Boy, these past few weeks have really kicked my butt. I have been working a lot of hours (thank God I’m an hourly employee and the paychecks almost make it worth it), and have been feeling a lot of stress at my job. I haven’t had the motivation to do anything but eat and sleep when I get home. I actually started this post several days ago, but I’m just now getting around to finishing it.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my relationships. Not the horrible ones from the past, but the ones that I choose to have now. I’m talking about my friends. Being in recovery, it’s important that I always remember the things about which I’m grateful. You’ll find my friends near the top of every one of my gratitude lists. But it hasn’t always been that way.
When I was drinking I didn’t have real friends. I had acquaintances, drinking buddies, people I hung out with. Often, I tried to surround myself with people who drank more than I did, so that I didn’t have to accept that I was an alcoholic myself. It allowed me to say to myself, “they drink much more than me, so I can’t be that bad.” Right. Then there were my non-drinking buddies. They didn’t see the drunken mess that I was. I hid it from them as much as I could, and when I couldn’t anymore, I cut them out of my life. In both cases, there was no respect, no intimacy, no connection. I had take-it-or-leave-it friendships. If someone wanted to hang around, that was ok. If they didn’t, that was ok too. I never let anyone see the real me, whether they were drunks or not. If I showed them the real me, then they had the chance to reject me. And I had had my fill of rejection.
Thinking that if people knew the real me (the one that has screwed everything up), they would run for the hills, kept me from being open and honest for a long time. Even after I was sober. Sobriety gave me the clarity to see that there were friends I cared for, and who cared for me. But I still held back the things that I thought might drive them away. I didn’t let them see me when I was sad or depressed, I didn’t ask for help or accept it when it was offered, I didn’t discuss problems that I was having. How could I? If they knew all of those things, they would stop caring about me. So, I would put a smile on my face and tell everyone I was fine, and hold on to my secrets like a security blanket.
As I started to work through the steps, I realized that there is a reason that the Big Book says that those who recover are the ones that are able to be “rigorously honest” with themselves and others. I knew what I had to do, but I was afraid of the outcome. Would I suffer more rejection? Humiliation? Would the people who I thought were my friends laugh at me? Or worse, be horrified? I didn’t know, and not knowing was scary. But I started to open up anyway. I shared things with friends that I never thought I would tell anyone (except my husband and my sponsor). And you know what? It didn’t cause them to run for the hills. There were some looks of shock and concern, but they didn’t bolt. You see, they were able to look past my ugly alcoholic behavior and see the real me. They were able to love me despite the negative things, because I let them in. And you know what else? As a result of my sharing, many of my friends have felt comfortable sharing their ‘stuff’ with me! I don’t know about you, but I think that is pretty awesome.
It’s a real gift of sobriety to be able to experience these connections with people. Nothing ever came close to the feeling of connecting when I was drinking and trying to hide everything from everyone. It’s something that I think I always wanted, but didn’t know it was even something that actually existed. I know now that it does. It’s those moments when a friend says they have something exciting to tell me, or they come into my office at work and quietly close the door behind them to talk about something. It’s when someone asks me for advice (imagine that!!), or gives me advice when I need it. It’s when they ask me how I’m doing and follow it up with, “really, how are you?” It’s when a friend shares something with me that they haven’t shared with anyone before, and I can give them the same acceptance and love that they have given me. It’s in the hugs that are given for no particular reason, the laughter shared over inside jokes, the encouragement given to press on even on the worst of days. I love those moments. I look for those moments. I am grateful that I get to feel those moments.
I am so thankful for the people in my life. I am blessed.
PS-I just read this to my husband and he said the before I didn’t let the people get to know the real me and so I had shallow, acquaintance friendships. Now people know the real Jami and they don’t just put up with me or say “she’s ok”, they like me. But more than that when people get to know the real me, they love me. 🙂