When you love an addict you go through many trials and challenges. When he was still using he probably neglected you. He may have used you or even stolen from you. You likely stayed up nights worrying. Now that he’s in recovery from substance abuse, you feel like a big weight has been lifted—but maybe you are still worrying about him and hoping he won’t start up again. One of the biggest contributing factors to relapsing is the presence of old triggers, and former friends from his drug-fueled life can be major triggers. Staying sober is his responsibility, but you can contribute by helping him stay away from those harmful friends who are still using. Help him cut ties and avoid seeing those people who do not have his best interests at heart.
Old Friends Must Be Cut Off
If your loved one went through a good treatment program, he probably learned some strategies for surviving as a newly sober person in the world outside of rehab. One of the most important things to do is to recognize and then avoid triggers that may cause him to start using again. Triggers can be emotions. They may be places. They are often people. Chances are he still has friends out there that are using and these people are dangerous for his recovery. Some addicts in recovery make the mistake of thinking they are strong enough to not allow triggers, such as old friends, to cause them to relapse. This thinking is flawed, though, because it has little to do with willpower. Triggers are attached to memories that are hardwired into the brain. To resist the urge to relapse in this instance is incredibly difficult.
How to Cut Ties
Once you have convinced your loved one that he needs to ditch his old friends, that the risks are not worth it, and that they do not care about his sobriety, help him cut them out of his life. Cutting ties with people who were a big part of his life will not be easy. How he does it is up to him and what makes him feel comfortable. If he feels he owes his old friends an explanation and a good bye, go with him for support. If he feels uncomfortable seeing them at all and wants to go cold turkey, that’s fine too. He really doesn’t owe them anything. Encourage him to delete all these contacts from his phone and other devices and to not answer their calls.
Building a New Social Network
Leaving old friends behind will leave a big hole in your loved one’s social life. Going through recovery alone and without a support system is not the healthiest or most effective way to stay sober, so help him build a new, more positive network. Encourage him to spend more time with family. He may even need to re-establish some fractured relationships within the family and now is a good time to do it. Family is wonderful, but he will need friends too. A support group is great, but these tend to be anonymous and not a place where normal friendships develop. You can look for sober groups, which are networks of people who meet to go bowling, get coffee or engage in other fun activities without drugs or alcohol. Other great places to meet new, sober friends are at church groups or while engaging in volunteer work. Stand by your loved one during this time, help him to ditch his toxic friends and support him while he makes new friends and you will be helping him to maintain his new sobriety.