By Trevor McDonald
Have you ever gone through a major life change?
I’m talking about anything; good, bad or indifferent. Maybe you got married or had a baby. For me, recovery was my major life change.
I noticed something very interesting in early recovery, and then I noticed it happening to other people too. Change is immensely difficult on everyone.
It’s hard to see yourself as someone other than who you’ve previously been. If you were a party animal and now have kids, it can be difficult for your brain to catch up to that change. The same is true for recovery. It can take some time before you start seeing yourself as a healthy and productive member of society.
But the part I wasn’t expecting was that my change affected everyone close to me, and in a very deep and real way.
Know that your life change affects others
Listen to how new parents talk about how many friends they’ve lost or how college graduates lose touch with their high school friends.
When you go through a significant life change, you’re not only changing your beliefs, but you’re changing the beliefs of everyone around you. These people have invested years in getting to know you as one type of person, and now, it’s as if you’re someone else. In truth, some people can’t handle it.
Their disbelief often manifests as some type of negativity. Not everyone in your life will go through this, thankfully, but it’s common enough that you may experience it.
Someone may gossip about you or avoid contact with you. It can hurt, but there are a few ways to lessen the blow.
Expect some pushback
Whenever you make a major life change, expect that some people may need time to process things. If they start treating you differently, don’t be alarmed. This is their way of handling what’s going on. After all, this major thing is happening to them too (albeit to a lesser extent).
Just imagine that your good friend or family member did a complete 180-degree turn. It may also be difficult for you to see them in their new role.
Give your friends and family space if it seems like they need it. Eventually, most people come around and realize that you’re still you—just an improved version.
If you’re going through recovery like me, you’re at a time when you are the one who needs compassion. But you should understand that showing compassion for others is one way to have compassion for yourself. When other people react negatively to you, it’s easy to harbor resentment and anger. But those emotions weigh heavily on your own soul. This is baggage that you really don’t need.
So, try to understand why people are struggling with your new identity and forgive any bad behavior. This is actually more to your benefit than it is to theirs.
If you are experiencing any sort of negativity from others, have patience. This is likely just a phase they need to go through before they can see you for the person you’ve become.
When I told everyone I had checked in to a holistic drug detox, it seemed like people were there for me in a literal sense (physical presence) but they weren’t quite there emotionally. In my case, they were still overcoming pain, frustration, and betrayal. Healing takes time, so it’s important to have patience. They needed to see me thriving before they could let their guard down and believe I had changed.
If I didn’t have patience, I might have lost many important people in my life.
If recovery has taught me anything, it’s that we’re all flawed. You may expect that people will be over-the-moon with your positive changes, but some people will need time and space to process things. And that’s perfectly okay.
Accept them for the beautifully flawed people they are, and they may be more likely to accept what’s going on with you.
Editor: Dana Gornall
Trevor is a freelance content writer and a recovering addict and alcoholic who has been clean and sober for over five years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.
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