Saturday April 21st 2016 – I went back to AA a shaking, shivering mess, huddled in my thick parka and scarf, crying and ashamed. Defeated and full of remorse and fear. The Big Book says it all, the program speaks of the alcoholic who is truly defeated and ready to admit powerlessness. With that change came a loss of all of my connections as most of them were toxic, based on shared addictions and my decision to be abstinent and sober was too confronting for most friends. I lost my best friend – alcohol – and then my minimal friendships because I finally realised I couldn’t keep doing the same old behaviours and expect positive changes.
One friend – Philly – said to me “I miss the drunk Isabella” – at the time I didn’t know what to say, yet internally I was screaming and shouting abuse. I wanted to shout, punch and pummel him with reminders of drunken calls, near fatal overdoses, falls and near death experiences. I didn’t say anything.
What I did do was cease contact with Philly who had been in my life since I was 18. Philly had been my best friend for a decade in my 20’s, in my 30’s we still had drunken, drug fuelled catch ups every couple of years. Philly who professed undying love for me, who I had called whilst overdosing and would visit me in hospital when Joey saved my arse from dying. Philly who admitted he did nothing when I called him to say goodbye, that I had taken a shit load of meds and wine – because he was home alone and too drunk to so anything to save or help me.
Philly would try to tempt me with alcohol, drugs or both. Every. Single. Time I tried to get sober. Is that friendship? Is that healthy? Is that fair? Is that love? No. That’s what addiction does to people – it fights to keep its friends close and equally unwell so that the individual does not have to face their own addictions, struggles, pain and self sabotaging choices and actions.
My desperate desire to be sober held a mirror up to my friends and showed them their own sickness – which they were not ready to accept. It was not my place to force them to see their own addictions, pain and chaos created by their addictions. And that’s ok. Some friends I distanced myself from slowly and carefully as I did not want to harm them further. Others turned on me – lashing out in anger, blaming and critising me for my new lifestyle and quiet voice of change. These friends ceased contact with me and it was explosive, painful and full of anger and arguments – recriminations and judgements from both sides. I had yet to learn to avoid or cease the toxic patterns of our friendships or relationship – something I still struggle with today.
Yet here I am – still sober, with a small group of strong healthy friends who only want the best for me. I now seek healthy, balanced company. I seem to be almost “adopted” by people who see something in me that they like. I question their desire to be my friend – are they crazy? Do they pity me? What do they think I can give them in return for their amazing qualities, support and friendship? Are they nuts???
I am slowly learning to accept that others see something in me I do not yet fully see or own. I observe their healthy choices, listen to their love of excercise, healthy eating and gardening, gigs, music festivals, travel (NO girls I am never going to be into excercise like you – that’s where I draw the line!!!!) and, occasionally I ask for advice and act on it.
The only changes I should be focusing on is that of my own choices and life – other peoples lives are their own business. Until their choices and actions impact me – THEN it’s my business up to a point.
This year I’ve seen the extreme spectrum of people’s behaviour – toxic and revolting bullying and abuse to pure love, acceptance and kindness. Gratitude reins supreme.
This year I’ve experienced the most toxic situations I have been in since my childhood. All by choice. Witnessed the full spectrum of positive and negative behaviour of others and myself- and nearly come undone by my childish people pleasing.
I’ve been bullied, shamed and allowed myself to be victimised. I’ve believed the toxic people I chose to listen to when they said I wasn’t normal, I’m too much, I’m too little, boring, have nothing of interest to say, their “shoulds” and changes I need to make – for them.
Reflecting back, I’ve been doing this since late 20’s – tried to be what others wanted. And it hurt. It hurt really really badly because I always failed to be enough and their image of what I ”should” be.
Also this year, I’ve had amazing gifts of friendship, support, guidance and acceptance of……me. The Isabella who has no longer got a shield of denial or hiding places – I’ve had no choice. I’ve been reduced to a blubbering mess and forced to accept all that I am – all her odd ways, self sabotaging and also the positive aspects of me.
Through the kindness of new friends and the acceptance and willingness to reconnect of old friends who have known me since I was 17, I have felt loved, appreciated and cherished. I’ve learned that not everyone will appreciate me in all my erratic ways and that’s ok.
The friends that accept me – warts and all – are the ones that truly matter. They are the ones I need to listen to. Not the ones that tell me that I’m not normal, I don’t communicate well or that want me to change to fit their image and lift.
I’ve had an absolute toxic revolting year – yet a very very soft landing where I am safe, secure and willing to learn. I have so so many blessings and am aware of them on a daily basis – my gratitude list is long.
I’ve got a lot of learning and healing to do. I still make mistakes daily/hourly. But I’m willing to learn new behaviours and to appreciate every person in my life as they are. If I don’t want to be told I must change and conform then I have no right or desire to demand others change or to tell them they are wrong.
So thankful to have the ability to reflect and grow – thanks to key people in my life that have shown me what true friendship and love looks like.
I am loved, loathed, tolerated, accepted and rejected – and all of it is ok.