Having solid people in your life makes the hard things more manageable. It is a gift to have friends who love you, believe in you and support you. My friendships are treasured and in no way taken for granted. I feel incredibly lucky to have some real gems in my life. A few have been asked to share their thoughts on my drinking as a way to hear a different perspective, to grow and understand and to continue on the Road to Sobertown. Here are the thoughts of one special lady. As others come in, I will be sure to share. Thank you, sweet friend, for sharing.
Some things go without saying. Change is hard. Friends make everything more tolerable. And Stephanie Mitchell will forever be someone other people will want to be around. For years I’ve marveled at her willingness to push herself and try new things, even and especially when they’re hard. Unlike me, she leaves little space between the idea of a goal, and the fierce execution of it. I can wait years before beginning to lean into a dream. She takes action, asks questions, seeks support, does the work, meets the goal, and moves on to the next big thing. (Hey Ironwoman, do you remember when you didn’t think you knew how to swim?)
This isn’t news to anyone who knows her, but Steph is the kind of friend who shows up for the wins and the losses. She has been by my side as a faithful friend for so long, I’m hard pressed to remember life before knowing her. I suspect many of us feel this way. When she shared with me her plan to step away from drinking, at least on a trial basis, I felt so proud of her. And worried. I’ve been with her on many nights that began with hearty intentions toward sobriety, or just one drink, but devolved into several. This, followed by a morning of regret. I always felt for her, but said nothing and wanted only to love and support her as is. Partly out of fear that she might feel scrutinized or judged if she knew I felt concerned, I stayed silent. Knowing now that this pattern haunted her for much longer than I realized, I wonder if I failed her.
I’m a therapist. And as a therapist, I feel keenly aware of how off-putting it can be to enter a conversation sounding like one. My family can attest. With Steph, I want always to be a friend first. And frankly, everyone has their demons – some of them look like drinking, most of them are far more elusive and harder to name. Who am I to barge in with potentially clinical-sounding observations in the context of a friendship? This for me remains a very hard line. I’m not objective with my friends and family, nor would I aim to be.
Have I quietly worried about Steph’s drinking over the years? Yes, but with unremitting privacy. Does it sometimes feel alienating to attend social functions as the sober guest? Absolutely. I sometimes miss out on being in that zone, where everything seems funny to everyone but me. But that isn’t Steph’s fault, nor is it anyone’s responsibility to deal with, other than my own. Am I exceptionally proud of her, not just for making another monumental life change, but for sharing this experience in order to support others who might find solace in knowing they’re not alone? Without a doubt. But it isn’t the shifting relationship with alcohol per se that deepens our friendship, though maybe that doesn’t hurt. It is her willingness to look with wide open eyes at very hard things and then share her vulnerability—this is what gives me permission to take a good look at my own hard things, which leaves me feeling all the more grateful to call her my friend.