Openness, honesty and willingness to be vulnerable
My friend was having a really hard time. I wanted to show up for her, but at that point in my drinking, I was completely out of touch about what that meant. I decided to drop off a card and flowers to let her know I loved her and was there for her.
However, I did this when she wasn’t home.
To this day I don’t know if my timing was on purpose or unconscious, but it meant something. She called me out on it and confronted me that it was an empty gesture.
She told me that I wasn’t really there for her, and that I just wanted to feel like I was.
I remember that I cried and felt like no matter what I did it wasn’t enough. Our friendship was on rocky grounds, and close to being lost forever.
Then, I got sober.
In recovery, I finally understood what my friend was telling me. She didn’t need a card, she needed her friend. She wasn’t telling me I wasn’t enough (as I had interpreted it). She was telling me that I was exactly the person she needed because I meant so much to her, and I had disappeared. Perspective is everything.
Friendships in recovery are meaningful relationships that hold depth and value.
Some people have to change everything when they come into recovery – people, places and things. This may mean the loss of old friendships, but this isn’t true for everyone.
While some people may be a hindrance to your recovery journey, others can be a support and your friendships may actually deepen.
I was fortunate to have a lot of good friends who stayed by me, but I had to change my behavior with people to be a good friend. I had to re-learn (or perhaps learn for the first time) what it really meant to show up. And what a journey it has been!
There are many ingredients to healthy relationships.
First, in recovery we look at our own behavior – our selfishness, our harms, and how we have used others. Our actions play a huge role in our past and future friendships. When we can pinpoint the areas in ourselves to improve, we can grow and change.
At the same time, we need to go deeper. Having healthy relationships is also a matter of good self-esteem, knowing our worth, and setting boundaries.
Third, key to any relationship is an openness, honesty, and willingness to be vulnerable.
Reciprocity is also a part of true friendships. Reciprocity means to have a mutual dependence, action or influence on one another.
This doesn’t mean it’s going to be 50/50 all of the time. It simply means that there is an equal investment in the relationship.
Sometimes life is difficult, and you aren’t able to be as emotionally available for others as you would want. At these times your friend shows up for you.
Sometimes your friend is facing challenges and you’re able to show up for them.
Sometimes you’re both on equal footing to share with each other, whether it’s the joys or the pain.
Many years later, the friend I sent the flowers to is still one of my best friends.
We worked through past issues, we navigated what our friendship looked like in my sobriety, and we learned how to be there for one another in new and deeper ways.
In recovery I’ve also gained a new and beautiful group of friends who teach me every day a new way of being in relationships.
• Find a practice friend. Okay this sounds silly, but it can be a life-changing exercise. Ask someone in recovery to practice being friends where you can be awkward and share feelings or fears. Many people in recovery feel socially fearful. Using substances temporarily took away those fears. Now just state them out loud, “I want to be your friend, but I don’t know what to say next.” It’s incredibly liberating!
• Cultivate multiple friendships. No one person can ever meet all your needs, nor can you meet all of their needs. There may be different interests, hobbies, activities or simply different times of availability. Develop friendships with several or more people.
• A reason, a season or a lifetime. Not every relationship ends because it was toxic or not a good friendship. Sometimes people come into our lives for a distinct reason, an amount of time or forever. Sometimes we simply drift apart. People change in differing ways and grow in different directions. Be gentle around endings.
•Take care of yourself. This isn’t always easy, but self-love and self-care goes a long way in showing up for others. When you take care of yourself, you can show up authentically and with meaning for others.