A few months ago, I spent time with some former drinking buddies and walked away feeling confused and disappointed yet strangely liberated. When I gave up alcohol, these friendships shifted immediately. Removing the through line of the thing that brought us together in the first place left behind a vast silence- while they never discouraged me from quitting drinking, they haven’t encouraged me either. They just went silent.
It took me a while to share Sober Laura with these friends. There were a couple I felt particularly nervous to reveal Sober Laura to as I knew they would make my choice about them- and I was right. Upon telling one former drinking buddy, she said, “Yeah, I always knew you had a problem. Not me though. I’ve never had a problem with alcohol.”
This person I partied and drank with for over 20 years; yet, I am the one with the “problem”. Neat!
The conversation turned into an argument. I pointed out- very loudly- that there had not been one get together in the past two decades of knowing each other where alcohol was not the main focus. Further, to label me as someone with a “problem” with no blame placed on the addictive substance itself is downright insulting. In the end, we hugged it out, relayed hollow let’s-get-together-again-soon platitudes, and I left knowing full well that the friendship was over.
I felt true sadness on one hand but, on the other, complete relief.
I admit, I live in a black and white kinda world. To me, things are either one way or another and there is not a lot of room for gray, especially with relationships. So while it may seem drastic and too all-or-nothing to state that a friendship is over due to a dietary decision and one heated argument, it isn’t- there is so much more to it… technically, I didn’t make the choice to end these friendships. They did via silence.
There’s other friends too, a few also with 20-/+ years of history, wherein every time we hung out we did so with the intent of drinking as much as humanly possible from day to night. I would literally calendar hangovers around spending time with them, making sure not to have anything social the day before or two days after so that I could harness all my strength for an epic day of drinking and the misery that followed. I am such a good planner.
One of these friends I haven’t heard from in over 6 months. Another, 8 months. Then there’s the 15 year drinking buddy turned breadcrumber– I prefer silence thankyouverymuch.
In the silence, I’ve been able to take a very critical look from the outside in. When it comes down to it, I also have to admit that I was never truly allowed to be myself in any of these relationships. A couple of these people, I honestly don’t even like and hanging out was never fun save for being drunk. I only liked that they liked drinking as much as I did- and I really liked that for a very long time.
These relationships all also happened to be my most problematic. Maybe it is just me and my not so fabulous upbringing but I have always had problems with female friends. Lots of problems. Those problems stemmed from my emotional neediness coupled with their emotional insecurities, and alcohol only worked to fuel those flames, never in a positive way. With the drinking buddies in particular, there were so many fights and drama and tears and paranoia and hurt feelings and gossip over the years, it was truly ridiculous. (Whereas all that did not exist with friends I did not drink with- imagine that!)
A year ago, the silence came and the ridiculousness left. Sobriety brought, for me, a much easier and better way of living life, the air finally became clear. I no longer hide behind a chemical to change into a version of what makes other people comfortable, and wow does that feel freaking amazing.
I have been working on this post for several months, coming back to it over and over always after some random get together with some former drinking buddy that left me feeling weird and conflicted mainly because not one has ever asked me about not drinking. What the hell? I haven’t heard from you for the greater part of a year yet the reason I haven’t heard from you is the exact thing we are going to avoid talking about.
Fuck that. I want to talk alllllll about sobriety. I choose to talk alllllll about it. A true friend would want to hear all about a choice that has brought me so much joy and peace than ever before, celebrating my first year of sobriety and raising a mocktail right alongside.
I am finally inspired to get this post up because, this time, I made the choice to bring the last of my former drinking buddy chapters to a close. It was the one I had been holding on to the longest, the one that brought out in me all of my darkest triggers, the one that made me question myself and my motives more often than I ever want to admit ever again.
I decided, that’s it, no more. I’m using my power toward not feeling forced into those negative patterns and no longer allowing another person to only take me for the parts they want while ignoring the rest. This decision brought such a genuine smile to my face, beaming with elation that I am finally on the right track, letting go of the things that no longer serve me, and choosing to begin again.
I deserve so much more from the people I choose to bring into my fold. We all do. Mutual love, truth without judgement, kindness above all, and infinite respect. I can now finally admit when I am not getting what I deserve and have zero compunction over keeping my boundaries therein- I will not settle for anything less. I know when I meet a truly genuine soul; and now, without alcohol to distract, I am not afraid to be the same genuine soul in return.
Our greatest challenges are our greatest triumphs. These former drinking buddies have become some of my greatest teachers and I am forever grateful for all the hard lessons learned.
My only wish for them is that, in the silence, they find the same.
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