Imagine this scenario: you are ready to take an amazing journey, the trip of a lifetime. You invite all of your friends and family and start packing the car. When everything is in the car, you motion to everyone to get in the car with you. But they refuse, and some of them even try to talk you out of taking the trip at all. What do you do? Do you get in the car and leave them behind? Or do you stay and try to talk them into coming with you?
This scenario is a metaphor for our journey in recovery. When we go to treatment, we are packing our bags, ready to set out on a new life. However, at some point, we realize that although we’ve asked our friends and family to join us, they are either unable or unwilling to support our recovery. In situations such as these, we are forced into a choice: our friends and family, or our recovery. It’s a difficult decision to have to make. Do we have to leave friends and family behind after treatment?
One of the most difficult aspects of recovery is when we have family and friends who are not ready or able to support us on our journey. This is the nature of substance use, as we cause harm to good people in our lives and surround ourselves with others who use substances. When we are suddenly sober, that changes the dynamics of those relationships completely.
One painful realization that often comes during our recovery is that those who use substances do not have our best interests at heart. Our relationships are often built around dysfunction and with the mutual need for substances. When we are suddenly learning to be emotionally healthy, and seek to pursue sobriety, our previous relationships are turned upside down.
These relationships can include, but are not limited to: casual friends, longtime friends, extended family, immediate family, partners, and even children. Some are easier to wean ourselves from, should we need to. Yet many of these relationships are long-term or even lifelong, and it is very difficult to consider changing them. Romantic relationships are very challenging because we are changing so much that the relationship can eventually be greatly impacted.
Help or Hindrance?
The biggest question in evaluating our relationships is to ask ourselves if this person will help or hinder our recovery. We may have relationships where people did not necessarily buy into our treatment or recovery, but they are not particularly opposed to it either. They are not going to try to influence us to relapse or make other poor decisions. These relationships are not the ones that get us into trouble with our recovery.
The ones that are difficult are those who are dysfunctional or are still using substances. They may try to interfere with our recovery because misery loves company. Even if they are our partner or our blood relative, their influence in our life at this time can be toxic. These are often the people who trigger us to want to use substances, as well. If they respect our journey and respect us enough to not use around us or be toxic participants in the pursuit of our addiction, we may be able to keep a version of our relationship with them. However, those who are not capable of supporting us may exist in a place to undermine our recovery and may need to be removed from our lives.
We may not need to write off everyone in our lives. There are plenty of directions we can go, the most important being the skill of setting and keeping boundaries. We can choose to see family on our terms, in our own home, when we know we can keep it substance free. We can agree to limit our time, or we can agree to only communicate long-distance, such as by phone, text, or email. There are many different boundaries we can set if we truly want to keep these people in our lives.
The most important factor to consider is ourselves. We are the ones who have been directly impacted by substance use disorder. Making a life transformation and wanting to be a better person for us and for our other relationships is a tall task and we deserve to give ourselves the best chance of recovery. It may seem selfish to some, but it is necessary to protect our sobriety if we feel as though it is threatened. We are trying to save our lives. Sometimes in order to do that, and to maintain our recovery, we have to set others free. If they come back to us willing to love and respect us along with our choices, then we can choose to allow them into our lives.
Do you have to leave friends and family behind after treatment? That is ultimately up to you. Those who love you will respect you and do anything to stay in your life. If they are not able to remain in your life as you travel the road of recovery, then we need to let them go. This is our journey. Whether we do it alone or with loved ones, the most important thing is that we embark.
Start your journey of a lifetime today. We can succeed with our quest, no matter who joins us or not. Call AToN Center at (888) 535-1516 today.