Your friend gets sober. Good for them, right? The drinking got pretty bad for a while. You’re happy for them getting their life in order. Thing is, now you feel a little uncomfortable around them…
Why is that? You may not be sure. Let’s talk about it. The answer may surprise you.
In most cases, you’re not uncomfortable because of their sobriety. You’re uncomfortable because you feel you can’t do the same activities you used to. Why? Because they all involved drinking.
How do you hang out now? Should you watch what you say? Will you offend them if you act the same?
All valid questions. Here’s what you can do to keep your friendship intact & happy.
What Your Sober Friend Thinks & Feels is Important
First, let’s get some perspective. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. You know them pretty well already, so this isn’t too hard.
Your friend’s just gone through an intense experience. They made a big change in their life, complete with some serious struggles. They’re approaching Life itself in a new way. Maybe they know things about themselves they didn’t before…or had to face issues & overcome them. It’s scary and exciting at the same time.
Once they’ve gone through treatment, many newly-sober friends need a period of adjustment. They’re not sure if they should associate with pre-treatment friends or not. You can tell them you’re there if they want to hang out, but for a few months, let them make that call.
If they want to spend time with you, it means you’re a good friend to them. Someone they value. It’s a compliment to you.
Four Ways to Reinvigorate Your Friendship after Addiction Treatment
Relating to a newly-sober friend isn’t so different from any other friend. All you need to do is bear their sobriety in mind for a while. Eventually, it’ll become part of the normal routine, and neither of you will need to think about it.
For that interval after they complete treatment – say about 3 months after they complete rehab – here’s some advice you can use.
1. Treat them with respect. You did that before; no reason to change now.
2. Don’t bring up the drinking in conversation. The reminder may make them nervous or sad. Now, if they’re the one who brings up the drinking, let them talk. They may just need a little support from a friendly ear and good conversation.
3. Plan engaging (but sober) activities. Outdoor hikes, yoga, movie night, gaming…you have lots of options. This is also a great time to try something new.
4. Share your own hobbies. Do you have a (sober) hobby you enjoy? Invite them to take part. Maybe they weren’t interested before, but they might be now. Either way, you’re showing them that you want them to enjoy life again too.
This is advice coming from the team at a long-time Northern California treatment center. We encourage you to take it to heart…and we hope it helps you grow your friendships.
Support Your Newly-Sober Friend and You Gain a Better Friendship
Please remember—your friend has overcome a powerful addiction. They’ll need time to adjust their thinking & actions to ‘normal’ life again.
Don’t treat them like they’re damaged or delicate though. Recovery takes strength and dedication…very much high-energy qualities. They’re a better ‘version’ of the same friend you knew. Celebrate their accomplishment with them!