I admitted to myself recently that during my hedonistic drinking and using days, I was a really terrible person to have as a friend. I realize that in recovery, we’re not supposed to have any “regrets, nor wish to close the door on them” but I can tell you that there are things I wish I could have wiped from my memory—not to mention everybody else’s—for all of eternity.
While I never had an abundance of close friends, I did have a handful of girlfriends from roughly the age of 19 to 35. We went through all those things that friends help each other through—which is to say that we talked a lot about either trouble with men or the lack of men in our lives. Thinking back now, some of these women were really good friends to me: we laughed and drank and danced and ultimately when I went too far and ended up in hospital, they were always there to support me. I still cringe when I think about how spectacularly I could let them down.
One particular incident that stands out among all the rest was my friend Clara’s wedding, when I was the maid of honor. Big mistake! I was essentially the Irish version of Sandra Bullock in 28 Days—and then some. I still have only vague memories of the day but I do remember that I was the one that brought the supply of champagne to the hotel room. It was so much fun having our makeup done, chatting and laughing as we sipped the sparkly beverage. Of course it was me who did the most sipping. I was drunk before the wedding, during the wedding and after the wedding. And while I managed to not fall on the wedding cake, I did succeed in insulting some of the guests, misplacing the bride’s purse with a lot of money in it (it was located later at the bar, of course) and disappearing at the end of the night to leave everyone wondering where the hell I went. Oh and I fell over several times mid-conversation while outside chain-smoking cigarettes, leaving my sister to pick me up off the ground repeatedly.
I woke up the morning after the wedding on my bedroom floor with my beautiful navy, satin, full-length dress still on, a false eyelash stuck to my nose. I had a hangover that might have killed a rhino and no recollection of how I’d gotten there. There was no one else in the house or my bed and since I was fully clothed, I figured that meant I hadn’t brought a guy home. Still, who knew? Perhaps I had and he’d decided to run when he’d realized that the only action he was going to get was watching me fall into a drunken stupor.
The bride herself filled me in later on the insulting, falling and disappearing I’d done and while she seemed not to mind too much, I also knew that she was disappointed with me. I mean, of course she was. It was her wedding day, for Christ’s sake, and being asked to be maid of honor was a big deal. She was just too good of a friend to spell that out for me. She knew the difficult time I had been through, what with my recent stint in a mental hospital, the breakup of my marriage and the general chaos of my life. I wanted to die of embarrassment and shame when I became aware of what I had said and to whom. And I wanted to kick my own ass for letting her down.
I apologized to her on several occasions for my unforgiveable and outrageous antics and we remained close friends for quite a while afterwards. Yet by the time I eventually got my ass into rehab, we had drifted apart. I guess life does that sometimes. We get caught up with work, home, babies—and, in my case, alcoholism. I do wonder sometimes if she pulled away from me a bit because of the wedding. Or was it me pulling away from her because I knew I wasn’t capable of really being there? I think the latter is probably true. Sometimes the best amends we can make is to walk away and leave a person in peace. She and I still stop and talk when we see each other and I called her when her brother died of a drug overdose to offer help and support but by then our bond had well and truly disintegrated and she just didn’t need me anymore.
Once I got into recovery, I learned why I’d needed to drink to the extent I had. One of the biggest reasons, I discovered, is that I just plain suck socially. I’m not good with crowds of people, especially “normal” people in “normal” social settings. Put me in a room full of sober alcoholics and clean addicts and I’m fine but so-called normal people scare me to death. This isn’t something that’s just part of being sober, either; it was always that way for me. Without alcohol, I just didn’t know how to act and I always thought that I was so uninteresting that people would either be paralyzed with boredom or think that I was a freak. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that I just wanted to peel it off and look, feel and behave like someone else—someone better. In essence, I hated myself and thought that I just didn’t measure up. Thinking and feeling like that about myself was pretty difficult to deal with but my buddy alcohol eradicated that feeling, which is why I loved it so much. I only felt like I fit in when I was completely off my head.
As it turns out, none of the negative stuff I thought about myself was true. That has been one of the greatest discoveries for me about recovery: learning the truth about myself, both good and bad. Because it was only when I could understand that I had a disease and that there was a solution to my mental, emotional and physical illness that I could be mature enough to make like-minded friends I wouldn’t continually disappoint.
The difference between my former and current friendships is subtle but powerful. Conversations today are on a deeper and enlightened level. Much of the communication feels like what I always craved before—I understand and feel understood. While men are still a popular topic, we are such a bohemian and free-spirited group that those conversations can really get far out and hilariously funny. At a recent coffee meet-up, the group of us went from crying openly in public to wondering where a horrible body odor smell was emanating from to smelling ourselves and each other. Once we figured out it wasn’t coming from us, we resumed crying and only later realized that there had been other people in the coffee place. That’s when the truly riotous laughter started.
There don’t seem to be any agendas, jealousies or competitions within these friendships. We are just a group of similar, sometimes fragile recovering women who love each other. The quirky but loveable insanity I used to subtly try to hide from sight before now seems to multiply when I’m among these friends. And because my self-absorbed fears and awkwardness have diminished in sobriety, I can be a much better friend than I once was. I don’t have to worry about being too boring or weird to deserve these friendships because I now know that I have something to give to others that is priceless—myself, in its true form. I am also pretty confident these days that I’m not going to ruin any of their weddings.
Sponsored DISCLAIMER: This is a paid advertisement for California Behavioral Health, LLC, a CA licensed substance abuse treatment provider and not a service provided by The Fix. Calls to this number are answered by CBH, free and without obligation to the consumer. No one who answers the call receives a fee based upon the consumer’s choice to enter treatment. For additional info on other treatment providers and options visit www.samhsa.gov.