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When new in recovery, it’s important to stay sober. Maintaining friendships with people who still use once sober can be difficult. It may be best friends, and even family members, who still party. In addition, it may be our closest support system who begged us to get sober at some point. While some are respectful, others don’t always get the gravity of maintaining a sober lifestyle. They may think, “He’s been sober for a year. He just doesn’t drink anymore”, believing that it is that easy to just stop drinking—thinking you are ‘cured’.

How to Stay Sober When Others Don’t Get It

It is hard to see another’s perspective unless we’ve lived it. Perhaps, even our best friends may not realize how hard it is for us to watch them have many beers with dinner. Maybe we just don’t feel comfortable at the New Year’s Eve party. Or, maybe the smell of marijuana is triggering? These are all valid concerns. In order to stay sober, we learn to find our boundaries, then hold them. And that is not always easy. Therefore, it becomes part of our recovery to set boundaries with friends and family. What’s more, this is crucial if some of these friends and family are unhealthy. It’s one thing to sip some wine with dinner. It’s another to get drunk and abusive. The only one who’s going to look out for your sobriety is you, so stand strong. Speaking up when we are uncomfortable is our responsibility. Furthermore, it’s an act of self-care. Most likely, this will be awkward and nerve-wracking at first. But speaking up and setting boundaries can be a crucial part of recovery.

Sober Boundaries and Staying the Course

Using our newly found sober voice can be difficult. Many of us fall into the trap of ‘wanting to be cool’. This may mean wanting everyone to continue to live their life as normal. But, your life is not how it used to be. Most likely, you have made a 180 degree turn to a different, sober lifestyle, and it’s okay to speak up about that. It’s actually what you must do. Those who truly care about you, once aware of your perspective, would happily not have that cocktail with dinner or drag you into a bar. The idea is to support the effort to stay sober. In fact, to honor it.

Feel free to say no to attending the reception at a good friend’s wedding because it is too much right now. Really, it is perfectly okay. And yes, some people may not get it. Setting new boundaries in relationships is often jarring to friends or family members. This is especially true when there is dysfunction. Unfortunately, some are just not used to you respecting yourself enough to ask for such boundaries. Many people don’t know how to set boundaries for themselves let alone respect yours (cue Al-Anon meetings ftw). Once in place, however, these new boundaries are life-saving in your recovery. Our social lives change in recovery. That’s a good thing. The idea is to stay sober and live a healthy life. The people that truly love us would happily meet us for a coffee, a hike, or any other sober hang out in place of the bar. When you respect yourself first, other’s respect will follow.  

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