On Friends, Sobriety and Fellowshipping
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On Friends, Sobriety and Fellowshipping


This post was originally published on April 25, 2014.

I’m sure not every recovering alkie out there enjoyed or appreciated this Onion article. But, I mean, it’s an Onion article; how seriously could anyone take it? The faux news story is all about a recovering alcoholic named Julian Bradford, who, since getting sober, no longer “needs friends to have a good time.”

Making Us Look Like a Glum Lot

Bradford’s a man in recovery who hasn’t had a drink since 2012. The nonexistent sober guy says, “It was tough at first, but now that alcohol’s out of my life, I finally understand that I don’t need companionship to keep myself entertained. Now, I can have a perfectly enjoyable evening, by myself, watching TV, all without having so much as a single friend.”

Of course, the story is a joke—poking fun at the crazy, far-fetched notion that sobriety is or could be remotely interesting and fun. In Bradford’s world, being alcohol-free is incredibly dry, boring, and isolating; without alcohol, all he—or we—could possibly find to do is hang out at home, alone, watching TV. (Uh, confession time: I love staying home and watching TV, and I do it. Like, a lot. Doing it alone is good, but with friends is even better. I’m a homebody type and I freely admit that.)

Indeed, Bradford confirms that “with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in which he spent an hour every other day sitting in a church basement with a group of complete strangers, he was gradually able to wean himself off of his decades-long friendships that had taken a toll on his life…”

The Real Role of Fellowship in Sobriety

Okay, okay, we get the joke by now. In any case, the joke is kind of dumb and inaccurate (but, again, I’m not sure who would take it too seriously; it is the Onion). Most sober folks I know have a fairly large contingent of friends—mostly sober as well. Yes, there are cliques in recovery—some meetings can seem dangerously close to being a modern-day replay of the high school cafeteria. But that’s just part of the 12-step deal in some cities—and “fellowshipping” (aka hanging out in groups after or between meetings) is a common practice in most AA circles.

The question is whether most soberites are comfortable enough to actually participate in fellowship. Sometimes it seems like most of the very social members I know are the more outgoing, extroverted and and, yes, mentally healthy ones. The loners, the dorks and the people who suffer with a dual diagnosis—say they have depression and anxiety as well as alcoholism—seem to have a tougher time making and keeping friends in recovery.

No matter who you are and how many friends you have (or want to have), automatic trust doesn’t exist. It shouldn’t, anyway, because that type of trust isn’t…well, real trust. The reality? Sober friendships are like most other ones—loyalty has to be built and earned, and it can be easy to forget that.

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and CNN.com. Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.