You care about your friend, but you’re unsure of how to proceed now that they’ve gotten sober. While the hardest part of their journey may be the past, the more difficult part of sober living is just starting.
1. Understand & Support
Depending on how your friend behaved while they were drinking, they may be haunted by their past and suffering from a variety of mental health issues. Even if they were relatively successful and not so destructive, they could be suffering from mentally and physically painful DTs.
This may leave them in an emotionally volatile state, can lead to depression, and could mean that they’re suffering from major anxiety.
The best thing you can do is let them talk it out with you and only offer advice if asked for it.
There is tons of help to be had, including a free help line that can give your friend constructive advice and guidance.
When someone is dependent on drugs or alcohol, they’re using a negative tool to cope with stress and to fill time that would otherwise be boring.
Helping your friend replace those tools with better, healthier, more productive tools is important.
Typically, physical activity and a way to express oneself is a great combo for putting cravings on the back burner and building up healthy ways to deal with the stress of daily life and any remorse they feel from their dependency days.
Try going to the gym once or twice a week (or just working out as a team at their house), sketching, writing (even just journaling), and even donating your time to charities.
Try to remember what you guys did together before drinking took over, and encourage your friend to try out things they’ve always talked about doing.
3. Avoid Familiar Drinking Areas
If you used to go out together to clubs and grills to hang out and drink, it’s best to avoid those places. Even if you don’t have to drink or buy drinks to go, it could be very detrimental to someone just starting their new, sober life.
Most people who suffered dependency issues have that thought “It will be different this time.” And people who have relapsed often cite going back to their old places as reasons for drinking again. They either didn’t think about it because it felt “right”, or felt pressured by staff that were used to seeing them drinking. (“Here, this one’s on me!”)
Instead, find new places to go to regularly that either don’t offer alcohol or aren’t part of that ‘scene’.
4. Don’t Indulge Around Them
Too often, friends and family members think ‘I’m not the one with the problem.’ But this can be really rough for someone who is still new to recovery. Watching someone they love drink up and be happy can make them yearn to be ‘normal’.
Even if it means putting away the wine and eggnog at Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s important to create a substance-free space whenever your friend will be over.
5. Encourage Going to Support Groups
Oftentimes, newly sober people are too embarrassed to go to support groups. They know that they’ve ‘messed up’ and that they need help, but they don’t want to admit that to a group of strangers.
But at the same time, that group of strangers will understand better than anyone else how your friend is feeling. They will also be able to offer invaluable advice for staying sober. (Too, these groups often have get-togethers and celebrations. This can help your loved one learn how to ‘party’ and celebrate sober.)
It can be hard at times to support your friend through the transition from influence to sober living, but you’ve already supported them through so much. Help them continue their life on the right path by being the great friend you’ve always been.