One of the primary goals of early recovery is to build up a strong support network of friends and family members who will be there for you as you grow in sobriety. For some people, this comes easily. With or without substances, they have no problem walking into a room full of strangers and striking up conversations. For others, it is more awkward and frustrating as their efforts may seem to go unrewarded.
If you are having a hard time building solid relationships in recovery, here are some things you may be doing inadvertently to sabotage your efforts.
1. You can’t remember the names of people you’ve been introduced to a dozen times. No matter how many times you say, “Sorry, I’m bad with names,” the fact is that you have learned people’s names in the past and for whatever reason you are not choosing to learn this person’s name. If you do this a lot, it can have the effect of making you look elitist, stupid, or like a jerk.
2. You often look like you’re in a bad mood. If you have regularly have an unhappy or hostile expression on your face, it makes you seem inaccessible, causing people to steer clear rather than seek you out.
3. You talk too much. Do you find that people around you don’t seem to have much to say? Do you cut them off when they are talking or interject into other people’s conversations and take over? No one likes this. It sends the message that you do not care about their conversation or their input.
4. You talk about yourself constantly. Similarly, if all you ever talk about is yourself – your past, your hardships, your challenges, your relationship, your health issues, your day – and never express an interest in what is happening with others, they will lose interest quickly.
5. You don’t talk at all. Though a lot of people are shy at first and can take some time to feel comfortable, if you literally never speak even when someone asks you a direct question or don’t show up in the conversation after you are invited in, people may just forget to include you in things.
6. If you aren’t complaining, you are talking smack. If you are the kind of person that always leads with a horror story about your day, or if you are constantly complaining about your ex, your job, the heat, the arrangement of the chairs, or the coffee, people are going to eventually drift away. Similarly, if your favorite topic of conversation is what’s wrong with other people’s appearance, their girlfriend, their car, their life, their sobriety, their dog, or their laugh, then only those people who also spend their lives focusing on the negative will find your company attractive.
7. You only talk to people you want to hit on, and you hit on people constantly. If you want to be respected and make friends, you have to be respectful and actually seek friendship. It’s that simple.
8. You love to be right all the time and at the expense of others. If you love to engage in a verbal argument, even over the littlest things (e.g., the best pizza by the slice in town or backpack versus messenger bag), people are likely to stop bringing anything up around you, and many will just walk away as soon as you get started.
9. You forget what other people have told you about themselves. If someone takes the time to tell you what is going on with them, listen. If you would like to be friends with this person, follow up the next time you see them and ask them how that event was that they were worried about or if they got the job they were applying for.
10. You don’t follow through on your commitments. If you give someone your number or take theirs and tell them you’ll text to get together for coffee, then do it. If you agree to set up chairs or bring snacks to the next meeting, do it. If you say you’ll stop doing something that someone said was bothersome, follow through and do it. Now is your chance to become a person of your word.
Are you having a hard time making friends in recovery? How are you trying to connect with new people in your life?