Everyone needs friends. Friends make life richer and help us through hard times. There’s something about a platonic relationship – a friendship between two people – that isn’t possible between a person and their relatives, or a person and their closest, most intimate partner.
Friendship also exists on a spectrum. Some “friends” are simply acquaintances, or mutual friends whom you’ve only met once or twice in person. Some friends command a certain level of respect, but they’re little more than someone to catch up with and know from time to time. Others are virtually inseparable, and stick by you through your darkest moments, alongside family and partners.
But some friends aren’t friends at all. They pretend to be, or think of themselves as friends, but constantly betray their friendship with you by crossing over barriers best kept uncrossed, by behaving obnoxiously, being controlling, having no respect for you or your thoughts, or by trying to push you to be someone or something you’re not. Some “friends” are only out to hurt you, suck you dry, and leave you hanging. Other “friends” are deeply hurt themselves, don’t know how to ask for help or help others, and find themselves instead unconsciously working to pull others into their misery.
It’s hard to tell who those friends are at first. And often, it’s difficult to face the fact that some of the people you’ve passionately labeled as a “best friend” are indeed toxic to the core, and a danger to not only your sobriety, but your life in general. But committing to sobriety is all about facing the music and making necessary albeit painful or abrupt changes in your life. One of those changes involves cutting out old friends.
Peer Pressure is Never Okay
If you’re striving to get sober and stay sober, then boundaries are crucial. Rules matter. Structure is critical. You have to learn to be unyielding and disciplined in your commitment to something – and it’s in the spirit of that commitment that pressure, temptation, and cravings are at the core of what you need to be fighting against, or better yet, avoiding altogether.
Over time, it becomes easier to live in a world where you coexist alongside drugs, knowing perfectly well how easy it is to procure them, and deciding not to anyway. But it’s early on that that knowledge alone can make every day harder or just as hard as the previous one.
Having friends who try to pressure you to step past your boundaries and get back to drinking or using, then, is an absolute no-go. It’s already questionable that you would have to explain to your friends once that you don’t want to use drugs after announcing that you’re sober. If you have to do it more than once, it’s time to cut them off until they’ve found their own way to sobriety, or at least learn to respect others.
This may be harsh, but you can’t afford to be any less than harsh if you genuinely care about your own health, sanity, and future. It’s hard enough to stop using drugs when surrounded by individuals who genuinely care for you and want you to stay clean. How much harder do you want to make things for yourself?
Friends Don’t Hurt You
Hurt and help are two different things. A friend can be blunt but helpful. They can come off as offensive in the moment, but you may realize that what they said or did was critical. And sometimes, we hang onto friends even when we know they have their occasional bouts of aggressive, inappropriate, or problematic behavior.
One of these is not like the others. We all need friends we don’t agree with, and it’s normal to get in a spat with a friend now and again. But if you’re friends with someone who constantly has you making excuses for them, wondering again and again whether you should be friends with this person, or simply someone who has hurt you emotionally and shown no remorse over their words or actions, then you need to cut them out.
Stop giving leeway to those who don’t deserve it. If you’re struggling with sobriety and want to stay clean, any excess stress is just another plate for you to juggle mid-air. Unless you’re superhuman (and none of us are), you don’t have space for very many plates up there.
Friends don’t undermine your confidence for their own benefit, they don’t physically or verbally assault you out of nowhere, and they don’t make you take risks that you’re not prepared to take. They can put you in your place when you’re out of line, and they need to be there to give you a reality check when you’re being ridiculous yourself – but if they refuse to take the same from you and continue to exercise their control over others, you need to leave that friendship.
Toxic Relationships Cause Toxic Problems
Toxic relationships are, sadly, not uncommon. Immaturity, hypocrisy, arrogance and a controlling behavior are just a few ways in which toxicity can manifest in others, and in your bond with them. Cutting a toxic relationship out of your life begins with recognizing it. There are a few signs that someone will cause trouble for you in your attempt at creating a new sober life, including:
- Controlling behavior
- Constantly lying to you and others
- Never admitting they’re wrong
- Taking without giving
- Disrespecting your boundaries
- Never taking responsibility for their actions
How to Cut Out Toxic Friends
When it’s time to cut old friends out of the picture, you’ll have to realize that it’s either going to be quick and painless, or drawn out and difficult. Start simple: tell them that you can’t be friends anymore. Give them a curt and concise reason. Don’t spend too much time explaining yourself – one or two examples is enough. Any more and you’re simply walking right into their pity party.
Do it in a public space, in person. If you do it in private or over the internet, they’re more likely to retaliate with lies and belligerent behavior, verbally or physically. Then, cut them out virtually. Block them from your phone, your social media, and everything else you can think of.
Lastly, forget about them. Don’t talk about them. Leave the past in the past and encourage mutual friends – if you have any – to drop the subject around you. It can be simple, or it can be needlessly hard. Most of the time, it’s up to you how things end up playing out. And finally, make new friends.