It’s easier for some people to make friends than for others. But one thing is for sure: kids make friends more easily than adults do. Regardless of individual factors such as awkwardness, self-esteem and anxiety, the primary obstacle in every adult’s quest for friends is time. If you’re an adult with any form of responsibility, chances are you have a schedule – and for many, that schedule can be very demanding, with little time left over to spend on friends and making new acquaintances.
Yet as hard as it might seem to juggle your living responsibilities, recovery work, and goals for the future, it’s important to make room for new friendships when coming out of rehab. Going through the recovery process can often incur the loss of a few old relationships, especially those built on a foundation of drug abuse. With that comes the need to make new friends, because being lonely isn’t an option either. But where do you start?
You Don’t Need Booze to Find Friends
A lot of former alcoholics and drug addicts might look towards clubs, bars, and a host of other local party venues as ways to meet interesting and exciting people. But that’s obviously no longer an issue. That doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to making boring friends. Sober people spend a fraction of their time at clubs and bars and spend the rest of their time doing other things, like work, exercise, walking the dog, and going for a weekend hike.
Remember when you were in school and made friends through mutual interests and group activities? The rules of engaging strangers and striking up conversations don’t really change much from your teens to your adult years, aside from (hopefully) a reduced amount of awkwardness. Find people your age, in your area, with interests that generally line up with your own. There are a few ways to go about this.
Look Up Local Meetups
The internet is a modern miracle, and it has completely changed the world – for the better and for the worse. One of the ways in which it has improved life for many is the capability to instantly communicate with thousands of strangers in all corners of the world. And, in the same vein, you can communicate with a dozen strangers who all live within a few miles of your home. The internet makes it easier for us to display our interests and talk about our hobbies and connect with others whom we might never have met in a pre-internet world.
Step one: figure out what you like to do with your free time, now that you have so much more of it in sobriety. Step two: check to see if there are others in your city who like to talk about that, and maybe even go to regular meetups. Step three: if there are no meetups for what you guys are discussing, schedule one yourself. You might not have a lot of attendees the first few times, but that’s fine.
Find Friends Through Facebook
It’s true that Facebook and other social networks have been blamed for a number of interpersonal issues, including communication problems and self-esteem issues, but it’s not all bad. The original intent for social media was to take the communicative capabilities of the internet to the next level, to go from anonymous forum handles to a complex network of real people (and a few fake ones) communicating and using social media as a supplementary tool to real-life interaction.
If you leave it at that – Facebook as a supplement, not a replacement – then it can be a great tool to help you meet and interact with people in your vicinity. The key to not being creepy is to approach people through groups and mutual friendships, rather than individually.
Make Friendships at the Gym
Exercise is healthy, and so is making new friendships. While newcomers might see the gym as an intimidating place where meatheads go to train in silence, this is often pretty far from the truth. People generally enjoy training in the company of others, and the gym is a great place to seek emotional as well as physical encouragement, as many people working on their own progress enjoy helping others and seeing them put in the work as well.
You don’t have to hit the weight room or the cardio machines if you don’t want to. Plenty of gyms offer classes for anything ranging from boxing and Muay Thai to yoga and dancing, and there are many other ways to get active and get moving. Just be sure to introduce yourself, strike up a conversation or two, and you might be surprised at how many people you can meet.
Addiction is often intertwined with anxiety. Even when a recovering addict isn’t diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, anxious thoughts and worries are common – especially during early recovery, when you’re not quite sure of yourself and your thought process often dips down into negative territory. But don’t worry, and don’t prejudge – being afraid of strangers is the biggest obstacle to interesting conversations and new friendships.
Work on challenging yourself to open up to talking to new people. Try and talk to someone in the line to the checkout counter (when it’s a particularly long line) or, if you have a dog, make friends with other dog walkers at the park. There are countless opportunities for new friendships out there if you’re willing to take a chance.
Regarding Old Friendships
There will come a time when you’re working through some of your problems in therapy or are returning to your ‘regular life’ after rehab and have to confront the possibility of giving up on old friendships. Some connections cannot be feasibly supported after going sober, either because they were built on an addiction to begin with, or because they can’t be sustained without a heavy risk of relapse.
While it might feel unfair or painful to give old friends an ultimatum regarding drug use and friendship – such as telling your friends you can’t tolerate heavy drinking or drug use around you while going through recovery – you have to draw clear boundaries and firmly defend them. If you know watching others drink or do drugs is going to get you to a dangerous place mentally, then you have to cut that out of your life. And if your friends don’t want to consider making changes to continue your friendship, it’s unlikely that they ever had your best interests in mind to begin with.
Friendships built on the respect and bond between two individuals are stronger than friendships built on shared drug experiences. While it might feel weird at first to try and make new friends as an adult, you’ll find that it’s those friendships that tend to last the longest and make the strongest impression in the long-term, simply because you both have a much better idea of who you are and what you’re interested in than you might have had in your teens or college years.