Author: Justin Mckibben
When I say this, I say it with absolute certainty; the people around me today that I have the privilege of calling my friends have saved my life.
I mean if I’m being completely honest, there is a group text that has probably saved me from my insanity more times than I can count… those 3 guys know who they are… (Insert emoji hands).
Recently I’ve talked about me feeling feels and what-not, and to be honest I’ve been through some things recently that has brought this subject to the forefront of my life… If someone would have told me a few years ago that I would have the kind of men and women in my life today I share this level of love and respect with, I would have thought you were on more drugs than me.
Now before I hurt any old friends, I had some friends before I got sober that were of the same caliber, but I failed to recognize them for the true relationships they were. Resentment and selfishness kept me from seeing the people around me who actually loved me unconditionally, even so with my family, and the fact I can see their compassion and understanding in retrospect is largely due to the lessons I have learned through the friends I have today from being in recovery.
I just want to take some time to talk about some ways these bonds have changed me, and for all intents and purposes saved me from myself. I want to honor the people who have given me more than I could ever expect from individuals who planted the seed of fellowship in my life as strangers, and have grown to become vital extensions of the happiness I have found in the world.
In so many ways these people have worked in my life in a way that is nothing short of spiritual, and they have enriched every element of my life. I am who I am thanks to them.
Breaking My Ego
I have a few friends (yea, especially those 3) who I never wanted to be friends with in the first place. Some of them I couldn’t wait to hate, and we had nothing but contempt when we met.
Then my ego was broken, because as I stuck around and as I listened more and lashed out less I realized I wasn’t any better than these people, and in fact looked up to them. They were just like me, and who was I to try and belittle anyone when I was afraid of being who I really was anyway.
Soon, either after living in close proximity in a halfway house after rehab, or by being forced to see one another by meetings and mutual friends, we developed a new respect for one another. I heard their stories and what drove them, I learned about their ambitions and their hardships and ultimately came to admire many of them for every inch of footwork they accomplished in their own sobriety.
And when they hurt, I hurt with them.
My ego was constantly shattered by sharing mutual struggles with others and understanding that it wasn’t all about me, and that my troubles were not as unique and complex as I liked to believe.
Today as close friends they continue to remind me when my motives exist only in my sense of self, and when I do not act in the spirit of helping others. My friends save my life constantly when they remind me that if what I say is not followed up with what I do, then I can talk (text and type) all the game I want, but if I don’t put forth the action I am just another shell of the person I have potential to be.
And when I let my ego rule my life, a drink or a drug is not too far behind. Humility was taught to me through caring about these people, and caring less about my ego’s perception of them.
Principles and Philosophy
My life today only exists as it is because of the implementation of some form of a spiritual practice. In my own experience I cannot expect to stay sober without it, and the ones closest to me today have helped save me by sharing their philosophies and experiences with me in way that give me a broader and yet more intrinsically intimate understand of what spirituality can mean, and why I needed it.
I have friends who are devoted in their faiths, and I have friends who believe in no denomination or sect belonging to any understanding of god, and I can say today I am auspiciously blessed to have both… because as I learned to separate myself from the hopelessness drugs and alcohol had subjugated my life with, I was given conceptions and catalysts of new hope from definitively different ideologies, all embracing the freedom to choose for yourself.
I was taught by people with religious beliefs that diligence and having a kind of fearless faith, without doubt of purpose, can be precisely powerful ways to relieve myself of the mental and emotional baggage addiction had weighed me down with my whole life.
I was taught by men and women with no religious beliefs that it doesn’t take knowing a god to be a good person, and that making an honest and compassionate contribution to humanity is in itself a spiritual practice I can’t begin to put a price on.
They all taught me that practical application of the principles and philosophies I created for myself was the surest way to serenity, and this saved my life because I lean on that idea of spiritual freedom and love for my fellows when life makes me senseless… which is basically always. The God of my understand works through the friends I have, and all people.
Love and Gratitude
Without love the kind of friendship I’m talking about is unfeasibility, and I got nothing but love for the people in my life that are part of my circle. Most people know you can have all kinds of ‘acquaintances’ and ‘peers’ but the title of ‘friend’ I’m speaking on is something else.
These are the down for anything, tell it like it is (especially when it hurts), ride until the wheels fall off type of friends. Not everyone is this fortunate, and sometimes the people who are don’t see how grateful they should be. Gratitude is everything.
The kind of love I have experienced from the men and women dearest to me today is indescribable. That feeling of belonging cannot be explained, and in reality this is part of what I was looking for all along in active addiction and alcoholism… this fulfillment through love.
These people stand behind me regardless of what others might think of them, and respect my truth whether they understand it or not. These men and women believe in my capacity to succeed and be the man I should be with irrefutable conviction and patience, especially when I doubt myself.
A lot of my friends today in recovery are people that saw me in the beginning who have helped me change, who share my understanding of my illness. They have seen the despair, and they have held me up when I had suffered. Today I have brothers who believe I am worth something, and who know who I am… even when I forget.
They remind me why it is OK to not be OK, and they have taught me that my happiness doesn’t depend on where I end up, but is defined by the incredible people I travel that path through hell and back with.
They saved my life by reminding me why I should be grateful to be alive, and one of the things I am the most grateful for is the presence of these amazing people, and the love it brings to my life.
This is my family… my fellowship; part of the awesome and inspiring expedition through sobriety that was given to me when I destroyed every relationship around me. This article is just me saying thank you to every last one of you, and trying to show someone out there that a familiar face, even a rival, can end up making an impact that changes everything. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135