One of the keys to maintaining sobriety, if you have recently quit drinking, are the personal relationships in your life. Those relationships - whether supportive or negative influences - can play a huge role in your chances of remaining sober.
During your drinking career - the average length of which is more than 20 years - chances are that you discarded some relationships with non-drinkers and formed relationships with others drinkers.
If your alcoholism became severe enough, you may have ended up with few or no close relationships at all. As your effort and energy focused on seeking alcohol, drinking alcohol and recovering from drinking bouts, you had little time to develop or maintain relationships with non-drinking friends and relatives.
Now that you have decided to learn how to live life sober, positive and healthy relationships can be an important source of support in your recovery journey. Negative relationships can derail all of your best intentions.
Inventory Your Relationships
If you want to remain sober and learn to live that way, it may be helpful if you:
- Make a list of the family and social relationships that you still have.
- Access which of those relationships are positive and can be a source of support.
- Identify those that are negative and potentially damaging or unhealthy.
A Danger to Your Sobriety
Once you have identified the unhealthy relationships in your life, it is important that you take steps to change your involvement in those relationships.
It is not uncommon for alcoholics new to recovery to have to let go of many of their friendships, especially their old drinking buddies. It is simply too dangerous to keep hanging around those influences.
Two types of relationships that may seem to be supportive to you but are actually potentially harmful are with people who are codependent or enablers.
Codependents and Enablers
Codependency happens when someone is controlled by an alcoholic's addictive behavior. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, codependents have come to believe that "love, acceptance, security, and approval are contingent upon taking care of the addict in the way the addict wishes."
The problem with this behavior - which includes excessive caregiving - is it can create more dependency by the alcoholic. It makes it easier for the alcoholic to slide back into old behaviors and attitudes.
Enabling occurs when someone in your life encourages you to keep drinking, directly or indirectly, and many times unknowingly and unintentionally. Enablers will lie and cover up your behavior or do things for you that you could or should be doing yourself.
Blatant enablers are those people who will give you booze or give you money to buy alcohol when you can't afford it.
If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes
If you have people in your life who exhibit codependent or enabling, it could be helpful if you can eliminate those relationships from your life.
Of course, if those codependents and enablers are relatives - like spouses or parents - you cannot end those relationships. You might suggest that they learn more about enabling and codependency or join a support group like Al-Anon Family Groups.
Many codependents learned their behavior as adult children of alcoholics and might benefit from Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings and literature.
What if you don't have any family or social relationships that are supportive to your recovery? You might want to consider becoming involved in your own support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or develop friends through your church or recreational activities.
It's important because healthy relationships can be an extremely important key to maintain your sobriety.
Learn more about Living Sober.