As a practicing drunk, I had put my friends into two different categories: the People I Drink With and the People I Didn’t Drink With. To avoid conflict, I kept them away from each other as much as possible. I felt only anxiety around the People Who Didn’t Drink; I laughed–a lot–with the People Who Drink.
The non-drinkers didn’t know me at all.
- They didn’t know that I would lie to my husband about where I’d been or who I was with.
- They didn’t know that every morning before getting out of bed, I’d be thinking back on the night before, trying to remember if I did anything embarrassing (again) and who I needed to avoid for a while.
- They didn’t know that when I made them a promise and then broke it, it was because I was trying, one more time, to be a “real” person, the kind who made commitments and then kept them.
- They didn’t know that I placed such a low value on myself that I thought I did not deserve goodness in my life.
- They didn’t know that what I really wanted was to quell the anxiety deep inside.
- They didn’t know that for me, drinking was The Great Equalizer, rendering everyone THE SAME.
But the drinkers!
Well…they didn’t know me either.
- They didn’t know that I hung out with them because they drank worse than I did and that I didn’t care which one of them I drank with–as long as we drank.
- They didn’t know that I didn’t have their back.
- They didn’t know how much I hated myself and sometimes even them.
- They didn’t know that I longed to be close to someone, to trust, to care deeply.
- They also didn’t know that my biggest fear was that THIS IS WHO I AM AND WILL ALWAYS BE.
So nobody really knew me and I never really knew them. I stumbled through life, crossed paths with people, tried to hide what was obvious. I saw people as if I were looking at them through the wrong end of the binoculars. The people who tried to befriend me would eventually give up due to lack of participation on my part. Even my feeble attempts at being a friend to others always seemed to somehow become another way to satisfy something within myself.
So for me, one of the many amazing gifts of recovery has been to learn what true friendship really is and how important it is to my well-being. After many years of solitude (in my mind), the idea that I would need other people was almost appalling. But the familiar saying “secrets make you sick” had a ring of truth that helped me move forward. Fear and anxiety would occasionally rear their ugly heads, but I found that if I could just sit in the uncomfortableness of the moment, something like magic would happen. Somewhere along the way, as I was able to accept myself as the flawed human being that I was, I was also able to begin to accept the flaws of others. And that was where I found our common ground.
Alcohol had lied to me: as human beings, we are already equal.