Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of sobriety is facing the judgement of others and the insecurity of our own feelings in the beginning of not drinking.
Along with this, we worry about what our friends will think. Will they still want to hang out with me? Will they still include me? Will they look at me differently? Will they gossip about me behind my back?
According to Yung Pueblo, three signs of a good friend are: “You do not have to perform for them, they hold space for you during struggles, and they are truly happy for your success.”
I think this is a good reminder for everyone, no matter what you may be struggling with in your life, to consider Yung Pueblo’s words. If you are working through something personal, whether it be sobriety or not, it is important to remember that you should be surrounding yourself with those who allow you to be yourself, stand by you, and celebrate you when you are doing something that you believe to be successful.
When you get sober, many times people project their own insecurities and feelings about drinking back onto you without even realizing it. Some friends might see the idea of you not drinking and take it to heart. They may see it as you pulling away from them and could blame you. They may act insulted but understand that is only because your behavior is forcing them to hold a mirror up to themselves. Maybe they are refusing to look into it and evaluate their own relationship with alcohol.
It is a scary thing to do, and look how long it took you do to it; can you blame them? Don’t be alarmed if this is people’s initial reaction, but maybe give them time. On the other hand, maybe those people just can’t hold space for you, so perhaps it’s time to just focus on continuing to move yourself forward. It is hard for some people to allow you to grow and move forward when they are stuck in the same painful patterns you were once in.
When you feel like you can’t be yourself around your friends or that you are anxious to be near them, then that is a sign that your friends are not being supportive. They are not holding a safe space for you. In the beginning of my sobriety, I had a few friends send me texts on the regular asking me how I was doing. They took me for walks and checked in on my progress. Then, I had other friends who avoided me like the plague because they didn’t know how to “handle being around me.” I was able to see how these two types of people would be there for me down the road, 18 months later.
In the end, it comes down to having a little bit of compassion for others and holding that safe space for yourself to grow. It took me some time to realize not everyone was going to have the reaction that I wanted to my changes. Seeing who my real friends are has been one of the hardest parts of the sobriety process.
It is important to talk and communicate with the people you care about in the beginning of your journey. Tell them about what you want from them and how you feel—that is not something I did enough of. Set expectations and boundaries. I just assumed everyone knew what I needed or what I wanted out of every relationship because they all knew me so well. I wanted them to read my mind and just get it. But no one is inside your head listening to your every thought.
If you want to be included in parties, you need to make sure your friends know that. If you need a little space for a bit, make sure they understand that need too. The good friends will get it, stick around, and check back in. They will be there for you, and you will never feel judged by them.
In the end, these friends will be happy for your change; they will not feel challenged by your growth, nor will they feel left behind when you flourish and soar.