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How to stay sober when someone doesn't want you to

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

So, you've finally done it. You're sober and committed to staying that way. You know what your triggers are (and how to avoid them) and are managing any cravings like a boss.

There's just one serious issue in your way: other people. Crazy as it seems, it's almost as if they don't want you to stay sober.

When *Amanda first went to rehab, her husband and best friend were right behind her. "They saw what my drinking was doing to me and encouraged me to go to rehab and to a support group."

As embracing recovery and practicing healthier habits and boundaries became the norm for her, the attitude from her loved ones began to change.

"They liked that I wasn't drinking and causing chaos anymore but they didn't like how assertive I had become. It was almost as if they didn't know what to do with me now that I wasn't sick anymore."

Alcoholism: the family disease

Alcoholism is called a family disease because it effects everyone, not just the person drinking. In this dynamic, people can unconsciously play certain roles – the saviour or the rescuer, for example – which aren't needed once a sober person no longer needs saving or rescuing. Everyone family needs to change as someone gets well, which can be challenging if someone has attached their identity to the role they've played for so long.

With the support of her addictions counsellor, Amanda encouraged her husband and friend to become more educated about the disease of alcoholism and learn about its dynamics in family and friendships.

"I told them about a support group especially for people affected by someone else's alcoholism. Going there helped us all a lot. They learnt that their behaviour in our relationships could be just as unhealthy as my drinking was."

Detoxing from losing a 'drinking buddy'

When *Tom got sober, his best mate started to act strangely. "He avoided me for a little wile and then started acting like nothing had happened. He'd drop around with a case of beer, expecting me to drink with him, or text me when he was drunk to invite me over."

It's common for drinking buddies, whether they be family, friends, colleagues or even just acquaintances, to play the saboteur role when they've lost their social partner.

Setting strong boundaries – when people are sober – is key in protecting your sobriety, which is what Tom did with his friend.

"When I laid down the law and let him know I wasn't going back to drinking, he backed right off."

Adjusting to a new way of life can mean letting go of people, places and things that are no longer congruent with your recovery. That might mean changing jobs, hobbies, where you live and the people you have relationships with.

All this change can hurt and takes time to get used to.

"I was upset that my mate couldn't respect my sobriety and didn't want to have anything to do with me unless I was drinking," Tom says. "It was sad but it was better that way. A few years down the track, I realise letting each other go was the best thing and left room for healthier friendships to form."

*Names changed for privacy.

Phone Elaine on 027 573 7744 for a confidential chat.

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