This week, we are welcoming back guest author Claire Nelson, who shares her reflections on friendship in sobriety.
In gratitude, harmony, and support,
Saving a Seat (and Knowing the Truth)
By Claire Nelson
Old playgrounds, old playmates. Early in my sobriety, I grappled with the idea that I would have to give up the places and people I loved––the latter being the greater sacrifice, naturally.
It was easier than I imagined to avoid my old haunts, and most of my friends were happy to meet for coffee instead of drinks or to take a walk after dinner instead of staying out ’til the wee hours.
Even so, I found myself trying to manage the people in my life and figure out where everyone fit. When micromanaging became unmanageable, my sponsor suggested I focus on my program one day at a time and allow my Higher Power to take care of the rest.
I agreed to do just that.
In the process, some friendships fell away naturally. Without alcohol, it seemed we had nothing in common.
Other friendships endured, many of which have thrived through 30 years of recovery. Of course, in that length of time, I have attracted and nurtured countless new friendships. Sobriety is wonderful that way!
A very real challenge I have faced (more than once) over the years is what to do with those friends who persist in their addiction yet are too dear to let go of. And right now, I am thinking of someone in particular––a beloved friend who is like a sister to me.
The time we spend time together is meant to be quality time, but more and more, alcohol is making it impossible to connect the way we used to. My friend usually drinks to excess and feels yucky the next day. Sometimes she even acknowledges her behavior and swears she’s going to “cut back.”
In the aftermath of these encounters, I have the same conversation with my sponsor about my friend. I worry about her health. I am appalled by her behavior. My heart breaks for her pain. Maybe I could be more helpful.
“Well, you could always save her a seat,” my sponsor will say sarcastically. Every time.
Saving a seat means holding out hope that someday my friend will come with me to an AA meeting. That she will experience, as I did at my first meeting, that feeling of belonging, of coming home. That she will surrender herself to the process and in time come to celebrate the miracle of sobriety.
I have played this scenario out in my mind a million times. The struggle. The epiphany. The happy ending.
My sponsor brings me back to the reality that I am powerless to “do” anything. My sponsor, who is also a Science of Mind practitioner, reminds me that my only real power lies not in doing but in knowing.
Knowing the Truth.
The Truth of my friend is that she is a Divine Being. She is perfect, whole, complete. She is beautiful and kind. She is loving and loved. The Infinite is expressing as her life right here and right now, and her potential is unlimited.
I no longer visualize my friend sitting in a chair in an AA meeting. Rather, I see her thriving in life––happy, radiant, and free.
Saving a seat may, indeed, be an exercise in futility. Knowing the Truth is an act of love.