Having Friends in the Program
When it comes to being in a 12-step program, being involved in the community of other recovering addicts and alcoholics is vital.
One of the main points of focus in a 12-step program is being “in the middle”, or very involved in, both commitment positions and actively taking part in activities hosted by the program. Between going to meetings and staying active in recovery, most of the people we tend to meet and associate with are also our fellow recovering addicts and alcoholics.
But what does this mean for the friendships you had prior to recovery or if you meet non-addict friends outside of the rooms? They say surrounding yourself with other sober people is a great way to maintain recovery, but can we not have non-addict friends outside the rooms? Does this automatically mean relapse?
It doesn’t—and here’s why.
People, Places, and Things
When we first enter the program, we’re told we need to immediately change people, places, and things in order to prevent relapse and to focus more completely on recovery. This means cutting ties with people you used to use, avoiding the places we used to use, and staying away from things that may trigger us to want to use or that we associate with drug/alcohol abuse.
While in my early recovery I can definitely say that completely severing ties with the people I originally got high with helped me stay clean and sober. After a while in the program, I began to question the relationships I once had with my friends from high school who were non-addicts. Obviously, the people who were also in the midst of active addiction weren’t safe, but what about the others?
Now that I’m several years in the program, I have a different perspective. While changing people, places, and things are imperative in early recovery, I don’t think it’s necessary to cut off everyone who isn’t in the program.
The best way to determine if someone is safe to have in your life is to make it clear to them that you absolutely cannot be around any drug or alcohol use and gauge the person’s response. If he or she has absolutely no problem catering to that request and even supports your efforts in recovery, then that non-addict friend is safe to have in your life.
If they present any hesitation or question why you even need to be in recovery in the first place, then you have your answer. The people from high school who were non-addict friends were not only compliant with my request for sober hang-out sessions when I would come home to visit, they were so proud of my sobriety in general after seeing me in thralls of my addiction, they insisted upon it.
As I have progressed in my recovery and it’s become more than just not using or drinking on a daily basis, I’ve grown far more comfortable being around alcohol. The realistic truth is that there is absolutely no way to completely avoid drugs and alcohol in the real world.
Every other TV commercial is the newest beer or vodka and as marijuana is legalized throughout the country, advertisements for weed are on their way. We see drug and alcohol use in movies on a regular basis and as much as we may not want it to be, they are a part of life. As you grow and flourish in recovery, you learn to not avoid this unfortunate truth, and instead, you embrace it.
I, for one, enjoy live music. Attending concerts is something I do quite frequently in recovery now that I have disposable income from not drinking or using drugs. At these venues, I often witness drug and alcohol use by non-addicts.
Why deny me something I enjoy because I may potentially come across normal people doing what normal people do? The same principle comes with being friends with people who are not in recovery.
Some of my closest friends are non-addicts. In fact, I even dated a non-addict for the first two years of my recovery! During this, I have had some of the best times with people who are not technically sober. Recovery is supposed to teach you how to assimilate back into normal society without the hampering weight of drug and alcohol dependence, not vacate it all together!
Know Your Limits
While being several years into sobriety has given me the necessary separation from alcohol and drugs to feel completely unphased by it when I see it, that does not mean that it’s like that for everyone.
Ultimately, it is up to the individual what his or her tolerance for being around drugs and alcohol is. While I wouldn’t suggest hanging out with someone doing hard drugs, especially if they’re using alcoholically, it’s your choice where you draw the line of acceptability for yourself.
You know yourself better than anyone else does, and possessing the self-awareness and self-honesty to know when you’ve reached your limit is the only sure-fire way to keep yourself out of dangerous situations.
As I stated previously, your non-addict friends who are also non-toxic friends will both respect and encourage your recovery enough to willingly abstain from drinking or using drugs around you. Setting safe and strict boundaries for yourself and the people you surround yourself with is important to an effective and healthy recovery.
The Best of Both Worlds
Recovery is an important part of my life, but it’s not my whole life. Part of growing up in this program is learning that there is more to life than drugs and alcohol. So even though you may not be using it, you’re still allowing it to consume you by avoiding it so adamantly.
Acceptance of other people who are not in recovery is just as important as their acceptance of us. I love my friends in recovery and I love my non-addict friends. Sometimes I even combine the two, and we all have a great time together—some with a beer in their hand, some without. Life and recovery are all about balance, and it’s up to you to find yours.
If you know someone who is currently struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, don’t hesitate to contact us today and get access to the help that they need!
Give Palm Beach Institute a call at (866) 804-6507!