Making the commitment to a sober life is a noble endeavor. However, one cannot force others to follow in these footsteps, and one’s friends may continue to engage in drugs and alcohol even while one is pursuing a sober life. While this doesn’t mean that an individual will have to cut off their connection with these people, it does mean that they will have to approach these relationships with additional caution to maintain their hard-earned sobriety.
Knowing how to navigate these relationships and when to distance oneself from them is a crucial skill for developing healthy relationships while prioritizing one’s drug and alcohol-free life.
Set Clear Expectations
Just because a friend does not make the same commitment to sobriety as oneself doesn’t mean they cannot be supportive. These friends can still be instrumental in exploring new experiences and structuring one’s sober life. However, it is important to set clear expectations in these relationships.
Being open about one’s needs and goals throughout recovery is essential. Stating that addictive substances cannot be used while spending time together and avoiding reminiscing about their use is crucial for preventing relapse or romanticizing one’s time with drugs or alcohol. Dedicated friends, even if not committed to the same sobriety, should honor these boundaries and understand the importance of holding to these expectations.
Setting clear expectations also means working with friends to create concrete plans when spending time together. Creating a comprehensive itinerary of plans and locations to maintain healthy sobriety is paramount.
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Recognizing the Impact of the Environment
Maintaining one’s sobriety around non-sober friends also means that one may have to change the space where one spends time. On the surface, this can mean avoiding bars or other places where addictive substances are readily available. However, one can also harbor personal expectations around the use of addictive substances depending on the environment. If one is spending time in a basement where one used to frequently engage with drugs or alcohol, this space can still hold these expectations. Avoiding these spaces is essential for continuing to prioritize one’s sobriety and mitigate unnecessary triggers.
Working with friends to find new places to gather, new activities, or new interests is instrumental in maintaining one’s sobriety. Not only does this empower an individual to continue engaging with close friends in a safe and sober space without the use of addictive substances, but it also encourages the development of new hobbies and group traditions established in one’s sobriety.
Have an Escape Plan
As supportive as dedicated friends can be, they are not professionals regarding sobriety and the stresses therein. Having an escape plan or other supports ready to help while one is spending time with non-sober friends is crucial. For some, this is asking other supports to be by their phone in case transportation is needed. Others may invite these supports along to gatherings with these friend groups to ensure that one is not just maintaining their sobriety but a healthy emotional state free of anxieties, depression, and more as well.
Keeping a Non-Alcoholic Drink in Hand
In the case that one is at an event alongside non-sober friends where alcohol is present, it is still possible to maintain one’s sobriety. While this is risky, it is still possible to prioritize one’s sober goals above all else. Keeping a non-alcoholic drink in hand is just one crucial skill. Not only does this ensure that one is only drinking safe beverages, but it also eliminates the chances that an individual will be offered an alcoholic beverage as well.
Announcing one’s intentions to be a designated driver can also help ensure one’s sobriety, along with any other active role one can play during these engagements. Cooking, taking out the trash, and more are all skills to keep busy and sober alongside non-sober friends. However, attending parties, weddings, and more where alcohol is present always comes with risk, and discussing these events, escape plans, expectations, and more before attending them is absolutely necessary.
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Knowing When to Keep Your Distance
Even the most supportive of friends can still produce stress. Depending on how one is feeling, the risks of spending time around those not committed to the same level of sobriety can be dangerous. Being able to advocate for yourself by canceling plans, declining invitations, and prioritizing one’s sobriety are vital skills. If one is already feeling stressed about their recovery, or even the stresses of the workplace or daily life, it is okay to distance oneself from these commitments to best align with one’s sober goals and mental health.
It is also possible that one may have to distance oneself from these friends in a more permanent way. This is especially true if they begin to compromise clearly set expectations. While difficult, recovery provides many opportunities to explore new social groups and outlets, and finding others who are just as committed to sobriety can birth new, deep relationships for one’s continued sober life.
Spending time with friends who are not committed to the same kind of abstinence or sober life as you can be difficult, and it is crucial to balance one’s time between these outlets and your continued recovery efforts. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand the role that others play in your recovery journey, and we are prepared to help you explore how your personal relationships can continue to benefit or endanger your continued sobriety. We offer an extensive community of peers in our effective residential alcohol treatment. We take pride in helping connect you to peers, supports, and like-minded sober individuals to continue addressing your social and personal needs in sobriety. Knowing how to engage with sober friends and set appropriate expectations is part of the recovery journey, and we are ready to help you through our varied, personalized treatment programs in Hawaii. For more information, call (866) 390-5070.