The People Around Us

When I was a kid, my parents were always very concerned about who I was spending my time with. “I don’t want that Nick kid coming over,” my dad would say. “He’s a bad influence on you.” At the time, I thought my dad was being unfair, acting like a jerk because parents are out to ruin our fun. Of course, I hung out with Nick and others my parents didn’t like anyway. As it turns out, despite being a “problem child” at the time, Nick grew up to be a pretty nice guy, but we got into plenty of trouble together along the way. My parents had a point—the people you spend your time with can be a very strong influence on the choices you make and the direction your life takes, whether you’re aware of it or not.

When I look back over my years of drug and alcohol addiction, one thing that was always true was that I surrounded myself with people who were headed in the same direction I was. It’s hard to say whether I sought out people who were at the level I wanted to reach, or if the people I was with brought me down to their level. It’s like the chicken and the egg—the answer doesn’t really matter. The point is, I most likely wouldn’t have made some of the terrible choices I made if my friends hadn’t been doing the same thing. It would have been a lot harder for me to try heroin for the first time if I wasn’t hanging out with people who were known to use it. But when it was sitting there in front of me for the first time, I didn’t even hesitate. I jumped right in.

We must find community and stick with those individuals through our recovery processes

The Blame Game

This makes it sound like I’m blaming other people for my addiction. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I am my own person, and I made my own choices. I didn’t choose to be born an addict, hooked on whatever substance I could get my hands on, but I did make the choice to pick up those substances in the first place. The increasingly shady people I spent my time around as I descended into addiction influenced me to make increasingly shady choices, but the decisions I made were mine and mine alone—including the decision to even speak to them in the first place.

 

Making Changes

When I first started trying to get sober, I was told more than once that I needed to change everything about my life. Of course, I didn’t listen. I wanted things to go on exactly as they were, just minus all the suffering I was experiencing. I kept hanging out with the same dysfunctional, toxic people I had been using with—and I went straight back to using. What a shocker.

Today I’m proud to say my recovery is strong and stable. The people I spend my time with are happy and healthy, with lives headed in positive directions—just like mine. This isn’t something that happened overnight. There was a point in early recovery when I had to make some hard choices—I cared about my using friends, as toxic as they were, but they were bringing me down. I cut them out of my life. I even had to block some phone numbers. I felt bad, but I did what I had to in order to survive, and it worked. Building new relationships took time, but the friends I have today are better than ever before. At this point, nothing could convince me to go back to the way things were.