“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:7-10
How in the world can I (as a recovering addict) ever be a true friend?
This is the question I am pondering at the moment. This is what I am currently examining about myself. I feel like a teenager looking at the mirror and not knowing which blemish to tackle first. My character defects are like zits, you get rid of one and two more pop up!(sorry for the gross analogy….but not really 🙂
One consistent way of living that has worked for me so far in my recovery journey is trying my best to tune out what my disease, people not in recovery, and really just any “worldly” influence that is both not helpful and/or harmful to my recovery. Instead I tune in to the words spoken by my sponsor, my counselor, my pastor, members of SA, family and other trusted people. By turning up the volume of scripture, sermons, prayers of others, passages from the “Big Book” and so on; I am essentially turning down the noise of false ways of living.
True recovery for me has meant I not only need connection but I cannot survive without it. Connection with others is the heartbeat of my recovery. If I am “exercising” my friendships then I am keeping the “heart” of recovery healthy. Learning how to actually be a good friend is not easy for me and I am realizing that I have never really been a good friend until now.
Coming to this realization has been sobering and sad. I understand now that even on my best day as an addict I was more than likely “playing a friend” much like an actor portrays characters on a stage or the screen. At my worst I am downright abusive. Using rage and manipulation to get what I want out of a relationship. Ignoring the needs of others to solely focus on my needs. These are the ways I used to treat my “friends.”
If I am living inside my disease (my insanity) and not seeking recovery in any way then I am incapable of selfless love. I lack the basic ability to truly connect with another because I am addicted to the unreal. Lust kills love. I see more clearly the hurt I created and the wreckage of that hurt is staggering.
Today I am angry. I am angry to the point of action. The action I speak of is formulating a list of names – all of whom I am willing to make amends. This is the 8th step and it has been by far the most scary for me. Making the list of people I have harmed in my 4th step was a breeze compared to this step! The people I put on this list are the ones that I must be 100% committed to make amends to personally (if possible) to right the wrongs I have created. Could I face rejection? Absolutely. But the time is now. I must approach this step with a sense of desperation that the doors of opportunity may possibly be closing as I type.
Embracing my Role
Often times in the past, I would get discouraged when my friends would not be more proactive in planning events that involved me. I would complain that I was always having to be the planner and coordinator. I would hypothesize that if I never planned anything then I would never be invited or involved in anything socially. My disease took these emotions and ran as fast as it could. Victim mentality, self-pity and isolation sure seemed a lot easier than being a selfless friend.
What I am learning is that God has given me certain gifts that He hasn’t given everyone. I need to see that as a blessing and an opportunity to serve others. Maybe God has put me around certain friends TO BE the planner and coordinator and to refuse to use this gift is to deny God’s plan for me among my friends.
Today I have fully embraced this role among my friends and am grateful for the ability to connect with others in the way God wants for me. It hasn’t been easy to turn down the volume of the lies that tell me that the fear of rejection is a reason to stay isolated. It has been a process. But the process is yielding positive results. Proof of those results are that every single one of my friends here in Nashville has told me, in their own way, how much they will miss me when I leave. They have expressed happiness for my new opportunity on the horizon but grief and sadness pondering life in Nashville without me.
Today I have also embraced the need to try and mend broken friendships. Is it realistic to mend them all? I think not. But there are a handful that are worth the risk. I have a friend that I met overseas and heavily relied on his support during the difficult transitions of resigning from a great job, moving away from my wife and daughters, and getting a divorce. I fear that I relied on him so much I had nothing to give to the friendship myself. It became a one-way street and I am sure he was hurt on some level because of that.
I am going to make an amends to him. Even though we have lost touch over the last year, his friendship is worth it. He could reject my attempts, he could need more time to process all that has transpired. I fear that might be the case but that fear is small compared to the anger that drives me to reach out to maintain a relationship.
Making full amends assures that I am doing all that I can to keep my side of the street clean. The rest is in God’s hands.