Breaking free of alcoholism is hard work. At any alcohol abuse treatment center, one would hear that it takes constant vigilance to stay sober. It’s all very serious business, so it can be easy to overlook how recovery affects some of the simplest yet most important parts of our lives: our friendships. People with addiction make the substance the focal point of their lives, so when they have removed the substance, it’s difficult for them to know how to properly socialize without it. When the substance is alcohol, it can seem especially daunting considering the ubiquity of beers, liquor, and bars on the social scene. Don’t worry, though, because making friends and keeping old ones as a newly-sober person isn’t as hard as you think!
It’s understandable to be nervous in social situations after undergoing treatment. After spending so much time focused on recovery, talking with other addicted people, and making sobriety such a major part of your life and your interactions with others, you can get rusty when it comes to interacting with people who don’t have substance abuse problems. Going to a party with a group of people without addictions can be a scary thought when you’re used to talking to fellow addicts in 12-step programs. It doesn’t have to be, though. Non-addicts know that it’s easy to socialize and have fun without substance. Be upfront about your limits, so that any friends you spend time with know what kinds of activities are and are not safe for you. It’s better to be honest and open about what is off-limits than risk friends growing resentful of having to walk on eggshells because of your addiction.
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If you find yourself thinking that all your favorite old activities revolve around drinking, the solution is simple: find new things to do! Go appreciate some culture by seeing a play or movie, check out a new band at a local concert, or join an amateur sports team. Most cities have vibrant communities centered around most hobbies, so if there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, recovery is the perfect time to do it. You’ll find something enjoyable to occupy yourself while meeting a new group of friends whose friendship isn’t based around drugs or alcohol.
Consider making your preferred meeting place or hangout spot a coffee shop instead of a bar. Since coffee shops are popular spots regardless, meeting there offers a great way to avoid alcohol in social situations. If you find that friends are unhappy with having to avoid alcohol during time spent with you, it could be a sign that a relationship with them is a liability to your recovery. Friendships should be comfortable, enriching experiences, not stressful ones full of pressure and discomfort.
Of course, there are always the people at your 12-step meetings if you’re looking for new friends as a sober person. You can be sure that they’ll be sensitive to your need for sobriety and that you’ll have something in common!