Recovering addicts need all the friends they can get. Social support from friends, family members and the community is essential to a good recovery and to maintaining abstinence. As the friend of someone in recovery, you can be an important part of that social circle, but you might not be sure how. It’s normal to be concerned about how your relationship has changed now that your friend is sober. You don’t want to say the wrong thing. You want to be supportive without enabling bad behaviors or being overbearing. To help you be the best friend you can be to someone you care about, here are some important rules:
- Be normal. There is no reason to walk on eggshells with your friend now that she has been through rehab. What she really needs is a sense of normalcy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be sensitive to her new-found sobriety, but don’t treat her like an oddity. Do what you normally do. Hang out and talk, go to the movies, get a coffee and talk about your life.
- Ask questions. While your friend will be craving normalcy, you don’t need to, and should not, ignore the elephant in the room. If you aren’t sure about something, like whether or not you can drink in front of her, just ask. Find out how much she wants to talk about her treatment, what it feels like to be sober or if she feels like relapsing. If she wants to open up, let her. If she doesn’t, talk about something else.
- Read up on addiction and recovery. Your friend doesn’t expect you to become an expert on her problems, but the more you know about her struggle the more compassionate you can be. For those of us not battling addiction, it can be tough to understand just how difficult it is. Take the time to read some resources on addiction and what being in recovery means.
- Open up about your problems. Recovering addicts often feel like the most flawed person in the room. Don’t let your friend think you’re perfect. Talk about the mistakes you have made and how you feel about them. A recovering addict who has been through therapy is a great listener. Talking about your problems with her will help you and will also help her feel needed and useful. Friendship is a two-way street, even when one needs extra support.
- Don’t become codependent. Codependence is a term thrown around a lot in psychology and addiction. It means being too dependent on another person, becoming obsessed with another person’s well-being and needing another person’s approval to feel whole. It is a trap that friends and family members of addicts fall into sometimes. While being a good and supportive friend is important, her successful sobriety is not your responsibility. If you feel like you are getting too caught up in her issues, take a step back and take some time away for yourself.
Being friends with a recovering addict isn’t always easy, but you have done the right thing by facing it and not abandoning your friend when she needs you most. Having the support of friends, family and fellow recovering addicts is one of the most important factors in avoiding relapse. Your support is essential to her well-being. There is no guidebook for how to be a good friend to her. Use these tips, but also use your instincts as a friend and just be there for her.