Top 10 Tips for Making Real Friends
A strong support network is among your best defenses against addiction relapse. And especially if you’re short on supportive family or your relationships there are affected by lingering hard feelings, good friends outside your household are important contributors to that network. But if you’ve been hanging out primarily with “drinking buddies,” you may have some work to do finding supportive friends who share healthier interests.
A Top Ten list of tips for making the right friends:
1. BE A REGULAR AT SOBRIETY SUPPORT MEETINGS
By attending “Anonymous” or similar meetings every week, you’ll get to know people who really understand and sympathize with your struggles. Consider whom you “click” with and would like to get to know socially.
2. LEARN TO REALLY SEE THOSE YOU SEE REGULARLY
It’s all too possible to live in the same apartment building, work at the same office or attend the same religious congregation for years—without giving more than a passing nod to anyone else there. Make it your goal for the next two months to engage at least one “passing acquaintance” per week in real conversation, and before the first month is up, chances you’ll find someone worth getting to know better. (Hint: choose people who look excited about something, or in need of an encouraging word, and use that as a conversation starter.)
3. DO WHAT YOU LOVE
Rediscover old goals and hobbies—then join Meetup groups focused on those interests. Besides meeting others, you’ll be motivated to keep busy with wholesome projects that crowd out relapse temptations.
4. APPROACH NEW RELATIONSHIPS WITH SOME CAUTION
Although it’s more common in romantic relationships, it can also happen in platonic friendships: you meet someone who likes what you like, shows genuine interest in you and seems too good to be true—then they gradually begin taking advantage of you, trying to control your every move and/or influencing you in wrong directions, but instead of cutting ties, you become desperate to recapture those “perfect friendship” days and so stick around until things get really toxic. (Sounds a bit like addiction, doesn’t it?) Give yourself a few months of getting to know someone before you invest your full self emotionally. And if signs of serious trouble develop (without an obvious argument or misunderstanding to trigger them), don’t convince yourself you can “fix” things: make yourself unavailable and go find better friends.
5. AVOID ANYONE WHO DRINKS RECREATIONALLY OR USES ILLEGAL DRUGS
It doesn’t matter if they have no addiction problems of their own or even if they don’t actively pressure you to join them: if any form of drug use is a central focus of their favorite activities, you’ll be playing a dangerous game by going there.
6. TAKE THE INITIATIVE
Those who always wait for others to invite them tend to find that those invitations never materialize—and to get bitter as a result, which makes others even less interested in getting to know them. When you meet someone you’d like to get to know better, you do the inviting. You don’t have to throw a party or even pay for anyone else’s lunch: a simple “let’s go down the street and chat over coffee” can produce results.
7. BE A GOOD LISTENER
If you let your eyes glaze over, or if you interrupt when others are talking, the impression you give off is “self-centered,” an attitude that wins few friends. Encourage others to talk about themselves—and stay genuinely interested. If someone says something that reminds you of a good story, don’t tell it until they pause, and don’t get so caught up in “waiting your turn” that you hear nothing further they say. (And so what if you completely lose your chance to tell that story—if this person likes you, there’ll be another time.)
8. CONTRIBUTE YOUR SHARE TO THE RELATIONSHIP
Pay your own way, clean up your own messes, ask if anyone else wants anything when you get up to refill your plate, and be willing to inconvenience yourself when a friend needs special help.
9. CONTRIBUTE YOUR SHARE OF “TAKE” AS WELL AS “GIVE”
It may sound counterintuitive, but people don’t really want friends who always pay for both, always give more expensive gifts, always do the hard jobs and never accept help from anyone else. Human beings have a universal desire to contribute and to know the joys of giving—if you never allow your friends those opportunities, they’ll either lose interest in you, or start treating you merely as someone to be “used.”
10. EXPECT THE BEST
Both from your friends (by believing in them and encouraging them) and from friendship itself (trust you will find the right friends for you). Optimism is a key ingredient of friendship and long-term sobriety!