Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Not Just Any Friend Can Help

When I got sober, I was told to take a good look at the people I hung around with.  Were they going to help me during this very fragile time, or might their actions/behaviors be unsettling for my recovery work.

It took a while, but I finally understood there were some people and places I couldn’t be around because I wasn’t strong enough to ward off the temptation to take a drink.

When I first came home from treatment for my eating disorder, I had to stay away from conversations about what other people looked like, dieting or how much people ate or didn’t eat.  Sounds easy, I know.  But if you pay attention to it, you’d be amazed how commonplace it is for people to comment on others or to compare themselves in a negative way.

In both cases, during early recovery for alcoholism and for an eating disorder, I had to be extremely conscious about who I turned to when I was in need of support.  I did my best to learn who could help me stay healthy and focused .. and who might not.

As I moved through the program of recovery and got stronger, I started to awaken to all the issues and hidden feelings underlying my alcoholism and anorexia.  In that process, I started to learn who would and who wouldn’t be helpful to support me through life issues that go well beyond picking up a drink or skipping a meal.

And just when I thought I had that all figured out, I found myself turning to a good friend about something I believed she could help me see my way though.  I was stunned and hurt to find her seemingly comforting words counterproductive and, to a certain extent, hurtful.  I walked away feeling unheard, unappreciated and empty.

And then I realized something important.  I did a disservice to myself and to my friend.

I simply didn’t take the time to think through the ramifications of turning to someone who couldn’t provide me with the support I needed.  Not because she didn’t care, it was because she didn’t understand.  I had set an unspoken expectation of her and when she didn’t meet it, I was let down.

Because she had helped me through other tough stuff I had somehow told myself she could be some sort of “one-stop-shop” for whatever I was going through. This was simply futile and unfair to both of us.

Today, I’ve know that the same foundational advice given to me when I was so fragile in recovery still holds true.

Whatever my issues may be, whether they are recovery related or not, I always need a moment to breathe.  I need to pause as I determine who might best help me, not who I’d wish could help me.  I need to thoroughly consider if the phone number I’m dialing is the one that will lead me to feeling centered.

It only takes a moment.  And in that moment, I’ll find my way to lasting benefits.

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One thought on “Not Just Any Friend Can Help

  1. Wow. I REALLY needed to read this today. So often I’ve gone to the proverbial hardware store searching for bread. I am coming to realize more and more that at the times that I need REAL support I need to be able to reach out to those who can UNDERSTAND what I am going through and can provide the direction I need. I started a list of people I can call/go to and what I can get from them. This friend can make me laugh if I need to laugh, a friend who can help me gain a different perspective, a friend who can be very gentle with me. It reminds me I am never alone.

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