When I first came into recovery I was twenty three years old. Although that is much younger than many people have found recovery, I still already had twenty three years of life at that point. That was twenty three years of triumphs, trials, experiences, failures, successes, relationships, friends, and heartbreaks of finding out many were not actually my friend. People who do not know me well, including myself at times, might would tell others that I was shy, reserved, quiet, and I have even heard, “I used to think you were just a stuck up Jesus freak” (I am not even religious). I was not good at making friends for numerous reasons. Shy, isolation, stuck in my ways, broke, low self-esteem, stress, and anxiety just to name a few things.
Sometimes my struggles also lead to the “friends” I did make not actually being friends. It lead to “friends” that preferred to use me for sex, money (I was more of a functioning addict than many people I used with, even though I still was often broke because of my addiction), rides, a place to sleep, a mama figure (because I had been one my whole life, and often kept the group from doing things that would land us in trouble), and even an escape goat. While I would like to say that I knew when people were using me, that was not even the case half of the time. I was in many ways so desperate for love and attention that I could never see any type of relationship for what it truly was. Not family, not friends, and not romantic partners. If I felt anything towards a person that person was to me what I had built them up to be in my mind, many times regardless of how any times they had shown me anything to the contrary.
When I decided to get clean, I still did not believe that I had a substance abuse disorder. I was not one of those people. ( I often joke about this now) I had just stopped using drugs and no longer had any friends, because they all still used drugs and I no longer wanted to. My “friend’s” reaction to this was varied. There are three that are the most memorable. One is a “friend” who claimed they would not use around me and we could remain friends. It did not remain the case, and I was with this friend when I relapsed. Another was a “friend” who complained that they would never see me again. I have also relapsed with this friend. The last was a FRIEND and his words were “get away from us, and stay away”. I still have not had any contact with him and I hope to see him in recovery one day. Over the years, relapses, and recovery that I have accumulated, I have come to believe that he was my only true friend before recovery.
Deciding not to use anymore meant that I would have more time than I knew what to do with. It did not take long to realize that I was not going to be able to still hang out with them and just not use (even though I would make those mistakes, I learnt from them). Somehow I happened to get on the phone with my aunt who was in recovery, and she suggested finding new friends at meetings. Little did I know that these meetings would do so much more. I have had different experiences with people in recovery. However, I can say since I decided to really stay clean, I focused on others who really wanted to stay clean as well. This being the case, I have never had someone who was a “friend” in recovery encourage me to use, use around me, or anything close to those lines.
I have still had varying relationships with my friends in recovery though. I have been acquaintance friends with ladies from the outskirts of their “clicks”. I have experienced men that wanted to be more than friends (I have admittedly made that mistake) and men who wanted to only be special friends (I have made that mistake as well). I have made friends with people who did not stay in the meetings, friends with people who are in and out of meetings, and friends with people who have not made it back in the meetings and are in jail, prison, rehabs, and graves. I have also made friends who I am so close with that parts of my recovery (or even my life) would not be as strong, stable, or possibly even exist yet if it were not for them.
My best friend is a recovering addict, we go to the gym together, we chat about men together, we chat about our kids together, we share thoughts, feelings, experiences, pains, joys, and triumphs and defeats together. My sponsor is a recovering addict. Although she is not my best friend she knows me more than I ever thought I would be comfortable with someone knowing me and sometimes knows what is going on with me before I even have any idea. She has seen me through things I swore I would never tell people about and things that still happen in my life (and head) that I would not share with anyone else, and she loves me through every bit of it. My aunt is in recovery and she is the strongest woman I have ever met in my life, she is my biggest cheerleader and my go to for every decision that I know is central to my growth and improvement, because so many times I am still scared to do what is best for me. There are so many others that are in my network- one inspires me to go on grand adventures that recently went skydiving, one that shows me strength as a single mother to three beautiful girls, one that shows me a beautiful example of how my Higher Power can be a consistent and strong part of my life, and men that show me that men can genuinely care about you and be your friend without having ulterior motives. My recovery is important, my Higher Power is important, my program is important, and the meetings are important, but I also would never be where I am without my friends in recovery.