If you’re in recovery, it’s possible that you may need to put an end to old friendships, especially those that are harmful. You might be feeling that you’re not going to be able to spend time with those who jeopardize your sobriety or those who have been unkind and harmful in some way.
Perhaps you’re yearning for friendships with those who are also in recovery or those who are also working on themselves and learning and growing, just as you are. However, how do you let go of your old friendships in a healthy way? If your friends continue to have an expectation to spend time together, how do you let them know that you’re ready to move on?
Learning How to Be Assertive
It’s common, for women especially, to have a hard time saying no. And it’s common for most people to want to avoid directly rejecting someone. However, now that you’re in recovery, you’re likely learning that it’s time to put your needs first and take care of yourself, and that includes letting go of those friendships that no longer serve your well being. Ending a friendship with someone that continues to have expectations of you is going to come down to a matter of assertiveness. You’re going to have to be assertive about your needs and wishes.
This might be very difficult depending on what you’ve learned about relationships in your family of origin. It’s common in families with addiction to have co-dependent relationship. Nonetheless, it’s important to be clear about what you want and to address your friend in the following way:
- Don’t simply ignore your friend. One very common way of ending a friendship is to simply avoid that person. You hope that at some point he or she will get the hint, even though you are essentially still rejecting them. In truth, your avoidance comes out of your lack of courage to have a face-to-face conversation with them. This is an unhealthy way of ending your friendship. It’s one thing if the friendship naturally comes to an end because of your differences – you are sober and your friend isn’t. However, if your friend continues to have expectations of a having a friendship, then it’s best to speak directly to that person.
- Your conversation doesn’t have to be hostile. Telling your friend that you no longer wish to see them does not have to be a hostile action. It is possible that you have a polite and candid conversation with your friend, stating what it is that you want to do (not to be friends), and offer a toned down but still essentially honest version of why this is the case.
- Be clear about your boundaries when you talk. There are often two types of dysfunctional relationships. Those that are too close and those that are too distant. When boundaries are too close (when they are enmeshed or when one person lets the other in too much), you might have a hard time saying no, give in too much, get involved too quickly, trust too easily, intrude on others (such as violate their boundaries), or stay in relationships too long. When boundaries are too distance (not letting people in enough, detached), you might have difficulty saying yes in a relationship, isolate yourself, distrust too easily, feel lonely, or stay in relationships too briefly. Depending up on your relationship patterns, one of these might be true. Knowing this ahead of time might be useful so that you can stay true to your wish to end the friendship.
Ending friendships aren’t easy, especially when the other person continues to feel that your friendship can carry on as it is. However, if it’s abusive, dangerous to your sobriety, or dysfunctional, it’s perfectly okay to say good bye to people that aren’t good for you. You have the right to have people in your life that are supportive, loving, and accepting of all that you are.