Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.


It’s common among recovering alcoholics and addicts that once they are sober, they often can’t associate with the same peer group as they did when they were sick.  When you’re trying to stay sober, it’s difficult to be around people who are drinking, trading drinking stories, making drinking jokes, or even rehab group jokes.

This is one of the reasons why many treatment professionals warn against eating disorder patients staying in contact with people from treatment.  If one person relapses, it’s easy for the other to relapse. We’ve been told this many times.  I think there is some really good truth to this belief, but I also know that I have found some great support and friendship from people I met in treatment–but I have to admit that in all cases each person was invested in his or her recovery.

There is something treatment professionals don’t always warn us about: the fact that even after we recover, after we have done our best to rebuild trust and relationships, sometimes we lose people along the way.  Sometimes, there are people who got so used to the “sick” us that they can’t accept the healthy us.  They will always be waiting for us to slip into old behavioral patterns, old ways of relating to people.  Sometimes these people met us while we were sick, and perhaps it isn’t fair for us to ask them to accept us now, healthy, because they never knew what healthy looked like in the first place.

But sometimes, our recovery and change requires change in other people, changes they may not be willing to make.

How do we know which relationships will bear this test?  How do we know when to walk away?  I wish I knew the answer.  But right now, the lyrics of an Antje Duvekot song are running through my head:

“Dublin Boys”

” . . . I know that things gotta change / it’s what they always do / Oh but change has never been known to wait for you / I’m gonna go wear the green is / Don’t want to live for brown / I’m gonna get back on my horse till I go down . . . “


October 6, 2009 - Posted by | Communication, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I love reading your blog, you are an extremely talented writer that often expresses so eloquently my own feelings about recovery. However, I do have to disagree with you on one point.

    “When you’re trying to stay sober, it’s difficult to be around people who are drinking, trading drinking stories, making drinking jokes, or even rehab group jokes.”

    Not entirely true. I’ve been sober in AA for 11 months and to literally hundreds of meetings in the past year and for the most part almost every single meeting I’ve attended to involves a member sharing his experiences of “what it was like”, “what happened” and “what it’s like now.” What it was like is also called a drunk-a-log, and is a detailed account about what his/her drinking was like. After that people are called on or volunteer to share how they could relate to the story, often including anecdotes about their drinking. We laugh a lot in meetings and joke about the kinds of crazy thinking we used to use, what we drank, where we drank, what kind of hilarious situations we found ourselves in. When non-alcoholics come to meetings for anniversaries often they are shocked at what we laugh about and find funny. Recently, in a meeting I shared that I had at one point found myself getting drunk on boxed wine in my substance-free housing on campus watching Harry Potter movies every night. The whole room cracked up.

    According to the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, our literature and the backbone of the program: “Assuming we are spiritually fit, we can do all sorts of things alcoholics are not supposed to do. People have said we must not go where liquor is served; we must not have it in our homes, we must shun friends who drink… Our experience shows us that this is not necessarily true. We meet these conditions everyday. An alcoholic who cannot meet them, still has an alcoholic mind; there is something the matter with his spiritual status. His only chance for sobriety would be some place like the Greenland Ice Cap, and even there an Eskimo might turn up with a bottle of scotch and ruin everything!… In our belief any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure… We have tried these methods. These attempts to do the impossible have always failed.” (pp. 100-101)

    We take our program seriously, because to relapse (for a true alcoholic) is to die. The steps and the principals we practice are serious things, but we love to laugh at our past selves and even sometimes how our alcoholic thinking can mess up our current lives. Have you read the Big Book? I’d be glad to send you one, it’s an incredible book – especially for someone like you who is so interested in recovery and life after treatment. Sobriety in AA is based on a solution that works under any and all circumstances of life. My life today was PROMISED to me by AA, it’s not luck, it’s work and what I have are results. As long as I do what is suggested of me, no matter how many people talk about diets, or joke about the hospital, how many family dinners where i’m served a glass of wine or go to bars, etc… I can stay sober. My sobriety and anyone in AA who stays sober’s sobriety is based on spiritual principals, not on any outside variables.

    Just sayin’ 🙂

    Comment by happyjoyousfree | October 6, 2009 | Reply

    • I think what you are saying is true. But when you are in AA, the people that go are either sober or are trying to get there. And there is a big difference to joking about past times with other people who have been there and gotten through than to you listening to drunk people joke around about the same subject. That was my intended analogy.
      If we extend that to the eating disorder side of things, you can gain a great deal of support from others, and laugh about miserable times, but it is difficult to do so when one of the two people involved is not interested in recovery. The jokes fall flat because they are still very much living in hell and don’t really have an intention of leaving any time soon.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | October 6, 2009 | Reply

  2. I think you both have a point. When an alcoholic is spiritually fit and doing the work they need to do, i think it IS common for stories to be shared. However even if that alcoholic is spiritually fit but however, continues a relationship with a person who has relapsed, no matter how ‘fit’ they may be there is still a huge risk in continuing the relationship with the person who has relapsed. I have experienced this with a family member. He thought it was not necessary to cut contact with his friend. Things started to go badly for the family member, and soon he joined the miserable company of his friend and relapsed as well. No blame is placed on that friend who relapsed. We are all in charge of our own destiny, however my family member now acknowledges his crucial error in continuing his friendship with someone who was spiritual ill.

    Comment by lindsey | October 7, 2009 | Reply

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