There is a famous song by a man named Ben E. King that goes, “When the night has come and the land is dark and the moon is the only light we’ll see. No I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid. Just as long as you stand, stand by me.” While those words work well in a light hearted cadence, the reality of the situation is that we can’t keep each and every friend we make throughout our lives. As we grow more solidly into who we truly are as people, some friendships grown and adapt themselves to our changes, some friendships fade away, and sometimes new and healthier friendships blossom when we let go of a toxic relationship.
When I was addicted to drugs, it was very clear who my friends at the time were. They were the people I could get high with and the folks who provided the drugs. Now that I’m sober I realize I never really had any true friends. I learned through AA and my time at Any Length Retreat that friendship takes work and it’s not just what’s easiest for me.
Friendship should be treated as a verb- a process of finding out how we want to relate to others and how we want others to relate to us. Friendship takes practice being with other people and learning from our interactions. It is a bond of respect, trust, and vulnerability that encourages healthy growth, acceptance, and true love for another human being.
For people in recovery, a healthy friendship can be essential to sobriety, just as an unhealthy relationship can be detrimental to recovery. It is crucial for recovering addicts and alcoholics to recognize the difference between relationships that are healthy and beneficial and those that keep them stuck in a stagnant state.
A few questions recovering people should ask themselves when considering the healthiness of a friend are, “When do I spend time with this person? Why do I spend time with this person? What does their personal recovery look like? Does this person support my recovery? Are they showing up to the relationship in a healthy way?”
You need to be assertive yet kind, and loving with friends. Practice setting boundaries against behaviors that compromise your spiritual principles. If your friend cannot support your recovery, you should take a break or end the relationship. Although we can’t control how someone else will behave, we are responsible for our own behavior. We ultimately need to respect ourselves enough to allow only healthy relationships in our lives.
Ending a friendship can be hard and uncomfortable, but the fellowship of a recovery group can often help because they are also working to maintain healthy relationships in their daily lives. In addition to their regular meetings, men and women might benefit from attending an all-male or all-female group where they can meet new friends who support each others spiritual growth.
Recovery means change, not just for the person who strides on the path of recovery, but also for his or her relationships. Choosing whether to continue a relationship is an important part of recovery, but the better the choices are, the more solid recovery and friendships will be.