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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

An indispensable tool...

I want to thank all of you for your comments and e-mails. I want to assure you that I’m fine. I took some time off work to do event and foundation stuff and feel a little better now. I plan to take a weekend soon and go off into the mountains to recharge in the midst of solitude and nature – without Riley.

My BFF, Carrot, called the other day and wanted to know where my next post was. She was jonesing for what I had to say. I told her she didn’t have to wait for a post because I was always here for her. But she says it’s not the same and wants more. OK, Carrot, you asked for it.

It is a vital survival tool to have a friend like Carrot. I call her often and tell her everything. All my dirty little secrets reside in her heart because that’s the only really safe place there is to put them. She knows me better than I know myself. I wish I knew her as well as she knows me, but there are parts of her past that she chooses not to share. And that’s perfectly OK. She has had an interesting life and has been involved in substance abuse. There are dark places that she does not share. I probably know more than most – but I don’t know all. But none of that matters because I love her just the way she is no matter what she has done or where she has been. My love for her and my friendship with her is not conditional.

We met in high school. We were the first girls ever to take the mechanical drawing class and we were instant kindred spirits. We were 16 and full of mischief. After hanging together for a year, she met my older brother. I was not happy about that. And when they married – the only happiness I could find was in the fact that my best friend was now my sister.

We both had children – four for her and two for me. The six kids were separated by no more than a year apart. We often switched kids around – I would take the girls and she would take the boys or vice versa. The pediatrician never knew which mother would bring which kid to an appointment. We were dubbed “Interchangeable Mothers.”

This woman senses from 3,000 miles away that I need to talk to her. There have been times when I’ve ranted on for an hour and she has never said a word. When she does say something it is usually a reminder for me to breathe. I sometimes feel guilty that I dominate the conversation. But, that’s the way our relationship has always been – she’s always been the listener. I’ve always been the talker. Somehow it works.

Anyone who is a non-alcoholic surrounded in the muck of alcoholism, needs a friend like Carrot. If you are in that situation and don’t have one – get one. Get one now! You may have to cultivate one, seek one out. If you look around and keep looking for the signs, you will find one.

I have a few tips on finding a best friend.

It should be someone of the same gender. Men and women are different. It’s not that they can’t be friends – of course they can – but the life view is different and often one is not able to see the other’s point of view. I have a male friend and sometimes I look at him and say – “Are you kidding me? Is that how you really feel?” I could never tell him that sometimes the way Riley scratches his balls makes me sick because he doesn’t wash his hands afterward. He would think that to be perfectly normal and not understand why I hate it. He might even question that I said it – that would be worse. I have enough guilt on my own.

If you attend Alanon meetings you already have a wealth of possible best friends. They share and understand many of the same things that are happening in your life. Sharing with these people is easy.

Who’s that in the same section as you in the bookstore? Could it be a potential friend? If they are in the same section, you must share something in common. And if it’s in the section containing books on alcoholism – it’s even better.

Or maybe the parent of one of your children’s friends – that would be convenient. The kids might not like it so much – but who cares what they think? The only reason they would not want you to be friends is because you become a united front against their shenanigans.

What about the fabric store? A farmer’s market? A cooking class? Find something and participate.

No matter where you find your friend, you must determine if the friend is truly friendship material. You should click. It’s almost like falling in love. There has to be chemistry of truly “liking” the potential friend. And the only way to find a friend is to be open to the possibility. Take the cotton out of your mouth and speak up – say hello – introduce yourself – invite someone to have coffee. No one will enter your life if the door is locked.

We non-alcoholics live in a world that we prefer to keep private. We often alienate ourselves because to admit our life is not perfect is somehow an indication of our failure. We don’t get out often enough. We become so enmeshed in caring for the alcoholic that the things we had a passion for in the past are now a faint memory. We lose ourselves in the insanity.

Having a friend can help us remember the interests we once had.  They can help us live in the real world. A friend gives us someone with whom to go to movies, shopping, on a cruise, on a game show, or almost anything else that you’ve ever wanted to do. Most of all a true friend will not place blame or generate guilt. And a true friend will listen.

I wish all my readers could have a friend like Carrot.


HyperCRYPTICal said...

So glad you are feeling fine Linda and enjoy your mountains!

True friendships are indeed wonderful things - my BFF - we only meet up about six times a year, but when we do - it is just as if we had met the day before; carrying on yesterdays conversation. Love her as I love all my friends.

Love men too - but you are right, conversation is different and I don't know whether I would want to tell them everything!

Anna :o]

Syd said...

I agree that we do need someone besides alcoholics to be friends with. I am glad to have my Al-Anon fellowship that is there for me. Take care.

looby said...

Just found your blog, and pleased to have done so. Interesting about friendship. I agree - it's akin to water and the air for me. My really close friends (I'm a man) are women. I would have nothinig at all against finding that level of closeness with a man, but in my experience men sometimes feel uncomfortable with people who are open. I don't like keeping things in - if something's happened I need to tell a close friend, and at length! And in 99 times out of a hundred, a woman makes me feel more comfortable and relaxed doing that.