When I was using drugs, I never had any shortage of friends. My phone always rang off the hook; there was always somewhere to go, something to do. We laughed, stayed up all night, and got drunk and high. I mean, why not? My boyfriend was a drug dealer anyway, so I always had drugs to share and sell.
The day that changed everything was when I found out I was pregnant. Overnight, I went from a partying, cocaine-addicted mess to an expectant mother entering recovery cold turkey. I had my friends, my new fiancée, and my meetings to help me face this new adventure called life. Or so I thought.
My fiancée swore he would stop selling drugs and start attending meetings with me. He was planning to leave his bar manager job and enter the military full time. My girlfriends had my back with my sobriety, saying they wanted to stop partying too. Some vowed to be my sober buddy.
No one made it to even one meeting. They faded away, some slowly and some without a trace. Each night my husband-to-be stumbled in at any given time, smelling of alcohol, slurring his speech, and telling me everyone missed me. He never did quit and never really loved me. Afraid of being alone with a baby, I married him anyway. Feeling miserable and betrayed, I cried at most Narcotics Anonymous meetings at the thought of my baby’s future.
The only friend I had left had stopped using the year before because she got married and had a daughter. She threw me a baby shower when I was eight months pregnant. Three people showed up, including her. My husband was still selling drugs and making excuses for his behavior.
That was twelve years ago, and I am now divorced, and raising a child on my own. I don’t know where any of those people from my partying days are anymore, including my child’s father. He fled the state because of an arrest warrant for drugs and non-payment of child support.
An Ongoing Test: Early Recovery Friends, Work, and Mom Friends
As my recovery continues and I watch my son grow, friendships have come and gone, and the meaning of what a friend is for me has changed more than once.
At first, I made a few friends who were new to sobriety, and we relied on each other to help one another on a bad night or something similar. Some relapsed, and I lost touch with them, others were stuck in their recovery somehow, and they too fell away.
At the loss of each friendship, I was hurt and disappointed. But discovering that I didn’t need to grab at or hold on to these people so hard has helped me see that my recovery has progressed. With that, I have moved ahead and started learning to be my own friend.
Going back to work brought new friendships into my life though that hasn’t been easy either. After work, happy hour parties typically happened without me, and my being a single mother has shown its disadvantages in the dating scene. Some people simply back away when they get close enough, and I open up about my past.
I’ve made friends with some of the school moms that my son plays with, and we attend neighborhood birthday parties or trick or treating together. These ladies talk about their marriages and family gatherings that I have no experience with, and my son doesn’t have a father that takes him fishing or to a baseball game. They invite us to Thanksgiving dinner and swear we are welcome like family, but when we get home, and it is so quiet, I feel alone. I still feel like an outsider. But I am working on it every day.
My one long-time friend who threw my baby shower for me is still loyal, and her daughter and my son have been friends from birth. But now, I am the one who has changed, and throughout my recovery, the things that attracted and strengthened our friendship years before are no longer of interest to me. She’s a homebody who prefers to watch television and order pizza. I want to take walks and listen to music, go to festivals and see the beach. I find myself distancing from my oldest friend.
Finding My Place: An Ongoing Process
I have joined Parents Without Partners, a group where single parents get together at outings with children and other adults. Sometimes there is alcohol, but I don’t need to drink it. Instead, I dance and talk with other people who have struggled in relationships. Maybe at some point, I’ll even be asked out on a date.
Returning to school has done great things for my self-esteem. There is a non-traditional recreational center for students older than the regular twenty-somethings to hang out between classes or study. I belong, have easy conversations, and am very comfortable.
Joining a bowling league has also been fun. I don’t think our team will take first place, but once a week, there’s a group of people who are always happy to see me, and we have a great time. My son plays video games with other kids, eats french fries, and cheers me on.
As time goes on, I don’t know how my friendships will continue to change throughout my life. There are different levels of closeness that I feel with each person that I know now. It’s an ongoing process that stretches and reshapes itself.
However, I no longer feel the need to be in a tight circle of exclusive “friends.” I’m healthier and stronger now. I’m smarter than I used to be, and I make better decisions these days.
At the end of the day, the people that I acquaint myself with have their own lives to lead just as I do. Perhaps as long as I focus on getting better each day, so will each of the relationships I find.