I used to love to party. I loved the thrill of getting together with friends and taking that initial celebratory shot in anticipation of what the night together could bring: shenanigans, transgressions, and good ol’ chaos. Towards the end of the dark days of my partying there were several friends that I relied on and used as crutches to help feed my addictive nature. Those involved had no idea of what was going on in my head at the time.
In the past I have prided myself with the company I kept and the vast amount of friends that I spent time with, even the amount of Facebook friends I maintained was crucial to my identity. Being the gregarious extrovert that I was back then it was easy to maintain a facade on the outside that I liked everyone, for fear of being lonely. Now, almost 3 years into this journey of sobriety I am indeed still finding out what genuine and authentic friends mean, who I can rely on without agenda, in both the good and the bad.
One thing I noticed when I first got sober is that I began to have less text messages and phone calls coming in. At that point I figured it was because no one wanted to hang out with the sober guy and therefore be at risk to potentially encouraging and/or witnessing a relapse. It was a terrifying feeling to know that people were putting distance between themselves and me. Maybe people just didn’t know how to react or what to say? Today, I get that it must have been hard to know how to react when one of your friends comes out with this secret that he’s been hiding for years.
In the meantime, in recovery, I still found it very uncomfortable to open myself to others who were also attempting sobriety. That first year of sobriety I was lost, not able to decipher who my friends were and who had my back. At that point I was still in a very egotistical frame of mind, thinking the world still revolved around me, that everyone should take my feelings into consideration. Truth be told, everyone has their own shit going on. It’s not just me. Many people indicated they indeed had my back, even the acquaintences from my partying days, but it just didn’t feel authentic at the time. I found myself wanting to isolate and was unwilling to understand who really cared for my well-being. Today, I can clearly see that the majority of friends I kept even during those dark times are very much still in support of what I’m trying to do with sobriety. It would have been a mistake to give up on those friendships.
I can think of a few old friends in particular that I used to party hard and hang with all of the time. The last time I heard from these people was when I was on a text message parade during the last weekend of drinking in Feb 2014, having locked myself inside, alone, to effectively drink as much as possible and reach my bottom. I, nor they, have reached out once since that weekend. It used to confuse me why this was the case. Now I ask, were those really people who I should have invested time and energy into anyways?
As recovery continued the distance between many friends still grew. Hell, even today there are several people in my life that have just become as distant as can be for whatever the reason. Perhaps they are dealing with their own circumstances, perhaps not. Again, I know it’s not all about me, it’s just sad to realize that some of the close friends I had in the past have more or less vanished. This certainly begs the question, did these relationships truly have any other meaning and substance than just the commonality of partying? Who really knows. Today with a more lucid understanding of what true friendship means I am finding that it is certainly about quality rather than quantity.
The people who I rely on today as friends and mentors are simply amazing. I cannot believe the quality of the substance and conversation that I have with each of these folks. My only challenge is to continue to keep contact as I can very easily get lost in my own thoughts and rituals. If I go long enough without contact then the undeniable feeling of loneliness creeps in.
To be clear, this isn’t intended to be a cry for attention on my end. The reason that I bring this to the table is that I have run into a few people lately who are new to sobriety and friends are a topic of their heartache and sadness. I can see the pain on their faces and in their eyes about how they seem to be “losing” friends. While that may be the case I wish I could paint a picture for them to assure each that they are not alone and that many new friends are lying in wait. For me, meeting friends in recovery happened over time, not all at once. I had to take care of my own shit before feeling comfortable to reach out to new people. This is still a challenge today.
Generally I enjoy being around people. However, I also enjoy being alone. Not lonely, but alone. Being on my own allows me to refuel spiritually, mentally, and physically. In no way do I shut myself off from meeting anyone new, it just takes a little longer for me to grow comfortable with each new respective relationship.
For the newcomer to sobriety: this process, not just with friends, but with every facet of life, get easier. As a friend of mine said last night: “don’t stop before the miracle happens.”