Interpersonal relationships tend to look pretty rough during active addiction. People tend to have toxic and unhealthy relationships. Even good relationships can be extremely strained during addiction. My own relationships were no exception. I was either barely speaking or not speaking at all to the friends and family members who really cared about me. The people I spent my time with from day to day (at least, when I wasn’t alone and completely miserable), lived like I did. They were sick and dysfunctional, using drugs and alcohol as heavily as I did and generally getting up to no good. If I wanted to get and stay sober, something had to change.
Of course, it took time to get myself into this situation. It didn’t happen overnight. I was fortunate to grow up in a situation where I had healthy relationships with family and friends. But as I got into my teen years, I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. My social groups started to change. It was only natural for me to spend my time with friends who were interested in doing the same thing as I was. I found myself drifting away from spending time with those who didn’t want to engage in substance use. None of it seemed like a problem at the time—I was just doing what I wanted to do with the people who wanted to do it with me. But looking back, all the warning signs were there.
The people around me continued to change as my addiction progressed. Soon, experimenting wasn’t enough for me. I was getting high every day, and seeking out new and more potent substances to use. My friends changed to match. My lifestyle made my old friends uncomfortable—so I stopped hanging out with them. Instead, I spent my time with the people who I now know were enabling and encouraging me. Eventually, I was surrounded by nothing but other addicts.
Breaking away from these unhealthy relationships was crucial to my recovery. At first, I decided I would just stop using, but keep hanging out with the same crowd. The results were unsurprising. I relapsed almost immediately. It became clear that I would need to make sweeping changes if I wanted to stay sober long-term. So I did.
Cutting out all my using buddies was difficult. Not only did I feel bad about it (they were still my friends, no matter how scummy we were to each other), but they were all I had—my healthy relationships were long gone by this point. I was lonely at first, and it’s hard to stay sober when you feel that way. But recovery groups had the answer for me. I was able to meet a great group of people through going to treatment and sober living. They formed the core of my new social group.
Back in the real world, I started going to meetings and went back to school. I began to make new friends this way—people in the same boat I was. Most importantly, through the amends process, I was finally able to make things right with my friends and family. My life was full of people who cared about me and supported my sobriety.
These days, I find it much easier to stay sober. It’s all about the people around me.