I may have mentioned before that I attended my first 12-step meeting on the evening I had six months clean. It took a half a dozen more meetings before I started going because I wanted to and not because it was a requirement of my treatment. More and more people began to talk to me, recognize me, and address me by name. I would participate in conversations that were started with me, but it was a struggle. Eventually, I started being asked to go for coffee with some of the other members after the meeting, and for the longest time, I always politely declined. Was it because I was shy? That may have been part of it, but the shyness had to come from somewhere. The truth is, it did.
When still in Florida, while in high school, and long before I began using drugs, I did have friends and did go out and do things with them, such as go to the beach, to parties, or for different interesting day trips. Half way through my 11th grade year, I was “caught” skipping school for five or six weeks in a row. Long story short, I ended up going to a private, self-study school that was run by a church. My mother suggested that we attend the church services since we were members of the school, and so we did. Eventually, I became involved with youth activities, the choir, and a few other things. I began making friends of a whole new caliber. I wasn’t a very outgoing person, but I do not believe I would call myself introverted either. I could be social and I could spend hours alone in my room, depending on what was going on at the time.
After graduating high school, I moved to Oregon, and continued my involvement with the church. This is where I met the man who I would later marry, which came about under shady circumstances, and believe me, I paid for it! One of the costs for me was that I stopped going to church. Another was that I was forbidden to speak to others and maintain friendships or relationships of any kind. Toward the end, I was cut off from my own mother and sister, and was kept very isolated. Once that nightmare was over, I started a new relationship with a woman I would spend the next 13 years with. This is when I began a life of drug use and all that goes with it.
For those of you who have not experienced a life of drugs, more than any other addiction, it is one that involves a devious group of people—disreputable, dishonest, and disgusting. Everyone you come in contact with is only interested in drugs or your money. Even when you may think someone is your friend, you are wrong. So, for another seven years, I did not have friends and was not a sociable person, rather, I was again isolated with only my partner and my kids…and my drugs.
When I began going to meetings and meeting people, I was shy because I still had this sense that socializing was not allowed, was not safe, and that no one could be trusted. I was shy because I had not had a healthy relationship in over 14 years by the time I reached recovery. I was shy because I did not know how to socialize with others, even if I wanted to. I was shy because I believed I could never measure up, as I had been told for many years.
One evening, and one I will never forget, I made the decision to accept the invitation to coffee. This decision was based on several reasons. The first was that on this particular evening, I was in a good mood and did not want to go right home. I figured that feeling shy in a group of people I barely knew would be better than choking on the silence at home from the people I knew best. Secondly, the group going that evening was smaller than it usually was, so I felt I could break into this new involvement slowly and without a lot of pressure. And finally, I thought to myself, these meetings and the whole concept of recovery is really working for me; it’s time to muster up some courage and see what else life has to offer. So, I went.
Though there were several places members would go after a meeting, the most often was to a restaurant/bar called the Tik-Tok. The bar was separate from the restaurant, but at this time, it was one of the few places left where they allowed smoking in the restaurant part of the building because of the attached bar. At first, there were four of us. James, a very tall man with a very deep voice and Dale, a man with longish blond hair and funny and kind and sweet. And then there was Patrick. Patrick’s clean date is one month and three days after mine and we became best friends throughout our recovery. We sat down at our regular table, one that was often saved for us every night, and we ordered coffee and some f us, something to eat. James and Dale sat and played cards while Patrick and I talked.
Patrick is highly intelligent so talking to him, for me, was a fascinating experience every time. A few more people came in and joined us and Patrick being the polite and friendly soul that he is, included them in our conversation. So, again, my shyness started to creep back in, as I did not know those who joined us. I sat quietly, listening, smiling, and nodding, and suddenly I heard this huge roar of laughter coming from my left where the restaurant entrance is located.
When I looked, I saw Renee coming right toward us. I knew Renee by name and a little about her story from things she had shared in meetings, but I had never spoken to her, though I have always wanted to. Renee is a very happy, positive person and is laughing all the time, while at the same time, very serious about her recovery. Because of my tendencies to feel inferior to just about everyone, I had always felt that I would not be someone Renee would give the time of day. (As I write this, I realize that that kind of thinking was unfair to Renee.) And on this night, I learned how wrong I was.
Renee sat right across the table from me. She ordered some breakfast and chatted with the waitress for a few minutes. When the waitress walked away, Renee began talking to me. She shared with me some recent conversations and letters between herself and her oldest daughter. She talked about how she was learning how to handle different situations that are common with a teenage girl and sometimes she had to just admit that she was unsure what to say and would tell her daughter that she needed time to think it through and be prepared to answer her correctly, rather than guess off the top of her head. I also learned that Renee has two other children, a son and a daughter, both much younger than her first-born. Her oldest was living with Renee’s parents, while the younger children were in the custody of their father.
The conversation that I shared with Renee that night is irrelevant, but what is important was that she not only talked to me, but felt comfortable enough to share personal thoughts and feelings. That night was the beginning of a friendship and a milestone of confidence and the shedding of my hermit state of mind. As a result, I began opening up, venturing to let others in, letting them be my friends and learning how to be a good friend back. And to this day, the friends I have made in recovery are not only the best friends I have ever had and still have, but their friendship has far exceeded my expectations of what a friendship is supposed to be like. Just one of the many blessings and benefits of being in recovery!
- Reflections of a Recovering Addict, #7 (onemindmanydetours.wordpress.com)
- Reflections of a Recovering Addict, #8 (onemindmanydetours.wordpress.com)
- Why you keep coming back (mayibe.wordpress.com)