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.