Before I got into recovery, what my friends were doing and what they thought of me was my greatest obsession. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but there was a big part of me that thought I needed them to approve of me so I could feel happy and worthy. Finally surrendering and deciding to get sober was one of the scariest things I have ever done. I was eighteen, and a freshman in college, and drinking four or five times a week with my friends was the highlight of my life. Going to parties and clubs with them made me feel fulfilled. Once I got those first few drinks in me, I finally felt like I belonged somewhere.
Removing alcohol and drugs from my life left me feeling exhilarated, terrified, free and completely lost all at the same time. At first I didn’t tell any of my friends that I was in AA; I just gritted my teeth, made up excuses and turned down drinks. I was afraid if I told them I was sober, they wouldn’t want to hangout with me anymore and I was afraid that without my friends, it would turn out that I was actually a “Nothing”.
Eventually I came out with the truth. I had kept an anonymous blog since the beginning of my recovery, called “The Faith Diaries”. One day, I wrote a post and shared it on my Facebook page about six months into my sobriety.
I was totally shocked at the amount of people my age who began to reach out to me; congratulating me on my courage or asking me how I did it or just plain asking for help. I was also surprised how people who were my closest friends never said anything to me about it. I knew they must have read the post, but when we talked they didn’t mention anything. I didn’t bring it up either, and I wondered why they didn’t ask me about it. My sobriety felt like the most important thing in my life, and it was like they didn’t care.
Now that I have more time in my recovery, I can see that it’s not that my friends didn’t care. It’s that they didn’t know what to say. Maybe they were afraid to look at their own drinking patterns, or they thought I was going to be judgmental: the “Beer Police”. Over time, I have had a few brief conversations about AA with certain friends, but for the most part nothing is said, which is okay with me. I realized that I didn’t need my friends’ approval when I was drinking and I don’t need their approval of me being in AA to be a content human being.
The longer I work the 12 Steps, the more I have come to understand how important my time is – because truly, we humans don’t have particularly long life spans. Keeping this in mind, I have shaved my circle of people I hangout with to a small but fantastic group. My friends now are people who support me, are honest with me, and love me unconditionally. Some of them are in 12 Step recovery, and some of them aren’t. They may not fully understand what AA is or why I am in it, but they believe me when I say it’s the best thing for me, and they don’t try to convince me otherwise.
Lately, especially being back in my hometown, I’ve found myself worrying about certain groups of people in the area who I used to think were really cool; too cool for me. They are the people I used to party with and obsess over. I’ve wondered if I should try hanging out with them again, and then I feel anxious that they won’t want to spend time with me when I ask.
This has been great practice for me to turn to my “Higher Power” for a reminder that my worth and my safety come from connection to the God of my heart, not on other people’s acceptance of me. I also like to remember that God is putting the right people in my path, and there is no need to go chasing after others.
So, today, remember that all you have to decide is what to do with the time that you are given. Ask yourself, are you spending it following your heart and doing what you really want to do, or are you running around trying to please other people? Long-lasting feelings of worthiness can come only from connection to our true selves!
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.