Let’s start with some words of wisdom from one of the most famous Friends in the world, Jennifer Aniston:
There’s nothing like a really loyal, dependable, good friend. Nothing.
We agree. And we would argue that this is particularly true when you are in recovery from a substance use disorder. The quality of your friendships—your support network—can be a key factor when it comes to whether or not you will be able to maintain your sobriety over time. You need friends who will stand by you when the going gets tough, who will help you avoid (or escape) situations in which your sobriety may be threatened, and who will be there to listen when you need them the most.
That sort of friend can be a true support for a person in recovery. Or as the Biblical book of Proverbs (chapter 27, verse 9) puts it: A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.
Not All Friendships Are Created Equal
In the era of social media, the meaning of the word “friend” has been diluted. Let’s face it: not all of your Facebook “friends” (heck, maybe not even most of your Facebook “friends”) really qualify as friends at all.
Newspaper columnist Walter Winchell (whose gossip column no doubt cost him plenty of potential friends) put it this way:
A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
That’s the sort of friend a person with a substance use disorder really needs, right? The type of person who remains steadfastly on your side even when your world is falling apart—and who will tell you the truth even when the truth is hard. Or as author Frances Ward Weller frames the idea:
A friend can tell you things you don’t want to tell yourself.
That sort of friend may be the person who helps you admit to yourself that you need help to overcome a substance use disorder. And they will likely be there for you after you have gone through treatment, ready and willing to help you stay sober.
A True Friend Makes Time to Listen
The actress and singer Marlene Dietrich had a way to determine her true friends:
It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.
It is an important point. Who are the friends you can count on—no matter the time or the situation? Those are the friends you need in your support network. (That said, we encourage you to use the 4 a.m. phone call sparingly. People—including you—need their sleep.)
Former NFL player and award-winning film producer Ed Cunningham puts it this way:
Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.
Knowing who will make time to listen to you when you are having a difficult time is important to your ongoing recovery. That is why strong friendships are so important.
Friendships Are Not a One Way Street
So far, we have focused on the kinds of friends and friendships you need to support you so that you can maintain your sobriety over the long term. But it is so important to keep in mind that friendship is a relationship that flows both ways. Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson had a succinct way to express this idea:
The only way to have a friend is to be one.
There is a good chance that your struggles with drugs or alcohol have led to some broken relationships that need to be mended. But even if that is not the case, it is essential to remember that your steadfast friends need steadfast friends, too. Everyone struggles from time to time, and everyone needs to know who will be there for them in those difficult moments.
While you were using drugs or alcohol, you may not have been able to play that role in anyone’s life. But once you have reclaimed your sobriety, you have the opportunity to be a better friend.
Life Is a Collaborative Activity
There’s a very American myth of rugged individualism—the idea that a person with enough grit can accomplish anything all on their own. But that’s not how the world really works. We are entangled in one another’s lives—and this can be good or bad. The key is to find the right people (and to be the right kind of person yourself). Oprah Winfrey says it like this:
Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.
If you follow that advice, you may well find what ballet dancer Misty Copeland says to be true in your own life:
Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.
Like the Friends Song Says: We’ll Be There For You
At The Aviary Recovery Center, we provide the expertise, compassion, and evidence-based practices that can help you reclaim your life. If you need help overcoming a substance use disorder, we can provide it.
It is possible that you are reluctant to get help—or have convinced yourself you don’t need it. If that’s the case, we urge you to listen to those among your friends who are willing to step up and talk with you about their concerns for your well-being. As humorist and businessman Arnold H. Glasgow said:
A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.
We are here to help you change your direction. Once you have regained your sobriety, things will be looking up—and your true friendships can flourish.