You are not yourself when gripped by addiction.
As you rebuild your life as a sober person, you should also rebuild your relationships. But how can you talk to your friends about addiction recovery? And how will they understand what you are going through?
Telling your friends about your addiction recovery will allow them to have an understanding of what you are going through. It is a brave but important step in recovery. For many, recovery is a lifelong journey.
There is no hiding it until you are better; you are a work in progress and you need to own it.
Loneliness is a Relapse Trigger
Recovery is not all work and no play. Not only do you deserve to have friends, but it is essential.
Studies found that loneliness is bad for your health. It can also have devastating consequences in early recovery. This is because loneliness can lower your mood and the boredom stemming from loneliness can cause cravings.
A common acronym in recovery is HALT which stands for:
These emotions are common triggers for relapse and should be avoided at all costs.
Good ways to avoid loneliness include going to group therapy or other recovery meetings, joining sports groups or other activity clubs, or volunteering. Keeping busy and ensuring you see people every day are good ways to combat loneliness.
The Importance of Friendships in Recovery
Humans are social creatures which means having friendships and belonging to communities are important to us all. This is true for people in addiction recovery as much as it is for anyone else, and maybe even more so.
Having a support system can make all the difference and avoid that all important trigger – loneliness.
If you attended a treatment facility for rehab, there would have always been someone to talk to as well as on-call support. But as you enter life in recovery, the contrast can seem stark and unsettling. This is when loneliness begins to creep in.
However, re-entering society and getting back on the wheel can be daunting. Maybe you don’t want to have to answer invasive and awkward questions from friends and family or worry they will judge you and think you are a bad person.
Perhaps you fear that socializing with friends could trigger bad habits.
Although it is not appropriate to reconnect with friends who are using, there is no reason why you can’t reach out to more suitable friends who will respect your sobriety. Here are some things to consider when talking to your friends about addiction recovery.
If you wronged a friend or let them down during your time with addiction, it is important to hold accountability.
Addiction doesn’t just affect you, but your loved ones too. Sweeping their experience under the rug won’t benefit anyone. Instead, admit you were wrong, apologize, and try to make amends. This is the only way to build relationships broken by addiction.
Ultimately, you cannot expect people to put their feelings aside to make room for your recovery. Friendship is a two-way street. If you want them to be there for you, you need to hold yourself accountable and show them that you have changed.
People with addictions typically lie and deceive about their using so much that it becomes habitual. This is why honesty is important in recovery.
If you are having a bad day in recovery, it is easier to lie about it rather than ask for help. These lies can trap you and make it more difficult to eventually face the truth. This is how dishonesty can jeopardize recovery.
Being honest with your friends does not mean telling them everything; it is just about being true to yourself and others. Acknowledge your emotions and be open with your struggles in recovery. After all, how can friends help you if they don’t know how you are feeling?
Everyone needs boundaries. They are not only healthy to have, but important to uphold. In general, people with addictions don’t have many boundaries. This is something you can gain in recovery.
You will learn the skills required to set boundaries in settings such as group therapy.
You might set boundaries about how you socialize with friends, such as not attending events that could trigger bad habits.
Your friends might have their own boundaries within your relationship, for example, not enabling behavior that could indicate addiction such as lending you money.
If they are willing, you could invite your friend to a group meeting so they can gain awareness of what it is like for people in early recovery. There are also support groups for friends of people in addiction recovery.
Slow and Steady
Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint, and rebuilding your life including repairing broken relationships takes time. It is a good idea to manage the expectations of you and your friends so you are all on the same page.
Communication is Key
You owe it to yourself to reconnect with friends which will give you not only an essential support system but also a social life. Letting people in and opening up in addiction recovery can be overwhelming, but it is rewarding.
Start small and build on those fractured friendship foundations.
Avoiding loneliness is vital if you are serious about addiction recovery. It is also vital for a fulfilling life. You don’t need to hide away; you have suffered long enough.
The truth is, real friends will want to support you, but they can only do that if you communicate your needs to them.