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Losing friends in sobriety

Meet Aubrey
Aubrey (she/her) struggled with addiction for more than 10 years and has a range of experiences as a loved one to call upon. She has always wanted to help others impacted by addiction and let them know they're not alone.

Q: Will I lose friends if I get sober?

A: Unfortunately, my short answer is probably.

I remember feeling like the people I drank with were my family. You spend so much time with them, they have your back, you get into trouble together, you have so many crazy adventures – it’s hard not to see that as a loss.

It’s not that my old friends were bad people, I just couldn’t be part of that lifestyle anymore. It’s not what I wanted my life to look like. I needed to do different things, and if they chose not to do those things with me, that’s how it had to be. I had to continually remind myself of that when I was feeling down or lonely. 

I want to emphasize that the people you lose touch with may have been true friends who are unable to support you right now. People choose different paths that go in different directions – that doesn’t mean the friendships weren’t genuine or meaningful.

When I got sober, I chose to stop going out and doing the things I normally would with my friends. I told them I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t going to go out – so they showed up at my house with alcohol. They were respectful of my decision at first, but after they had a few drinks they started to pressure me to “just have one.” Eventually, they stopped coming over and asking me to do things with them. Even though I initiated it, it still hurt. I had to remember that it wasn’t about me, it was about the alcohol.

There were times I wanted to do something, but every single person I’d want to call, I couldn’t. They were either going out or hungover from the night before. I felt really alone. I had to focus on my life with my daughter and our routine. It was boring, but it worked. It was like clockwork. I did that until I felt stronger in my recovery and had a better handle on the other parts of my life.

If you’re trying to cope with the loss of friends, I recommend working on self-talk. I like to think there’s a jury of peers in my head that I can present evidence to. When I had negative thoughts about my friend group – “life sucks,” “you have no friends,” “all your friends ditched you” – I intentionally had a different conversation with the jury. “Exhibit A: I made the choice to stay home because it’s what’s best for me.”

Making friends isn’t easy, especially if you’ve been labeled or felt shame due to your drinking. And it doesn’t help that alcohol is pretty much everywhere. I used to have negative thoughts when I’d try to make new friends, like, “I can’t be friends with this person; they’re successful and I’m not worth it.” The truth is, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone does things they’re not proud of. We’re all people – don’t put yourself below anyone else.

Even though you may lose friends, chances are you’ll also have people rally around you in sobriety. Before I stopped drinking, my parents had stepped away from our relationship. They never cut me off, but we didn’t talk very much. We became much closer once I made the decision to get sober. Keep in mind not everyone will be in a healthy enough place to be your support person. If you need someone to talk to, especially someone with firsthand experience of what you’re going through, please consider getting paired with a peer coach on our get started page.

Even though the loss of friends is difficult, it will get easier over time. You’ll change and grow. Even your lens of what fun looks like may change. When I was drinking, alcohol was the focal point for everything. That was my idea of fun and relaxation. Going for a walk or reading a book definitely didn’t sound interesting. As time goes on, you may slowly start to redefine what fun means to you. Maybe working out or cooking will become important and enjoyable. And those new interests may present opportunities to find new friends!

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