I found myself in a situation that would normally make me feel sad, apologetic, and back pedaling so people wouldn’t be mad at me, or think bad of me.
I have a dear friend who is having trouble staying sober. And I called her on it.
I’m pretty sure that violates all the AA rules and also the ones I learned in my therapy group too.
But I’ve only been to two AA meetings, and the first one was 20 years ago. My therapy group turned out wonky and sad. So now, here I am, making up my own rules. Which aren’t rules, but more like this one sort of guideline: be firm but understanding with an open heart.
One of the hardest parts of recovery for me is all these rules everyone seems to have for what you can and can’t say. “Don’t give advice!” and “Use only ‘I’ statements”. I also sort of infer ones like “Always say ‘Yay’!” and “It’s better to sugarcoat it!”. Since I have mostly been on my own with the help of other sober bloggers and books as the backbone of my sobriety I really don’t know all the nuances and catch phrases. It makes it hard to navigate when a lot of people do. It makes it even easier to sit down and shut up before I put my foot in it and get in trouble.
But, you see, this friend is struggling. And has been for a while. And maybe it’s only a sponsors job to tell hard truths (I heard that once) but what if I don’t go to AA? Does that mean I just have to keep quiet when I see someone I love lying to themselves? Isn’t it my job to, as a successfully sober person, help others who are struggling? Am I only allowed to help if I’m being encouraging? Am I not allowed to tell hard truths? Do people who need to hear the hard truth even ask?
I have this sober pen pal I’ve been writing to for the past two years. We hit it off immediately. I know if we were in the same city we would be coffee once a week friends. But, this person struggles to stay sober. So I tell her: you might be in trouble soon. It happens faster than you think. I told her the story of how I was just drinking and drinking and then going out and doing drugs and staying out all night while my family wondered where I was. My children only 4 years and 9 months old. My husband at a loss. Why? I ask myself? Why didn’t anyone speak up and say “This shit is FUCKED UP.” Why did everyone just act like it was fine when it was clearly NOT FINE.
I told her that it wasn’t fair to breeze in and out of writing her sober blog. That it helped to stay engaged. Engaged in sobriety. To hold oneself responsible to the people who read you and care for you. I got a little bossy.
Through all this I have learned more about me. I have to live my life: me as me. I cannot worry about the so called rules of this or do’s and don’ts of that. I know how to behave. I know how to not be an asshole. And I know how to apologize if I am one. I cannot be one of those helicopter parent types cheering people on for just doing the tiniest amount required. I cannot say “It’s OK” to someone who, after expressing a sincere and heartfelt desire to quit drinking drinks again. I can say “YOU are OK” but not “It’s OK.”
Sometimes in this place there are hard things that need to be said. Sobriety is not easy. It is hard. It’s an every fucking day hard thing. To feel safe in my place in the world I have to be able to speak my truth the way I see it, not to curtain my words to soothe the sensibilities of others. This is true for all aspects of my life- not just sobriety. One really great thing about being almost two years sober is that I am finally learning that me as me is fine. That it’s OK if I don’t hold with popular opinion. That it’s fine for me to say what I feel, to like what I like, to do what I do. That when I read my friends blog about this situation and comments say things like “Sounds like your ‘friend’ is trying to shame you” I can know that I wasn’t do any such thing, and that the person who is struggling knows this too.
It was hard to say something difficult to someone I love. It took a lot of courage for me to send an email (for godssake) and say these huge things. And it took a lot of courage for my friend to respond. It made me think hard, really hard, about the choices I’m making in my life: where I waffle back and forth. It made me have my own come to jesus with myself about the lies I’ve been telling myself about things that haven’t been working in my life for a long time. Things I can see because I stay sober. Truths I can tell myself and because my friend could hear me I could be brave enough to hear my own.
We are all in it together. We are. We are here to hold each other up. We are here to cheer on, to love, to look to. But we must be able to tell each other the truth. Even when it hurts.