Quitting drugs is an incredibly difficult thing to do, but instead of respecting the recovering addict, some people will shun them because of their history. This stigma can make recovery even more difficult.

Since quitting implies a whole new lifestyle, most ex-addicts need to avoid their old friends. Unless the addiction was a solitary one, many of the people the recovering addict used to hang out with were using the same substances as they did. Obviously, getting these people out of their lives is a must. But everybody needs a social life, so the ex-addict is confronted with the task of building a new circle of friends.

Starting over is difficult at the best of times, but people’s reaction to recovering addicts is often extremely negative. Their old friends will shun them for ‘selling out’ and ‘straight society’ is inclined to look down on them for having developed an addiction problem in the past.

You can start over! Tips for rebuilding your social life

First and foremost: have nothing to do with anyone who doesn’t support the transformation you are trying to bring about in your life. If they won’t respect what you are trying to achieve, they aren’t really your friends and you will be better off without them!

Meet new friends by exploring new activities.

  • Join a club or society. What interests you? Get to know people who share your interests.
  • Try something new. Take up a class and learn a new skill or practice a new hobby with other people.
  • Take up a sport. Improve your fitness and make friends. You don’t have to be the best player, just participate and enjoy it!
  • Volunteer to help out with charity work. You can help others and make caring friends at the same time.

While it’s exciting meeting new people, you should also look into your past and consider re-connecting with friends who distanced themselves from you because of your old habits. If you hurt them, you can try and make amends, and if your habit just scared them off, they may be happy to see you in recovery.

Are you afraid of approaching others? Do social situations make you feel anxious? Discuss this problem with your counsellor. Communication skills training can help you. Trying new things and rebuilding your social life can help you to avoid a relapse that you may not survive.

Should you be ashamed of yourself?

Let’s face facts: you made some terrible choices and ended up in deep water. Should you be ashamed? Categorically no! As a recovering addict you have much to be proud of.

  • You recognized that you had a problem. That’s not an easy thing to do! Many addicts remain in denial.
  • You have taken positive steps to overcome your addiction. In fact, you have taken charge of your life against all odds. You are a fighter!
  • You have taken charge of your destiny and you’re building a better life. This is going to benefit you and those closest to you. You have made a responsible choice.

Stay in touch with your counsellor

Feelings of loneliness are only one of the problems that you will encounter during your recovery. The first year is going to be the hardest, so staying in touch with your counsellor and attending regular counselling sessions will be of enormous help.

Just knowing that you can talk to someone who doesn’t judge you and who tries hard to understand you can be a huge help. Group therapy can be a big help too – but don’t get discouraged if you see group members relapsing. Try to socialise with people who have never been addicts and keep your interactions with group therapy mates to therapy alone.

Being a good friend to a recovering addict

On the other side of the spectrum, you may be a ‘straight’ person who wants to be friends with a recovering addict, but you’re in two minds as to whether you should risk it, and you’re not sure how you can help.

  • Ask questions. Don’t skirt around the fact that your friend is a recovering addict. Show that you aren’t judging them and that you want to help by coming right out and saying it. By being open with your friend, you’re also encouraging them to be open with you.
  • Don’t accept behaviour you wouldn’t accept from anyone else. If you do that, you’re not helping.
  • Don’t blame yourself if your friend relapses. He or she makes their own choices. You can’t be blamed for that.
  • Be open about your own flaws. Your friend has been open with you, so reciprocate. Trying to act like you’re perfect isn’t going to help anyone.