I wouldn’t say that forming new friendships post-sobriety has been easy, but the ones that I have developed are the most rich I have ever experienced.
Recovery has proven over and over again to offer a multitude of exceptional promises, ironically these promises are delivered only after we let go of the assumptions, the control and the worn-out ideologies that we have convinced ourselves are imperative to our survival, (despite them being the very things that were killing us).
The promises deliver gifts to our lives that we weren’t even aware we needed and fill voids we didn’t know existed.
The same has been true for me in the area of connection, vulnerability, and specifically: friendship.
I have made a lot of progress. Stepping out of my comfort zone and allowing my messy, reconstructed-self to be seen, heard, and embraced has gotten easier. I show up without masks, as-is, and wide-open.
By allowing my imperfections and eccentricities to live on the surface I have inadvertently invited the right people into my life. “Don’t change so people will like you, be yourself, and the right people will love the real you,” is one of my favorite anonymous quotes that I think sums it up nicely.
It’s a really scary idea to let yourself be seen and heard in all of your disorganized, blemished glory. It is also just as difficult to allow people to fall away if they don’t like what they see.
But it is usually always what is best for everyone involved if it happens organically.When people aren’t a part of your next chapter, or you theirs, it is not necessarily always the result of fault of either party.
Last month I had to come face to face with the fact that a nine-year friendship had probably run its course. Actually, I am positive that it has.
It still feels fresh and sort of odd to talk about, but on the other hand honoring and recognizing truth, no matter how difficult or weird, always feels insanely euphoric to me.
And I like euphoria. It is a deep breath of fresh air that to me, and it compounds a sense of freedom even in the midst of pain or a tough transition. It’s a complicated and beautiful space.
It’s okay to have bumps in a friendship, even necessary and expected. Friendships among humans are going to messy. We all have our faults and what friends do, is we accept these things and we love our friends hard anyway.
But what happens if you start to see red-flags? What do we do when red-flags transition into indicators that it’s time to break-up with a friend? I tend to gauge things on a “healthy” or “unhealthy” scale. If anything becomes too toxic, and unequivocally tips the scale over on its side, it’s time for it to go. It’s time for me to move on.
With this particular friendship the red flags began sprouting here and there. I began to take notice of the massive amounts of gossip happening.
Not just the small stuff, but about the important, personal, confident stuff. And the more she talked about other people’s marriages, their life choices, husband’s, behavior, and even their personal financial decisions, and as I listened intently to her harsh critique’s, assessments and inventories I started to realize that I was also probably subject to this kind of peer review too. That “Oh my gosh she probably shares my personal stuff too,” realization. I began to second guess the things I had already shared with her in confidence about my marriage, our struggles, and even the battle that I was going through with my mental health.
There was also a consistent and very blatant insensitivity to my feelings.
I am not highly sensitive, as much as I am empathetic and aware. I think there is a difference. For a long time I looked past the differences and distinct stances in completely different corners in the realm of politics, social justice, and other topics that are usually considered controversial, that this friend and I had, and I always appreciated hearing an open and honest viewpoint from ‘the other side’. I really did.
But I began to notice that we had several disagreements that seemed to feel personal and more serious. It felt like she would use unnecessary digs to win an argument that I thought was a discussion, no matter what the cost. Other times it manifested into her sharing something hurtful with me, and it felt like it was being done for no other reason than to get a reaction. And just like that it would be over, there would be a subject change, and we would move on like nothing ever happened. I would hang up the phone or drive away from the restaurant we had eaten at feeling angry and confused with a “What just happened?” sort of feeling.
I remember one particularly intense phone conversation that began simple enough, and somehow we began talking about the allegations and disgusting truths that had surfaced of Josh Duggar’s sexual abuse. I can remember her distinctly saying “It’s bullshit!, kids will be kids.” “Young boys are curious by nature,” she said. “It happens all of the time, people need to get over it.”
For obvious reasons I was appalled, but even more so personally. She knew that I would react to her comments, and she knew that I had been molested at a young age by a person much older than myself, but who was technically a minor.
He could have been curious too.
Regardless, she knew I would react and that I would never even consider agreeing that a teenager violating your body (whether you forgive them or not as the Duggar sisters claim that they do) is okay, and most definitely not normal ‘curiosity’.
To this day, years later, I still don’t understand her lack of compassion for me as her friend. I also cannot fathom what positive motives were behind a need to specifically negate any responsibility to the ‘curious teen boy’.
Another time during a face to face dinner, (also the most recent) I asked her why she had gone so long without calling me, only to call me out of the blue to list off juicy information about my family that I wasn’t privy to (because we are a mostly estranged family).
Her response floored me.
Her motives were pure, I was assured. Despite what it looked like or felt like to me or how quickly the gossip was delivered, she did not realize how much it would hurt me knowing that I had been left out of important family health-related news. She didn’t know that telling me that my sister had gotten married might not be something to spring on me in the way that she chose to. She had no idea that it was going to be rough for me to hear. She had no idea that I would silently begin to cry in my car, realizing that I had missed a major milestone in my sister’s life, and there was a possibility that my grandma was very sick.
As for not calling me for so long, she reminded me that I had in fact, mentioned that I was really struggling with postpartum depression after having Max, and she really just thought that I was probably maybe still battling depression. She didn’t know.
It was just so hit and miss with me, and also, she really just never knew “what or who to expect anymore” when we talked.
In hindsight, she was right.That’s fair. I was battling with some fierce postpartum. I had a lot of support and I made it through, thank God.
And yep, I still battle with depression and it is hard. It’s really hard sometimes.
I am thankful for the people in my corner who cheer me on and love me through the harder days and darker times.
Also yep. She is spot on. I pulled away from her and she really probably didn’t know who or what to expect from me.
Between my lack of trust toward her prompting me to take a few steps back from any deep or personal content, and also that pesky depression, fuck. Truth be told I probably didn’t even know what or who to expect from myself some days.
It was just time, you guys.
Time to close this chapter.
Admittedly, I am not the best or some kind of hybrid, classic representative of what an ‘ideal’ friend should look like. I am just not.
I am not consistent and maybe, probably, or even likely, I am a bitch sometimes.
I also suck at returning phone calls, although I do well to answer texts. I hate to shop in groups and I don’t drink. I am slow to trust, and even slower to open up.
But recovery has shown me a few things about what I am.
I am more of a long-talker kind of friend. I want to walk and talk. I want to know how you are and who you are and where you are. I want to know how you are feeling and what is going on in your world. If you are sick, I do care. If you need a ride, call me I will come and get you. If you need a hand to hold, hold mine. I eat with you, drink coffee with you, laugh with you, cry with you, and you can be just as messy and blemished as I am without worrying. I don’t expect perfection from my friends and I don’t keep a creepy scorecard on my nightstand.
I am a person who has worked hard to accept that not only is it okay to respect and love myself enough to not exemplify doormat qualities, it is healthy. I am a person who knows that toxicity has a real effect on my psyche and how I feel. I am a woman who has opinions, I am a person who can only honor God, by cutting out crap that doesn’t do me any good, because in turn, I can’t do Him any good if I am entrenched in negativity.
So if you, like me, happen to be brand-spanking new to friendship sabbaticals or friendship break-ups, I think certain things are important to remember. Here are a few things to consider:
*Keep it clean.
Don’t share names or deets on social media.
*Take some time to grieve.
This was a real, meaningful relationship.
Recognize that it hurts to face an ending.
*Don’t play games.
Stifle any urges that you have to lash out or play the blame game or attack that friend. It is just what it is at this point. Things weren’t working for you, and chances are, she might feel the same. Cool.
This does not have to be about them or what they did or said or didn’t do. This is about you, what you need, and what you tolerate. Your needs, not their shortcomings.
*This is not about being sad or angry or regretful that something is changing or ending.
Realize that this is about making room for productive, positive, healthy relationships in your life, and maybe even hers as well.
*For me I want to serve God, honor who He made me to be, and bring glory to Him.
I can’t do any of that if I am enmeshed in toxic, unhealthy, situations that are only making me question myself, question who I am, second guess everything, and over analyze. I operate and function at my best when things are chill and calm and uneventful. Learn to let go of what doesn’t need to be held anymore. Let go of what drains you.
Note: Still not sure about this part of it yet. This has been a lot to process thus far and from here, I will navigate the ‘how-to’ part of ending a friendship.