Still Navigating Friendships at the Age of 40
Everyday, waking up sober is infinitely better than the way life used to be when I drank. I still don't have all the answers, but I have a better grasp on myself and what I want in my life. At the same time, things have not been easy on this journey.
One of the hardest concepts when you stop drinking is wondering what your friends will think. You question how not drinking will be received by the people you spend your time with every weekend. Will my friends still want to hang out with me? What will I do on a Saturday night now that I don't drink? Will I still be invited to places? Will I feel left out? Will people judge me? These questions kept me in an unhealthy pattern of drinking way too much for way too many years. I was scared to socialize without booze. Deep down, I was also afraid to face the handful of women that I thought always had my back.
During the first year of my sobriety, I remained scared of disappointing my friends by changing who I was. Would they judge me because I was recovering out loud? I didn't want to make people mad at me by telling my honest truth. I didn't want my friends to leave me out. I didn't want my friends to speak negatively about me, because I no longer had space for alcohol in my life. I wanted things to stay the same forever, but I knew that would be impossible. I began to change and there was no way those relationships would remain the same.
As a species, we want to belong. Especially when we become moms, we need to be part of something larger in order to survive. We crave connection. Often, in early motherhood, we feel lost on the road to raising kids, so we cling to others to validate how we feel. We want to feel accepted by our community for the sake of our children, and most importantly we don't want to feel ostracized. Alcohol played such a crucial role in my need to belong for so many years. Ultimately, not drinking though, ended up creating a massive divide between me and the people I spent my time with as a mom.
Unfortunately, sobriety has left me feeling ostracized from a group of people that I thought understood and cared for me. The friends that I thought loved me, have in fact behaved differently than I had hoped. The women that cared for me for so long through many years of friendship, did not stand by my side as I let down my guard and bared my soul to the world. When I published my book, many of my friends stopped talking to me. When I was at my most vulnerable state, these friends did not support me. This experience broke my heart.
Everyday, I am grateful for my sobriety. I do not regret any of the decisions that I have made or the path that brought me here. Alcohol made me weak and insecure for far too many years, and I finally found the strength to stand on my own two feet and be my own person. I am confident in the road I am on now, as I continue to help women everyday that are currently struggling with alcohol. I have been able to teach my children many valuable lessons through this whole experience.
For so many of us who get sober, we once believed that alcohol was the fast track to connection for so much of our lives, before we stopped drinking. When we drank, we used to believe we were opening up and having deep conversations. What we have all learned in sobriety is that we have deeper, more meaningful discussions now that we aren't numbing out with a substance. Before, when we were drinking, we wanted to hang out with as many people as possible. Stay out at late as possible. Drink as much as we could. Get as drunk as we could handle. Although it felt fulfilling at the time, I have come to learn that the connections I had with people while drunk were not as fulfilling as I once believed.
In sobriety, I have learned to understand the types of quality friendships that make me feel appreciated, loved and understood. I am grateful for the people that check in on me, support me in this difficult journey and are genuinely interested in my wellbeing and what I have to say. When I published my book, these friends didn’t turn their backs on me or refuse to talk to me. They did not stop returning my text messages. They didn’t stop including my children in play dates. They didn’t ask to switch their table in the dining room at a restaurant to be further away from my family. Instead, these kind friends have embraced my change wholeheartedly and continue to support my vulnerability.
When my eight year old daughter sees the women she knows well - whom I used to be friendly with on a regular basis, walk past us in public and pretend not to know me, she doesn’t understand what has happened. She has so many questions about what is going on in our world. "Why are they acting that way to you, mom?" It is so hard to have to explain this situation to her.
I choose to hold my head high when Parker asks why my friends don’t speak to me anymore. I always strive to lead by example for her and be truthful. I simply tell my daughter, over and over again, that I honestly don’t know why these women ignore me, because they won’t respond to my attempts at communication.
The bottom line is, so many of my close friends stopped speaking to me once I published my book, after I publicly shared about my struggles with alcohol. For reasons I may never know or understand, it seems as though they no longer want to be associated with me or near me or my family.
Today, I can say with confidence that I made a difficult choice in my life with regards to drinking, but I am living a healthier lifestyle now. And ultimately, I am a better mom to my children as a result of this change. I tell my kids we must be kind to everyone and show compassion to those that continue to be unkind to us, even when it is difficult. By telling my story to the world, perhaps some people didn’t agree with the decisions I made in my life, unfortunately. But I can show my children that I am being vulnerable, authentic and the best version of myself that I can be today, and that is all I can do going forward.
I know I need to be strong for my children and not let other people’s opinions deter me from being the woman I am. I hope I can be a symbol of strength to all three of my kids as they begin to navigate life in this difficult world. Feeling like I am being bullied as an adult is tough. The pain of exclusion never gets easier, sadly, even at the age of 40. I must continue to focus on my path by being steadfast in who I am and what I believe in though. I guess I still need to remind myself that nobody said this journey of sobriety would be easy. I am lucky to be where I am today though, a better, happier and healthier version of my past self.
For more about friendship - check out this week's episode of both: @theweekendsoberpodcast and @fckingsober90_podcast