Just FYI, I'm a Recovering Alcoholic and I Have Friends

Ugh, I'm still mad about this Onion article from a few weeks ago.

Apr 14, 2014 at 2:00pm | Leave a comment

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OK, these are co-workers, but it counts.

I was going to let this one go. I realize how dumb it is to be mad about something out of The Onion -- as at least one person commented on my Facebook when I posted this story, "It's The Onion, It's not real." I GET THAT. And for the record, I love The Onion -- let me refer you to my favorite classic editorial written by "A Goat."

But I'm still sort of stewing over this recent article I stumbled across, entitled  "Recovering Alcoholic Doesn’t Need Friends To Have A Good Time."

A sample:

Two years after making the decision to quit drinking once and for all, local man and recovering alcoholic Julian Bradford, 35, told reporters Monday he now realizes that he doesn’t need friends to have a good time...
 “It was tough at first, but now that alcohol’s out of my life, I finally understand that I don’t need companionship to keep myself entertained. Now, I can have a perfectly enjoyable evening, by myself, watching TV, all without having so much as a single friend.”
A longtime alcoholic, Bradford reportedly made the decision to end his dependence on friendship after years of wild nights on the town, at which point the local electrical supply salesman ceased drinking and engaging in group activities of any kind. Bradford confirmed that with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in which he spent an hour every other day sitting in a church basement with a group of complete strangers, he was gradually able to wean himself off of his decades-long friendships that had taken a toll on his life and left him devastated.

It goes on like that. And don't get me wrong, I'm not outraged or anything. I don't have that gene, despite working on the Internet, which is fueled largely by outrage and that orange dust from Doritos. I just think it's super-lame -- it doesn't make sense, it's not funny, and for good measure, it spreads misinformation about the disease of alcoholism and the program.

I guess what really bothers me about it is this: When I first got sober, this was my very worst fear of how sober life was going to be. I thought fun was over for me at 25. Since I had no experience socializing without alcohol, I didn't know that it was possible. I had never been to a concert, a baseball game, a nice dinner without drinking.

I remember being particularly upset by the idea that I would never be able to get dressed up in any of my pretty party dresses. But somewhere along the way, it occurred to me that I could still go to parties -- I just couldn't drink at them.

Over the course of that first year sober, I experienced all those things without alcohol. Today there's no kind of social event I don't feel comfortable attending -- I even go to bars, as long as there's a legitimate reason for me to be in one, like a friend's birthday.  I drink a Diet Coke and actually listen to the people around me, instead of seeing how quickly I can get to oblivion.

When I was drinking and using, I actually wasn't capable of having real friendships, because I couldn't put anything before my need to get high. If we were out at a bar or to dinner, and you were talking to me, I was most likely looking past you to signal the waiter or bartender for another drink. I just didn't care that much about actual human connection -- my best friends were people who didn't ask much more from me than that I get trashed next to them. I had "bar friends" -- a long list of people whose last names and day jobs I didn't know, who I only saw after 11 pm. I chose those people over my real friends because they wanted to drink and use like I did. It didn't matter if you were my oldest and dearest friend -- if you wanted to have a couple of cocktails and call it a night I had no use for you.

In sobriety, not only am I able to show up for the people I actually care about, I've made a ton of new sober friends. Actually, the sober women in my life are more than friends -- they're sisters. I always have someone to call today. My sober girlfriends and I have dinner together every single week -- I can't remember the last time I saw a non-sober friend that frequently. And in addition to all the old stuff I do, I've been introduced to a whole new world of sober socializing -- we have our own dances, beach houses, summer camps and softball leagues. 

When we talk about the end of our drinking, a lot of us talk about how small our worlds had become. In the end, it comes down to you and your substance of choice, often alone together in a filthy apartment, avoiding the shambles of the rest of your unmanageable life. Only when we get sober do our lives get big again.

That article bothers me mostly because it's a stereotype about alcoholism that keeps people from taking steps toward sobriety ("I won't have any friends, I won't have any fun"), and it just absolutely does not have to be true. So, whatever, it's not a big deal, it's a joke, I get it. But if you are someone who currently has a problem with drugs and alcohol, let me tell you something that is true. As hard as it may be for you to believe right now, I have had more fun in sobriety than I ever had drinking. I promise, I promise, I promise.