Building Bridges: Relationship Changes in Sobriety

Relationship Changes

I knew my relationships were going to change when I got sober, and once I learned I could live life without alcohol, I became less focused on drinking or not drinking and more focused on my personal growth. I did not want to be a dry drunk, so I knew that I had to make a lot of changes so that my old behaviors (that kept me drinking in the past) wouldn’t jeopardize my sobriety in the future. So, I had some work to do — particularly with the people in my life. 

What I didn’t realize was just how much my relationships would change once I put the drink down. I also didn’t realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in other people.  Prior to getting sober, my life revolved around drinking and the people I drank with. So when the alcohol and people were suddenly gone,  so was a  big part of my identity.  

Damn near every relationship in my life changed when I got sober.  The first major shift I noticed was that my drinking buddies and any superficial relationships I had fell away — quickly.  With a now shrunken social circle, I started doing a lot of things on my own and I felt a bit lonely.  I was also sad that the people I considered friends were no longer around,  and I learned pretty quickly that they may not have been real friends all along.  But as time went on, I started making new friends in recovery and those relationships were more meaningful and deeper than the ones I had cultivated from a bar stool.  

My relationships with family changed as well.  Whereas I once ran to them for emotional support and help, I now started using my recovery program and therapy. I began relying on the tools I learned there to cope with life, instead of running to my family to fix me or help justify something that was bothering me.  I recognized that running to others for help wasn’t remedying anything, and that I had to rely on myself and other people who had been through what I was going through to cope. 

Realizing that no one could save me from my problems, I no longer wanted my business out in the world. Broadcasting my drama was a big part of my drinking behavior, and I didn’t want to be the talk of the town anymore.  So, I started guarding my personal life and only sharing what was going on with me with a close circle of trusted people.  Some people close to me may have perceived this new (and radical) silence as me being distant, but really what I was practicing for the first time in my life was boundaries. 

The biggest realization I had was that my relationships changed because I was changing. For the most part, the people around me were operating as they always had, yet I had done a 180 by getting sober and doing hard work to change my old ways. I still don’t quite recognize the person I am becoming because it’s such a polar opposite to who I was, and perhaps some people in my life don’t like this new version of me.  But in doing what’s best for me, I am doing what’s best for others, and if I continue to lose people or if a relationship dynamic shifts, that’s better for everyone involved. 

These behavioral changes, and losing some relationships, meant that my life got a bit smaller and quieter. But with that shrinkage came a lot of peace. And that peace was something I used to look for at the bottom of my glass.  I no longer had to use alcohol or people to fill a void or help me rationalize my nonsense.  When I put the drink down, I didn’t realize how many of my relationships would change or end. But it’s all been for the better because the relationships I have now are richer, and the people I lost made room for new people to come in.


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