His friend threatens his sobriety

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: I am a 26-year-old hardworking man with a full-time job. Over the past few years, I have struggled with minor prescription drug abuse. Most of my friends are in jail, and the ones who aren't are full-blown addicts. My best friend (whom I consider my brother) has an amazing heart and will do anything for me. Yet I find that when we hang out (after being clean for weeks), I will relapse when I'm with him.

We started off having fun, but once it got bad, I realized I needed to change. Nobody outside our circle has any idea either one of us is struggling to maintain sobriety. My family doesn't know. I have a feeling you'll say to sever ties with my friend if he's causing me to relapse, but he's done so much for me -- emotionally, financially and in so many other ways. No matter what, he drops everything the moment I need help with anything. Is there a way I can still associate with my best friend and not relapse? I lost my brother a few years ago, and this friend took his place in my life. Concerned Young Adult

DEAR CONCERNED: You know what you need to do to get and stay sober (not associate with anyone who is using).

You need to realize that your drug use calls the shots, even when you're not using. Your addiction influences your judgment and whom you hang out with. And your drug use is a factor in why you don't have more (sober) friends.

If you haven't attended 12-step or support meetings, you should now. You will need to get to know a new group of people. A sponsor could be your lifeline when things get shaky. The only way to safely maintain this important friendship is to ask your friend to join you in sobriety.

Your friend's sobriety is not your responsibility. If he relapses, it puts you at risk.

You sound like a thoughtful person. You've sorted out a lot of issues on your own, but please don't try to do this alone.