In Recovery, How Do I Get People To Treat Me Normally?

How do we keep our family and friends from treating us like patients, or walking on eggshells around us, especially around times of celebrations?

First of all, we need to understand that they are doing it because they love us, and are trying to protect us.  It does seem as though they’re attempting to control us in subtle ways, and because we’re feeling something like normal for the first time in years, we want to be treated that way.

However, we need to remember that, to a great degree, we are responsible for those eggshells.  It is probably going to be a while before we can expect to be treated like a normal person.  We need to earn trust and respect by being trustworthy and respectable; we are not entitled to them just because we’ve been sober for a few weeks, or even months.  As the AA saying goes, “Don't expect a medal just because you're finally doing what you should have been doing.”

On their part, our families need to understand that hearing eggshells cracking all the time is irritating, and that the best thing they can do for us in early recovery is to try to treat us as normally as possible — apart from putting temptation in front of us.

That may be hard for them, though.  Remember that for however long we were using, they got used to treating us in certain ways.  Nowadays, our total reality has been turned inside-out, but theirs hasn’t changed much at all.  Change takes time, understanding and trust. Because they do love us and want us to succeed in our recovery, they naturally feel awkward around us because they don’t know what to do.  While that can be really annoying, it’s generally not all that hard to deal with.

We need to sit down with them, discuss our recovery, and honestly let them know how we feel.  If we’re not able to do that yet, we can write them a respectful letter.  If we're seeing a counselor, we can try to arrange a family session.  We need to tell them that while we appreciate their concern, we’d like them to try to relax and be themselves.  They need to know that we’re not going to head for the street or a bar just because someone mentions drinking, or refers to things that might remind us of the past.

We need to let them know that we don’t want to “forget the past, nor wish to shut the door on it,” and that we’ll be bringing it up ourselves from time to time.  They need to know that we don’t expect them to change their lives to accommodate us.

One of the things we can do is ask them to read this article.  Regarding the celebration issue, we can refer them to this article about parties that I publish every year around the Winter Holidays.  Finally, in the case of those who were most affected by our using, we can suggest that they consider a few Al-Anon or NarAnon meetings to learn a little more about living with people in recovery.

Most of all, we need to remember that these people love us.  They want to trust us.  They want us back in their lives.  They want what’s best for us.  They always have.  If we remember these things, and that they’re just doing the best they can — the same as us — it makes getting along a lot easier.

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