For most recovering addicts, active drug users are prime dangers.  Whether or not the users want to clean up, just being with them can restimulate old attitudes and behaviors and, of course, drug craving.  Therefore, as much as practical, you should disassociate yourself, physically and mentally, from these people.  This is often easier said than done.  If it’s a problem for you, lets consider why.

First, maybe you don’t have other friends. Naturally the pull of old associates and old activities is strong if nothing is pulling the other way.  So your need is clear; Use the group to make new friends and find new activities.

Second, ending close relationships can be very hard.  It takes courage.  It can hurt both parties.  You may need to tell a person face-to-face: “We can’t continue to hang out together as long as you use drugs.”  Get support to cope with the pain of loss.  (Maybe the loss will help your friend see the light).

Some people also have hidden motives for continuing to be with users.  Are any of these true?

  • You want to show off that you’re clean and doing well.
  • You still want to be part of the fast life—just not the drug life.
  • You’ll prove your are an exception –old friends won’t influence you.
  • You want them to influence you, because you want them to share the blame for your getting high.

These attitudes suggest that you need to think more about whom you want to be your reasons for getting clean, and what it really takes to stay clean.  Honest self-assessment and reflection with a solid, trusted person you can talk to regularly – a counselor or special friend—might save you from your own hidden motives.

If you do have reason to be with users, remember TIPS

 Truth:    If the other person needs to know why you can’t spend time together, lay it out. “It’s not personal, but I just can’t be with an active user”.  The truth can be told respectfully.  And in the end it is the safest, clearest, and kindest message.

Information:  You must know one critical fact:  A recovering addict can be “reinfected” by an active drug user.

Priorities:  The first priority is always to stay clean.  Beyond that, what are your priorities?  To help? To say goodbye?  Keep them simple!

Support:  If you are at all shaky, have a positive person with you.  It will make a difference to all concerned.


Patricia A. Verwiel,M.A. the founder and Executive Director of Diversified Education Services, is a UC Irvine graduate in Social Ecology with a Masters in Human Behavior from National University. She had been the sole proprietor of Sentencing Concepts, Inc. and Diversified Monitoring Systems,LLC, until their sale. Ms. Verwiel has provided Alternative Sentencing options to the Orange County, California Criminal Justice Community for the past 30 years. Among these options have been several classes which were taught at Saddleback Community College and are currently being taught at Santa Ana Community College. These classes are specific to pre and post sentenced offenders and are now available in digital form as on-line classes at