Being a good friend can be a serious challenge for all addicts. Drug addicts and alcoholics may have “drug buddies” or “drinking buddies,” and sex addicts have acting out (sexual) partners. But addicts are intimacy challenged and avoid closeness, often being isolated except for their work relationships or immediate family.
Sex addicts tend to have a narcissistic defense system, a façade of grandiosity which covers a deeper feeling of unworthiness. The result is that they don’t easily feel safe with anyone. They tend to feel that everyone is either superior or inferior to them and so they avoid taking even the initial steps that might result in a deeper friendship.
Why should the addict learn to be a better friend?
Being a good friend means really connecting with another person. This is a cornerstone of the 12-step philosophy which says basically that no one can recover and grow all alone. It is part of the disease of addiction to be resistant to admitting the need for help and being able to reach out. Hence personal social relationships are seen as a tool of recovery and an indicator that progress is being made.
We need other people with whom we are able to be close and with whom we can give and receive support. We need safe people with whom we can be ourselves and be honest. In learning to be a better friend you as a recovering addict will:
- Learn how to be more open and real with another person
- Become less manipulative and exploitive and practice empathy with others
- Get out of your own head and be in better touch with reality
- Learn that you are not “terminally unique” and begin to feel a kinship with others
- Grow up and take responsibility for holding up your part of the friendship
How can you practice being a better friend?
When you make a commitment to become a better friend you do so based on the idea that it is an important thing to do for yourself and for your own growth and development. You do so because it is the right thing to do and it is consistent with your value system. It may feel like you are in uncharted territory, but it does get easier. Here are some ideas:
- Take the initiative and make a plan to see your potential friend face to face. You want this to be a real relationship not a fantasy or online “relationship.” And you need to reach out rather than waiting for the phone to ring. This can be the hardest part!
- Don’t judge the other person. When you catch yourself sitting in judgment of your friend, remind yourself that you are simply being avoidant and fearful. Let your friend be whoever they are and respect their journey.
- Be a good listener. When you get together with a friend, take a genuine interest in what is on their mind. You don’t need to respond to and solve everything. Just being there for someone is an aspect of friendship.
- Stay in touch and call your friend for no reason. You don’t need an “excuse” to call a friend on a regular basis like every week. Just calling to check in is part of being a friend.
- Go out of your way to do things that are supportive for your friend. When appropriate, be willing to meet their family and significant other. Take part in events you are invited to even if they seem hokey and you feel out of place.
- Ask your friend for help on a personal level. Be open with what is on your mind and what you are struggling with; this is an important part of friendship. Listen to your friend’s advice with respect.
So make a list of the three or four most likely candidates to be friends with or to build a better friendship with. Be diligent and courageous in taking the necessary steps and over time you will see the rewards. Have a great new year!