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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Renken

Friends Like That

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

Despite the comfort it seemed to give me for a few hours at a time, alcohol was the worst kind of friend--and a bridge worth burning.

It was the worst kind of friend. The kind of friend that your parents have pegged from the start and try to warn you about, but you refuse to cut loose.

A liar.

A backstabber.

A bully.

But in my eyes, it was loyal if nothing else.

It didn't care if I was cool. It didn't care if I was pretty. It didn't care if I was too smart or not smart enough. And it made me forget to care about all of that.

So, despite its abuse, there are times when I miss my old friend.

I've come a long way since the please-like-me-and-let-me-sit-at-your-lunch-table days of being the new girl at school, but let's not kid ourselves--I still want to be cool. I still feel self-conscious around beautiful women--especially petite ones. I still worry that the neighbors think I'm too sober to be fun, and that the work people think I'm too flaky to be smart. I still want to forget to care.

Which is why, when I'm sitting around a table of people I'm still getting to know or walking into a party full of strangers, I start missing my old companion. I start thinking that, if it were the old days, I would be feeling comfortable. If I were drinking, I would feel like I belong. If I were holding a beer, things would simply be better.

And then I think it through.

And I remember the real story.

The real story is that, while the booze may have made me forget to care for those few hours, I was sick and utterly broken during all of the other hours. Before recovery, my life revolved around wanting to fit in, but always feeling left out. Wanting to be liked by everyone, but hating what I had to offer. My self-worth was defined by what I thought others thought about me. My mind never stopped worrying that I wasn't enough.

Smart enough (because the scholarships and degrees were all a terrible oversight).

Funny enough (because the straight-A student couldn't possibly have a personality, too).

Thin enough (because at the end of the day, all that really matters is whether you can rock a pair of skinny jeans).

Maternal enough (because good moms don't have careers).

Easygoing enough (because passion is just plain unattractive in a woman--unless it's passion about her man).

Pretty enough (because the other stuff is meaningless if people look right through you).

Good enough (because God knew that I was a fraud, even if no one else did).

I think it through, and I know without a doubt that I don't want the drink. I know that drinking never did and never will give me the sense of belonging that eluded me for almost forty years. I know that however comfortable the beer would make me feel for the moment, it will make me infinitely more uncomfortable when I wake up--and that the misery won't go away when the headache subsides.

The second I take a sip or pop a pill, the old mindset will be back--with a vengeance. It will make up for lost time and it will not rest until it destroys me. Right now--sober, going to meetings and working the steps--I have the upper hand. And I'm not about to lose that so that small-talk can be less excruciating for a night.

So, yes--my friend would come back to me in a heartbeat if I'd let it. But with friends like that . . .

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