Encountering Addicts From Our Past

Posted Jun 9, 2022

Vintage alarm clock halfway submerged in water


I was six months clean when I ran into my old using buddy Dillon. Twenty minutes later, I was high.

Using buddies are people that we used to get high with. For recovering addicts like myself, running into our old using buddies can put our sobriety at risk.

Once we get clean, we typically leave those who are still using drugs behind. We do our best to avoid them because we understand it’s not healthy for us to be around them.

It can be a jarring experience for us to encounter these people unexpectedly. If we aren't prepared, these encounters can damage our recovery and lead to relapse. I learned this the hard way during my first attempt at sobriety.

To protect ourselves and our sobriety, we should know what to expect and how to handle running into an old using buddy. Let’s get into it.

What to Expect If You Run Into Somebody You've Used Drugs With

I felt good about my recovery and had no intentions of getting high. It’s crazy how quickly that changed when I ran into Dillon.

The first step in preparing ourselves for an unintentional encounter with an old using buddy is to be aware of what to expect.


Seeing people from our past can bring up a lot of intense emotions. When I saw Dillon notice me in that grocery store parking lot, I immediately felt panic.

It is not uncommon for a recovering addict to feel the following emotions during this situation:

The type of emotion you experience depends on your past relationship with the person you see and where you are at in your recovery.

Here are some examples of how these emotions can manifest in thought when you first see an addict from your past:

It is important not to listen to the voice in your head when you are experiencing these intense emotions upon first seeing somebody from your past.

We will talk more about dealing with these feelings in the next section.


When I first saw Dillon, my heart started pounding. It was like I wasn’t even sober anymore, my mind was laser-focused on the possible outcome of getting high.

A trigger is an event that causes a sudden desire to get high for a recovering addict. Bumping into somebody that we’ve used drugs with can be a trigger.

There are several things about bumping into old using friends that can cause us to become triggered:

Depending on where you are in your recovery, becoming triggered is a possibility when you run into an old using buddy.

We will discuss how to handle these triggers in the next section.

How to Handle Running Into Somebody You’ve Used Drugs With

I was new to recovery when I ran into Dillon. I didn’t know how to handle the situation, and it ended up costing me.

Now that we know what to expect from an encounter with an old using buddy; let's talk about how to handle the situation should it arise.

Here are a three rules that you should try to follow if you do bump into an addict from your past:


  1. Avoid conversation
  1. Have an excuse ready
  1. Keep the conversation short

Those are three general rules of thumb for when you bump into a using buddy from your past.

Now let’s talk about handling the emotions and triggers that you might experience.

Handling Emotions and Triggers

I mentioned earlier the list of emotions to be expected when we encounter someone from our past whom we used to get high with.

No matter how you feel, you must try and calm yourself down when you are in the moment.

Deep breaths can help center yourself in a moment of panic.

Try viewing the situation as a challenge. If you can make it through the encounter without getting high, your recovery will be stronger for it.

If you do become triggered, remove yourself from the situation immediately. It doesn’t matter what you say to the person; get away from them ASAP.

Once you’re no longer around the person, call up someone from your support system to discuss how you are feeling.

It could be a family member, sponsor, therapist, or anybody who understands your situation in recovery and can help you talk through your feelings.

Being triggered can cause us to think about drug use in a positive light. For instance, we may focus on the feeling we got from using or the fun times we had in addiction.

Forcing yourself to think of the misery and pain that drugs caused you can help snap you out of this skewed thinking.

Dealing with intense emotions and triggers becomes easier with time.


Running into Dillon that day taught me a lot.

When you get clean, running into people from your past is a possibility. This seemingly harmless interaction can have devastating effects if we aren't careful.

Be prepared to experience intense emotions when you come across an old using buddy. The range of emotions you may feel is vast and can be extremely uncomfortable.

If you start feeling like you want to get high after seeing somebody from your past, remove yourself from the situation immediately.

Remember, if you see one of your old using buddies, try your best to avoid having a conversation with them. It can be helpful to have an excuse ready, to be able to quickly distance yourself from that person.

If you find yourself in a conversation, do your best to keep it short. The longer you chat, the greater the chance of becoming triggered and relapsing.

It is crucial to think about these things when you get clean. You don’t want to be caught off guard and do something you may regret.

Aritcle by Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a web developer and recovering drug addict. By sharing his experience in drug addiction and recovery, he hopes to help families who have been impacted by this disease.

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