Rebuffed By Friends After Rehab? How To Get Past It
When you’re feeling raw and vulnerable after rehab and are trying hard to make it in recovery, you need the support and encouragement of your friends, among others. But when those whom you think would be most in your corner turn on you, giving you the cold shoulder, it can seem like a bitter blow.
But you don’t have to suffer in silence, to eat the rebuff and chalk it off to the cost of sobriety. There’s nothing about getting clean and sober that requires you to be alone and lonely. Here are some ways that may help you get past feeling tossed aside by your former "friends."
True Friends Don’t Behave That Way
Before getting into specifics about how you might be able to ease the pain of being rebuffed by your friends, consider the fact that anyone who is a true friend would never behave in such a childish way.
True, it may be difficult for your friends to accept what has happened in your life. It may have more to do with their own perceived feelings of inadequacy in handling the situation with you now being sober than anything else.
But this still doesn’t excuse their behavior. The question is, what can you do about it?
Only Time May Make the Difference
For starters, you should know that there’s nothing you can do to change your friends’ behavior toward you. Only time may make the difference in how they decide to react around you or interact with you.
In a way, it’s the same way you recognized that only you could make a difference in your own life. Until you made the conscious decision to go into treatment, no amount of cajoling or harping or threats of punishment or reprisals had any effect on what you continued to do. Once you decided to do something beneficial for your health and future, however, you were able to make the tough decision that resulted in positive changes in your life.
While it can seem like a total waste of a good friendship, maybe the best thing you can do is be a little more understanding of your friends’ predicament. Each person arrives as tolerance and acceptance of various circumstances – including changes in another’s lifestyle – in his or her own way. It’s not up to you to judge, nor is it at all productive. You just have to let it be.
Perhaps, at some point down the line, your friends will have a change of heart, an epiphany, of sorts. Maybe then your friendship can resume. If so, it will probably be stronger and more mutually beneficial. It will be a true friendship then, not merely an acquaintance.
Sitting Alone is Not the Answer
So, say that your friends have deserted you – since that’s exactly what it feels like. Instead of sitting home alone and allowing yourself to feel put upon and miserable, not to mention lonely, do something proactive about it.
Get out there and be with new people.
Don’t complain that you don’t know anyone new. That’s an excuse that’s too easily bandied about, usually by people who aren’t willing to go outside their comfort zone and allow themselves to be approachable.
One easy and readily-available way to meet new people is to go to different 12-step groups. Okay, maybe this isn’t anything that is high on your list of must-do agenda items – but just think about it. When you walk in the door of a 12-step group meeting that’s other than your regular group (if you’ve been going to the same one regularly), you automatically have the opportunity to see fresh faces. Sure, some folks move around meetings as a matter of course, since variety spices things up – and this extends to self-help meeting participation just as anything else in life. But, by and large, you will be exposed to people you don’t know, or at least, don’t know very well.
What you will be doing is getting out of the house or office or wherever else you’ve been hiding and being in and around people.
But it’s not just any group of people. It is individuals who are also on the journey of recovery, just as you are. This gives you a common denominator, a place from which to begin sharing conversations and, perhaps, even friendships.
Fill Up Your Schedule
When you’re busy doing things that you need to do for your recovery, you’re not as likely to wonder too much or entertain gloomy thoughts about your lost friendships. This is not to say that you won’t think about your former friends from time to time, but these types of memories will tend to fade over time – especially if you keep yourself busy.
You already know from your days during rehab that it’s important to keep busy in the early days of recovery. Idle time is not your best friend and can easily lead you astray. If you sit around and pine about the "good old days" and the carousing and late-night or all-night episodes – with or without those former friends – you won’t be motivated to get on with the business of living in the here and now.
There’s plenty that you can do. It is, however, up to you to figure out what’s important to you right now. Then create a schedule that maximizes your time from the moment you wake up until you head off to sleep. Once you have your schedule, dive into it. This may seem like an incredible chore or an unmitigated bore to some, but it is nonetheless necessary if you are to begin making progress in your healing journey.
Be sure to make time in your daily routine for exercise, eating well, and getting sufficient amounts of sleep. That’s because you are coming from a deficit position, having only recently regained (or are regaining) your health. You need to take good care of yourself in order to be in the position to make good decisions about your life and where you want to take it.
Get a Sponsor
Let’s assume that you’re still in the early stages of recovery and haven’t yet secured a sponsor. Maybe it’s not even something that you’ve actively considered, even though you recall this recommendation from your therapist as part of your recovery plan that you created in your final days of rehab.
What’s the big deal about having a sponsor? Why the hurry to get one? Well, it isn’t that there’s any sort of timetable attached. It just makes good sense since your 12-step sponsor is there to help you navigate the early days in recovery, to help you learn about the Twelve Steps and the Principles of Recovery. He or she is tasked with, and takes very seriously, the responsibility to answer your questions, to support and encourage you, and to call you out when you’re shirking your obligations or avoiding facing issues that you need to deal with.
Who are these sponsors and how do they know so much? The answer is that they’re people who have made the often difficult and sometimes painful journey from addiction to recovery – just like you. They know what it feels like to be abandoned and alone, to have no one to turn to, to be confused and angry and ashamed and to entertain feelings of hopelessness and despair. Who better to listen to what you have to say about the issues or problems you’re facing in recovery?
No, your sponsor isn’t your therapist and cannot dispense any sort of counseling. For that you need to return to or get another professional to help you out. And that is certainly available to many individuals post-treatment as part of continuing care or aftercare. Even if you don’t have such a benefit remaining as part of your overall treatment program, you can always secure additional counseling on your own.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. If it helps you make sense of your new situation, so much the better.
But do take advantage of the ready-made relationship that’s available to you with your 12-step sponsor. If you don’t yet have one, put this at the top of your priority list. Not only will you be doing something incredibly valuable for your recovery, but you will be actively engaged in the process of finding someone to be your sponsor. That’s time that you won’t be spending worrying about being rebuffed by your friends.
What If Your Friends Were Users, Too?
It’s necessary to talk about a circumstance here that may be all too familiar among the newly-recovered. That is when your former friends were the same ones that you used with or hung out at the bar with or gambled with, and so on.
When it’s these individuals, your pals, who give you the cold shoulder, it is probably the best thing that can happen to you. That’s because you aren’t in any position to hang around with them any longer. You simply can’t afford to put yourself in the company of others who are still using. Even if you have no intention of doing so, the environment itself is toxic.
Think this can’t happen to you? The old sounds, smells, the overwhelming craving to use will rear up and drag you back into the clutches of addiction faster than you can say, "I can handle it." The truth is that you can’t handle it, not now, and probably not ever again.
Why would you want to, anyway? Didn’t you just spend weeks or months getting clean and sober? Didn’t you commit to living a life in sobriety because you wanted to change the way you were living — unless you really didn’t intend to make good on your promise to yourself and others in the first place. Maybe you figured that you would give this sobriety thing a try and now don’t like what you’re into?
The hard reality is that if you’re going to relapse, you will. If you start thinking along the lines of you can handle it, you’re already three-quarters of the way there. It won’t take much, maybe just sitting at the bar with a glass of soda and seeing that amber liquid poured into your "friend’s" glass before you give up and give in.
But back to the reality for some that the friends you’re so concerned about were the same ones you used with – what can or should you do?
The quick answer is keep moving forward and don’t look back. You can’t live in the past and don’t need to torment yourself about the what-ifs and whys. You have a new life now and it’s up to you to make the most of it – finding healthy ways to live and developing new friendships that help you enjoy your sobriety and find meaning and purpose that’s worthwhile.
How Long Before the Emptiness Goes Away?
A natural question is how long it will take before the feelings of emptiness will go away? Is there anything you can do to speed up the healing?
The same basic prescription that applies to overall healing applies equally well when it comes to how you get over being rebuffed by your friends. It just takes time. That, and a willingness to do the best that you can at every opportunity to make your life better in sobriety.
For some, this healing will take a matter of weeks. For others, it may take months before they feel comfortable living in sobriety and gain more self-confidence and self-esteem being in the company of others. It may take additional time for individuals who are learning how to manage a co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorder, or those who are still on the mend due to an exacerbating medical condition that’s either the result of or pre-dated the onset of addiction.
Keep busy. Make new friends. Fill up your life with positive activities. Don’t look back. Spend some time thinking about what you want for yourself and your life in recovery. Take time to dream – and then work to make those dreams come true.
Along with this, what you’re likely to find is that you’re no longer bothered by the loss of your former friends. And, who knows, they may see how much you’ve changed, realize that your friendship does matter, and want to re-establish your relationship.
Then, it’s up to you whether you continue to value what they have to offer. If it’s meaningful and worthwhile, and doesn’t jeopardize your sobriety, go for it. Everyone needs friends in their life, true friends, not merely acquaintances that disappear when the going gets rough or circumstances become a little tough for them to handle.
As for you, you’re on the journey of recovery. The way ahead is to keep moving forward, little by little, day by day. It will get easier. That is a promise.