Alcoholism and drug abuse is a world-wide epidemic that doesn’t just vanish when a person makes a decision to change his way of life. Although a person may have chosen a new way of life for himself, there are still millions of people struggling with the same issues the person in recovery is seeking refuge from. Anyone currently in recovery for an addiction can tell you that they didn’t change until they wanted to change. Families and friends can beg and plead until they are blue in the face, but the overwhelming majority of the time, the change doesn’t take place until the addict is ready to make a change on his own. Knowing this, the question for the person in recovery becomes, “How should I interact with someone who is still living the type of life I am trying to get out of?”
Once the person in recovery chooses his new way of life, there can be a lot of mental debate on this subject. Some individuals will completely cut off ties with people who are still active in their use. Some individuals will go out of their way to preach their new way of life to people who haven’t made that choice on their own. This is a very sensitive topic, as everyone in recovery will likely encounter this situation at some time.
There is not a cookie-cutter approach to dealing with this situation. It depends on the specific individual. Some people must cut off all ties in order to keep from slipping back into their former way of life. Other people continue to associate with the still-struggling person on some level but choose not to engage in the same activities as that person. In my personal opinion, a person should not be faulted for choosing either direction. It’s not as though there is one set way that is right and one set way that is wrong. Choosing the path that feels right for the individual is where the debate comes into play.
Many people in recovery resist cutting off ties with friends or family members who may still be actively drinking or using drugs if the relationship is built on things other than using. They may still try to keep in contact with them, but on a different level. If the relationship has been built solely on using, it may be best to cut off all ties for a time. Cutting off all ties can be a better approach than trying to convince someone to change who is unwilling. Preaching about the dangers of alcohol or drugs to a person actively involved with them typically does not yield good results. Alcoholics Anonymous says, “A spirit of intolerance might repel alcoholics whose lives could have been saved.” (pg. 103) No one wants to feel as though they are being condemned by someone who was once just like them.
My personal stance on the subject is to stay engaged with these people as long as it doesn’t affect my sobriety. I think the people who knew me when I was in the midst of my struggles can see the progress this new way of life has lead me to. Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you.” (NIV) Accepting people doesn’t mean you have to approve of all their actions, but that you accept them for who they are. I know a lot of people who do things I don’t necessarily agree with, but knowing that no one is perfect helps me keep things in perspective. An open door to a non-judgmental person can be something that helps someone make a change when he doesn’t know where to turn. What is your stance on this subject, and what is your experience with it?