5 Reasons Sober Friendships Fall Apart
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5 Reasons Sober Friendships Fall Apart


Generally speaking, it can be remarkably easy to make new friends in sobriety. Unlike most other social spaces, people actually come to you! They walk right up and offer their phone numbers and ask you to coffee. It’s pretty awesome, right? What’s not so awesome is when those friendships fizzle out or fade away. Here are some of those scenarios.

1) Somebody Relapses

One of the most common reasons why program friendships fall apart is pretty obvious: because one or the other relapses. It can be tough to stay friends with someone who’s gone out—not impossible, but sometimes hard. For multiple reasons, like the overwhelming sense of worry and concern that your buddy will overdo it to the frustration of watching them revert to shitty old patterns and behaviors.

2) Somebody Gets New Friends 

A super-annoying and difficult pattern I’ve noticed in the 12-step world is people suddenly up and decide to snap their fingers and score brand-new friends. It kinda makes sense, I guess, given the rotating-door situation in AA—people constantly shuffle in and out, and there’s simply no way to discern who’ll be a friend for life and who’ll be a friend for Right Now. It can hurt like a bitch, though, when someone you thought you were close to essentially stops speaking to you for no legit, discernable reason.

3) Somebody Moves Away 

Moving is also super-common in recovery circles. Why? Because of the mythic allure of leaving all your problems behind courtesy of the geographic, of course! The “geographical cure” is a well-known phenomenon in the program. It entails moving somewhere far, far away to, as we said, leave all one’s probs behind. Because obviously you never just drag all your shit with you—wherever you go, there you are, and all that. Most folks find that despite whether they stay in their new hometown or not, geographics, well, don’t really work. You can’t outrun your issues.

4) Somebody Gets Preachy 

The program can be a hotbed of sanctimoniousness…and irritation. When some people get a little time under their belt and become more familiar with the 12-steps and how they can help people, they can start to succumb to being know-it-alls who bestow all their incredible wisdom and knowledge on the poor saps around them—including their friends. Needless to say, this can be disconcerting, annoying and judgey, and it’s behavior that tends to drive off friends who aren’t in the same sanctimonius boat.

5) Somebody Gets Codependent 

Sober friendships can get especially intense. Blame it on the intimacy that can develop when people connect over the issues most addicts and alcoholics tend to share. We’ve embarrassed ourselves, demoralized ourselves and beaten ourselves down before finally reaching the point of turning things around. Whatever the reason, some sober friendships can grow mutually claustrophobic, stuffy—even codependent—relatively quickly. If you’re in a friendship that escalates to the near-intensity of a romantic relationship, take a step back and make sure you’re not limiting yourself. Those kinds of friendships are especially prone to falling apart at some point, as one or both parties realize all the other people they’ve been missing out on.

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and CNN.com. Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.