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The Importance of Building Strong Friendships in Recovery

The Importance of Building Strong Friendships in Recovery

Recovery has hand-delivered many lessons thus far. Some have been neatly packaged and easy to understand; others have felt a bit more like being caught off-guard by a rouge wave. There are also some lessons – like the vitality of strong friendships in recovery – that fall sort of in the middle, where the feelings brought on go back and forth from being anxiety-producing to heart-warming. Recently, three experiences have stood out as beautiful reminders of the power and importance – at least in my recovery – of cultivating genuine and strong connections with other women. I’ll share these experiences from most to least recent because it feels like they tell their own story in that order.

This morning my mom and I went for a run. Mom is hilarious, well-read, compassionate, and has a seemingly innate skill for making deeply thought-provoking comments. Mom is also a Presbyterian minister and travels now and again to churches around Maine as a guest pastor. On our run, she told me about the main message she tried to impart in this morning’s sermon: “Only once we begin to know and appreciate ourselves are we truly able to know and appreciate others.” At first brush, the adage sounded pretty simple. As we began to unpack it, though, I realized what a profound process it describes. In fact, it doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch to say that this phrase sums up so much of my experience with recovery so far. The first part that focuses on knowing and appreciating ourselves sounds so gentle; smooth; neatly packaged. Ha! In actuality, that process has felt like (and, if you ask my amazingly patient boyfriend and family, looked like) a Six Flags roller coaster. Regardless, moments of being able to show myself love, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding, have allowed more freedom to do the same with others, and to develop some soul-touching friendships. I realized this to be true while reflecting on the second of my three experiences: an outing with a fellow lady in recovery earlier this week.

A powerhouse woman – let’s call her Jenna – reached out to me after we were both engaged in a large and somewhat fiery Facebook conversation. Her message to me read: “Hi, can we please have coffee/lunch/walk around the bay? I would love to know you better.” My internal reaction was a combination of feeling honored and apprehensive – both feelings springing from her wanting to “know me better”. But… What if she doesn’t like what she sees in me? What if I say something ridiculous or don’t show up as the best possible version of myself? Then the following thoughts: But… Bryn, she already likes you enough to want to spend more time with you. Our lady-date was heart-warming. Yes, the bagels were delicious. More importantly though, we talked openly about our different views on that Facebook conversation, about our mutual love for spending time in nature, and about how recovery has shown us what beauty there is in opening our hearts to authentic, vulnerable, meaningful connections with other women.

The third experience took place a couple of weeks ago, at the Annual Justice for Women lecture series put on by the University of Maine School of Law. This year’s lecturer, Lindiwe Sibanda, recounted the joyful highs and heart-wrenching lows of her upbringing on her family’s farm in Zimbabwe. Her passion and career are focused on tackling the global issue of food insecurity. Nearly everything that Lindiwe said was deeply impactful, but my favorite line of her talk came when she began addressing the importance of building strong relationships with other women in her community and across the globe. Lindawe quoted a relative of hers (I believe it was her grandmother) who used to say, “There is a special place in hell where women who are not kind to other women burn, and burn, and burn.” Lindiwe delivered this line with the same poise, grace, and gentle smile as she did the rest of her lecture, but it resonated in it’s own special way. In the weeks that have passed, there have still been frustrating moments where I knock myself down a peg by comparing myself to other women, then thinking less-than-nice thoughts about the same women in order to build myself up. The difference lately has been that in those moments, Lindiwe’s words have lit up in my mind like a lighthouse trying to keep ships on their course.

My mom’s reflection from this morning, this week’s outing with Jenna, and Dr. Sibanda’s recollection of her grandmother’s wise words nestle together like a three-piece puzzle in my mind. These days, it feels like I am swimming in a sea full of brilliant, hilarious, and talented, women and these female connections have carried me through the highs and lows of recovery in the most amazing way. I hope for all of us that our recovery paths allow for self-appreciation, appreciation of others, and the courage to dive into budding friendship as our authentic selves, trusting that what we bring to the table will be just right.

Bryn Ghallager

Bryn Gallagher
Blog Contributor

Life of Purpose Treatment
3848 FAU Boulevard, Suite 100
Boca Raton, FL 33431
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