As I’ve written before, one of the gifts of sobriety is friendship.
When I was drinking and using, I only had one type of friend – the kind that would put up with me. Now I have so many. I’ve identified five archetypes of friendships that we all make – or solidify – once we are truly on the path to recovery.
1. They Handled You At Your Worst And Get To Love Your Best
My friend Jonas once took an Uber from New Jersey to the West Village at 4 am on a Wednesday because I had a bottle of vodka and a bag of cocaine that I wasn’t enjoying and couldn’t put down. He sat with me until I felt comfortable enough to dump them in the toilet. Jonas was always there for me as I lurched from crisis to crisis, with boundaries in place, and now our friendship is more reciprocal. This is a very special person who can see the good in you when you can’t, who doesn’t walk away from you when you are at the bottom, but holds you at a distance and holds out hope that one day you will become the person they see in you. So many people want to be part of your life once you have it reasonably together, which is great – but there’s nothing like a friendship with someone who deeply understands what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. Sometimes these friends can’t talk to you when you’re hurting yourself too much but they keep the door open just a crack, enough that if you’re humble enough, you can walk back through and begin again.
2. The Person You Hated At First
Being an alcoholic is wild. Sometimes we just look at someone and think we hate them. They’re too loud, too excited, too much. They remind us of the parts of ourselves we are not willing to look at. Or maybe there’s some perceived slight that we’ve been making about ourselves that never actually was. I’ve avoided meetings because someone I’d never talked to was on my nerves so bad, only to run into them at the meetings I went to just to avoid them. As we do the work, our barricade of hatred crumbles. We see something in them – humanity – because we can finally see it in ourselves. We stop hating them for no good reason, and sometimes, they become our friends. “I used to hate you,” we laugh. They get it. They may have hated us too.
3. The Living Amends
When my friend (that I only know from the internet, another pandemic joy) Alysse was active in her addiction, she stole pills from her grandmother. By the time she got sober, her grandmother had passed away, and she was unable to make direct amends to her. But the universe put an older woman in her path at her very first meeting. She shared that she didn’t know how to get through the first weekend sober and the woman told her to pick her up at 7 that Saturday morning and drive her to a meeting. They spent the entire day going from meeting to meeting. By evening, Alysse turned to her and said, “If you let me go home now, I swear I will never drink again.” And she never did. She began to help the woman around the house, give her rides, and essentially become the granddaughter she was never able to be before.
4. The Ride or Dies
I met Mary just before the pandemic at a meeting neither of us ever went to. For whatever reason, the meeting secretary said anyone who was free to connect afterward should raise their hand. We both raised our hands, and I invited her to come to the sober birthday party I was doing comedy at that night. We have been so close ever since. I don’t know how I would have gotten through 2020 without her. There is something so special about a friend who believes you when you say what you used to be like because they have their own story, but that you have no complicated history with – you have only been sober companions to each other. Sober friendships begin on equal footing and with so much love.
5. There But For The Grace Of Gods
These are the friends that to whom you are the #1 type of friend in this list if they make it out. The perpetual newcomer. The person who can’t quite get it together but that you know is capable of doing so. You give them rides, buy them cigarettes, listen to their latest drama because you can. Because someone did it for you. Because in order to ever make it out of addiction it’s imperative that people love us and believe in us until we can love and believe in ourselves. Sometimes these people don’t make it. That’s life. What matters is that we show up for them, because we could be them. Because they are us.
In sobriety, we have the gift of showing up for others, and we can trust ourselves to do it in a way that doesn’t overextend ourselves. We can trust ourselves to connect, to love, and to be a part of the world. We know it is more important to love than be loved. And when we act from that place, so much abundance comes flowing back our way.