The question of dealing with old friends, drinking buddies and family once we’re in recovery is one of the most vexing (and sometimes complicated) things about getting clean and sober. How we handle it can be critical to our ability to avoid relapse.
Until we have learned new ways of dealing with pressure and old feelings, we need to keep them minimized. That’s why professionals recommend treatment and halfway houses that are well away from our home turf. Too many times they have seen what happens when people in early recovery try to deal with old relationships too soon. Our continued sobriety is essential to our being able to deal with those issues and get our lives straightened out. If we relapse, we will only make things worse and we’ll still have to deal with the mess when we get sober again, if we don’t die first. So it comes down to common sense.
Old buddies who still use or booze — we just stay away from them. Chances are we no longer have much in common anyway. Later on — much, much later — maybe we can hang out if they aren’t drinking or using while they’re with us. Otherwise, it needs to be sayonara.
Family members must understand that recovery comes first. If they can’t understand that, get a little knowledge about recovery under their belts, and support our program, then we need to stay away until we have the skills to cope with them.
This is especially true of those people we perceive as having the most power over us: parents, siblings, wives and children. When it comes to family, we’re with the people who hard-wired our buttons and who can push them without even intending to. These are the people who can arouse the old feelings, resentments, insecurities and emotions with a word or a look. Those are powerful triggers, until we’ve learned to handle our own emotions and impulses.
Because we’re addicts, accustomed to short-term solutions to our difficulties (oblivion, after all, was always just a few minutes or drinks away), it’s hard for us to realize that the solution for some of our problems is time. In the case of relationships, that sometimes includes time away from the problem.
This is not only hard for us to swallow, but often goes against the plans and expectations of the others involved. Nonetheless, our recovery is paramount. We have no chance of resolving old issues and improving relationships if we can’t stay clean and sober. Getting back on the horse too soon, in this case, makes getting bucked off again a pretty sure thing.