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Monday, January 8, 2018

Early Recovery: Focusing on the "People" Part of "People, Places and Things"

The decision to get sober is one of the biggest and most challenging decisions you can make in your life.  Once you've made this decision, you need to assess your life about how you're going to maintain your sobriety.  The concept of being aware of "people, places and things" in order not to relapse is an important one.  In this article, I'm focusing on the people part of "people, places and things" because it's often one of the hardest parts of recovery (see my articles: Early Recovery: You've Stopped Drinking. Now What? and The Myth of Having to "Hit Bottom" to Change).

Early Recovery: Focusing on the "People" of "People, Places and Things"

Reassessing Your Friendships in Light of Your Desire to Remain Sober
During early recovery, people usually take stock of their lives, including the people they hang out with when they drink--their drinking buddies.  When drinking buddies are only acquaintances at the local bar, as opposed to close friends, it's less of a challenge to refrain from seeing them in order to avoid the temptation to drink.

But when the people are close friends, it's a much more difficult situation and you might need to make some hard choices in order to stay sober.   

This doesn't necessarily mean that you need to give up your friends completely.  For instance, if you have close friends, who drink a lot, but who also like to engage in other activities, you could avoid meeting them at the bar and, instead, meet them at the movies.  

When you explain to your friends that you're giving up drinking, if they're good friends, it's more than likely they will encourage you to do what's best for you regardless of how they feel about drinking.

But when you have friends who might be in denial about how much they're drinking, they could perceive your sobriety as a threat because it forces them to look at their own drinking.  

As a result, they might minimize your problem in order to avoid dealing with their own drinking problem.  This doesn't mean that your friends don't care about you.  It usually means that they're afraid to look at themselves and it's easier for them to minimize your problem than to look at their own issues.

If close friends are encouraging you to join them for drinks after you've told them that you want to stop drinking, you need to make a decision about these friendships in light of your desire to stay sober.  

The same is true for friends who are only interested in going out drinking and who have no other interests.  If they're not willing to meet you for coffee or to do something else that doesn't involve alcohol, you will need to reassess these friendships because you will be putting your well-being at risk if you go along with them to bars.

Isolation Isn't the Answer:  Getting Sober Support in Self Help Meetings
You will need emotional support to maintain your sobriety, especially if you have to give up friends (see my articles: Overcoming Loneliness and Social Isolation and Changing Maladaptive Coping Strategies That Don't Work: Avoidance).

Many people who are trying to get sober isolate themselves in order to avoid alcohol.  This might work for a short time, but it's not the answer in the long run.  

Everyone needs emotional support, especially if you're taking on the challenge of staying sober.  Isolation only makes you feel lonely and it makes it that much more likely that you'll return to alcohol as your "old friend."

You can find sober support at Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meetings.  Visiting several Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is a good way to find a meeting that feels right for you because every meeting is different.  

When you find a meeting that feels right for you, you can also obtain an interim sponsor, someone who volunteers him or herself in a beginners meeting to be a temporary sponsor until you find someone that you feel comfortable with, which could be your interim sponsor or it could be someone else.

Getting Help in Therapy
But what if you attend several A.A. meetings and you feel overwhelmed by these meetings? (see my article:  Early Recovery: What If 12 Step Meetings Are Too Overwhelming For You?).

Then, you would do well to consider individual psychotherapy with a psychotherapist who has experience working with people in recovery (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

Even if you're attending A.A. meetings and you have a sponsor, it's a good idea to consider individual therapy to work on the underlying issues that contribute to your excessive drinking.  

A.A. meetings and sponsorship can be important components to recovery.  But if you don't eventually address in greater depth the underlying issues that trigger your drinking, you're more prone to relapse.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients who are in recovery to stay sober.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.



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