I am sure you have heard the popular recovery cliché, “Stay away from old people, places and things.”  This statement is a heavily emphasized suggestion for any newcomer coming into recovery, because it is a strong belief that it is important to distance yourself from things that may trigger or surround you with your old lifestyle which could lead you back to using drugs and alcohol.  The other side of this is that not everyone that you may have been friends with while in your addiction is bad for your newly sober life.  Here are some ways to navigate early recovery so that you can keep your friends, especially the ones who support your recovery.


Get Honest

Being honest with your old friends about your new life in recovery is important for many reasons.  You don’t have to run out of rehab telling everyone that you are sober now and used to live a life filled with illegal drugs or copious amounts of alcohol, but getting honest with some of your old friends may be a good idea.  Try calling or sitting down with your friends and letting them know what you have been through and what you are doing now to make changes in your life. This is a good first step if you want to keep your friends, because it will help build a foundation of trust and also give them the opportunity to show support for your recovery or ask any questions.


Give Up The Negative Ones

Thinking about giving up or turning your back on all your old friends when you are getting sober sounds impossible and also ridiculous.  I think most people feel resistant to the idea that they must stop being friends with everyone they knew during their addiction, but that is not what we mean when we say, “Stay away from old people, places and things.”  What we mean is, stay away from the negative ones and that’s it.  Figuring out who is supportive for your recovery and who is a trigger can be hard for some people, so approaching situations should be handled with care when trying to figure out who you should keep from your old friends and who you may want to stay away from.

If you are unsure of who may be supportive of your recovery and you do not want to just stop having all interactions right away with some people then try calling them and talking to them that way first.  Honestly talking about what kind of changes you are making in your life for your sobriety may be a good first step for most people, but how you have those conversations is also really important.  If you know that some people you were friends with during your addiction may need to hear about the changes that you are making for your sobriety, but you are unsure if seeing them in person is a good idea, then try calling them and telling them that way.  If after the call they still seem supportive and you want to continue your friendship, then make plans to hang out, but if the conversation on the phone seemed to not go positively and that person was trying to get you to go back to your old lifestyle then you already know whether you should try and keep them as a friend.


Sometimes It Isn’t So Clear

If you are unsure if keeping certain friends is a good idea, then you can try a few things in order to figure out without jeopardizing your recovery.  What I mean is that you do not have to try and hang out with everyone who you were once friends with during your addiction, because this could lead you into a situation that could get you high or drunk.  Talking to another person in recovery about some of your old friends and whether they may be supportive for your recovery or not is a good first step in helping you weed through the confusion.  Another way to safely make this determination is to bring along a person in recovery when you are first meeting up with an old friend.  This is a great way to have some support in times when you may not even realize that you needed the support.


Old Friends Come And Go

Just because when you first get sober you may have to say goodbye to some old friends does not mean that they will not be in your life later on.  Plenty of times in my life I have had the conversation with an old friend about my new life in recovery and it turned into a situation where we parted ways.

At the same time, plenty of those old friends reached out to me when they decided that they had a problem and wanted help.  You can become reconnect with your old friends again who may not have been healthy for your recovery in the beginning.  The number one thing that you have to keep in mind is that your recovery must come first and if putting yourself in a position to help someone is going to jeopardize your recovery then maybe you should help them differently then you originally planned.  Being supportive of someone does not mean you have to compromise what you believe.  Ask others in recovery what they think before you get into a situation that could be tricky to get out of with your recovery intact.