As human beings, all of us – somehow and someway – desire relationships and acceptance. It’s a part of our nature to crave the feeling of importance: Whether we satisfy those feelings through our jobs, finances and career, by getting married and raising a family, joining a local gym or book club, or even posting and sharing on social media. We ultimately desire to be close with those who understand and support us. While relationships can look very different when drug and alcohol addictions are involved, we still have those same needs when it comes to acceptance and camaraderie. That’s part of the reason ending old, unhealthy, damaging relationships and friendships after drug rehab programs can be so difficult. Reflecting back on your time in active addiction, it’s not uncommon for those in early recovery sometimes fondly reminisce about the “good ole days.” After all – addiction, drug or alcohol use was once a major part of your life. And so were the people you used or drank with. If you’ve taken the action to get onto the path of recovery and surround yourself with support – it’s important to keep in mind that those who aren’t on that same path can hinder and damage your sobriety and recovery. In fact, many of them who aren’t ready to get help for themselves will do just about anything to pull you back down with them. The following are the five things your “old friends” won’t ever tell you:
- “You shouldn’t hang out with us.” While you were away at drug rehab, getting treatment for addiction, learning new tools to cope and getting your life in balance – your old friends were doing the same old thing: Using drugs and/or drinking. They were getting drunk or high, coming down, getting sick, searching for drugs and using all over again. Addiction incites chaos – but it’s also the same thing over and over again. You’ve changed for the better – but your old friends haven’t yet. And just because you’ve changed, doesn’t mean you’re ready to be around them. Your old friends will want you to come back to the group because of the classic cliche: misery loves company. They’ll say and do anything to bring you back – but the truth is, if you resume hanging out with them, you’re putting yourself in dangerous waters, surrounded with triggers and temptations. Is it really worth the risk – just to “prove” your strength to yourself or others?
- “Your life was a mess when you were using and drinking.” It may be easy to look back on your “using days” or “drinking days” and have fond memories. But, take a closer look: If everything in your life was going great, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t have gone to rehab. It’s likely that while you may have had some fun times, overall, you were facing misery and pain, damaged relationships, a failing marriage, loss of custody, financial woes, legal troubles and health issues. Your old friends who are still using drugs or drinking are still in denial about what is going on in their own lives. They’re unable to see the truth right now – which is what addiction does. They won’t tell you the truth about your former life of addiction because they haven’t figured it out yet. Your old friends are much more likely to hear about how great using drugs or drinking was, exaggerated stories and glories that simply aren’t true.
- “You shouldn’t use or drink ever again.” If your old friends can’t see – or refuse to see – what drugs or alcohol are doing to their own lives, it’s certain that they won’t see what drugs or alcohol had done to your life. It’s unlikely that they’ll warn you off from getting back into your drug of choice or another substance. Instead of hearing, “You shouldn’t drink or use drugs again,” you’ll be much more likely to hear, “You can quit whenever you want.” Think about the lies that you told yourself when you were actively addicted: “I can control this.” ”I’m not an addict.” “My life would be boring without drugs or alcohol.” These lies are some of the things that your old friends will bring up: They’re the lies that addicted people tell themselves and others. Until your old friends fully understand the disease of addiction and work their own recovery, they’ll perpetually live in the cycle of addiction.
- “Just one WILL hurt.” Another lie that you likely told yourself while in active addiction was, “Just one won’t hurt.” Or, “Just one more time.” Your old friends are stuck in the same mentality. They’ll tell you that you can use “just this one time” – and it won’t hurt you or your recovery. After all, it’s just one time… “For old time’s sake.” “Just have a good time.” “One time won’t hurt you.” “You can handle it now.” These thoughts and words are dangerous. The fact is, one time CAN hurt. Addiction is a cycle: There’s no such thing as ONE hit or ONE drink or ONE pill. Whether you went to rehab or not – that won’t change.
- “I feel really bad about the things I did to you.” Think back to when you were in active addiction and the lies you may have told the people, things you may have stolen, important days you may have missed. Unfortunately, when we become addicted, all of our priorities go out the window as we focus on our next drink, next pill or next high. We hurt people that we love – not because we want to, but because we’re truly sick with addiction. Your friends who are still addicted are still in the same mindset. They’re still using and they’re still putting drugs or alcohol before you or your friendship. Until they get help for their addiction, they won’t be able to place the same value on the relationship as you do. It isn’t that your old friend wishes you harm – just like you never wished your friends or family harm.
At this point in your life and your recovery, it shouldn’t matter what others say about your health and healing. In order to move forward, you need to concentrate on what you can do for yourself and your recovery. That may mean distancing yourself from old friends – and in turn, distancing yourself from temptations and triggers.