If you’re new to recovery, you might imagine that your new, sober life won’t look that much different from your old one. You assume that all your friends will be supportive, kind, and considerate, especially in social situations where drugs and alcohol might be present. The reality is, however, that socializing in your newly sober state takes some getting used to. If you have social anxiety, you won’t be able to rely on the relaxing effect of alcohol to get you through a party or work event. More importantly, some friends and even entire social groups might not make it easy for you to stay away from temptation. If you’re used to spending nights out drinking and partying with friends, you might find that it’s harder to relate to your old social scene now that you’ve made a commitment to sobriety.
Being sober, however, doesn’t mean that you have to cut off everyone you used to know and hide yourself away from the world. Quite the contrary, in fact: staying sober is a lot of hard work, and you’re going to need a strong support group to help you through those first hard months. That’s why it’s crucial to find the right balance in your life. If you’re struggling to reconnect with friends or put yourself out there, here are a few tips that might help.
Create Your Core Support Group
Before you do anything else, you’ll want to make sure you know who your real friends are. These are the people who have been with you through the worst times. They’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and they love you anyway. These are the people you know you can trust no matter what. They could be family members, close childhood friends, people in your community, or even folks in your AA group. Whoever they are, make sure that you’re open and honest with them about what you’re going through. Nobody expects you to be perfect, and nobody expects your recovery to be all rainbows and sunshine. You’re going to have good days and bad days, and having friends who you can talk to will make all the difference.
You’re also going to end up losing some friends, especially the ones who are still committed to drinking and using drugs. It’s an inevitable part of recovery. That said, it doesn’t feel great. That’s why having a support group in place is so helpful. When you’re honest with your friends about what you’re going through, you’re less likely to fall back into destructive patterns. If you don’t have anyone you feel comfortable talking to, consider checking in with a therapist. As long as you’re talking through your struggles, you have a much better shot at overcoming them. No one should have to go through recovery alone.
Avoid Bars and Clubs
If you used to spend all your free time at the bar around the corner, finding your new social groove is going to be a big adjustment. Fortunately, there are plenty of places you can go to hang out, make friends, and socialize that don’t revolve around drugs and alcohol. It might seem silly, but think of your sobriety as an excuse to get back into old hobbies that you’d forgotten about. Try to discover what excites or interests you and use those interests to find your new social hub.
Do you love books? Check out some of the readings at your local bookstore. You’ll be able to go out and be among people in a low-stress environment that doesn’t require too much socialization. If your friends are supportive, they’ll be understanding and won’t try to drag you out to the bar or the club just because it’s a convenient meeting place. If your friends do keep suggesting these types of places, suggest something more intimate like meeting at a coffee shop, a restaurant, or someone’s home.
Find Sustainable Ways to Help with Social Anxiety
Many people enjoy alcohol and drugs purely for the relief it brings from self-consciousness and social anxiety. For many, it can feel like a helpful crutch in intimidating social situations. Here’s the thing: using drugs and alcohol will only put a band-aid on the problem, it won’t help solve it. Don’t assume that you can’t be social anymore just because you can no longer use drugs and alcohol to help you come out of your shell. Instead, try easing yourself into social situations. Don’t throw yourself into an environment that you know will make you uncomfortable, such as a huge party where you don’t know a lot of people. Instead, start hanging out with a few people you trust and get used to the person you are without drugs and alcohol. How does that person socialize? This is a chance for you to start again. Don’t create all kinds of huge, scary expectations of yourself. You don’t need to be loud or funny or the center of attention in order to be social. When you start to feel comfortable with who you are as a sober person, you won’t feel that same, strong urge to perform like you once did in social situations.
Sometimes, being social isn’t just about parties and fun. If you have a job that requires you to go to a lot of functions and events, or if your family loves throwing big shindigs, you might not feel like you have a choice in the matter. Here’s the thing: you always have a choice. Even if a social obligation feels unmissable, you can always opt out if you’re not feeling strong enough or comfortable enough to attend. In recovery, your health and safety have to take priority. If your friends, family, and workplace are truly supportive of your sobriety, they’ll understand.
If you’re ready to start your recovery, don’t let another day go by. Reach out to Restore Health and Wellness Center today.