Dudes, being in a relationship and being sober simultaneously is fucking weird.
Apart from navigating all the “love” stuff that at one time seemed so easy, there are all the other components of relationships that have to get worked out too. And, there’s always that moment in a relationship, where if you haven’t been brought together by your friends, it’s time for you and your significant other to bring your friends together.
It’s that awkward and sometimes scary moment where you let the other one in on your life and it’s going-ons. That moment where you cease to exist in a vacuum, and suddenly are thrown into a life that’s been ongoing, a life that didn’t stop just because the other one came along.
Yes, Lars’ friends had us over for dinner. And, as I frantically bopped around my kitchen baking some dessert to bring along, my mind started to get the better of me. What if these people don’t like me? What if they think I’m not good enough for Lars? Am I too young? Too quiet? Am I just an addict and alcoholic to them? How am I going to navigate these conversations?
Fear’s a bitch. And, if you steep in it too long, it’ll get the best of you. That, I know. So, I only let myself freak out for as long as it took the oven to preheat. Then, I resigned myself to the fact that I was probably going to be uncomfortable for a bit, but, it was going to be ok. Lars would moderate if things got hairy. I had to trust that.
I picked Lars up at his place with a tin full of delicious baked goods and a pint of ice cream. My outfit was put together, but, not too “I’m trying to impress you, people.” Lars was giddy. And, it occurred to me that, me, meeting his friends, from his life, was exciting for him. He wanted to include me in his life. And, that brought me a sudden sense of ease. We’re morphing into something more that our own little unit. And, while that’s kinda intimidating, since, it’s been a long time since I’ve been a part of anything that’s worth something.
We arrived, rang the doorbell, and a little girl opened the door. Clearly excited to see Lars. Another little girl, brought up the rear squealing excitedly at our arrival. Lars’ friends ushered us in, greeting us warmly. The house was toasty warm and smelled like something delicious. And, it felt good, arriving in a place that was new and welcoming. It was nice to have a place to go and be with people that aren’t friends from AA or rehab.
I’d forgotten that friendships and relationships exist outside of recovery. And, that feels strange to say, but, recovery can build it’s own kind of isolatory walls. I’ve been so wrapped up in being an addict that it only seemed appropriate that my friends be addicts in recovery. How could anyone else understand or make sense of me? Well, they can. Lars’ friends are normal, they have normal children, they live in a normal house, made a normal dinner, and asked me normal questions. And sure, there were moments where they were clearly trying to feel out if I was a good match for Lars. But, that’s normal. And, in the uncomfortability of those moments, I realized, he’s got good friends. People who care. And, I get to be a part of this.
I get to tell stories about my life in New York. I get to share my thoughts on music and popular culture. I get to rattle off my knowledge of Irish history. And, it’s not in an AA share. It doesn’t have to relate back to my drinking days or my desire to stay clean and sober. It’s just me. Who I am. What I’ve done. Where I’m going. And, my recovery doesn’t have to factor in here. Sure, it felt weird when I was offered a beverage and opted for a soda. But, they didn’t know that. These people didn’t care what I did or didn’t have to drink.
Not only did the dinner party make me feel closer to Lars, like I was really, truly, a part of his life. But, it reminded me that I have a life. A life that goes beyond my alcoholism. I have experiences, knowledge, and wit that goes far beyond stories about me blacking out or getting fall-down-drunk. And, when you live in AA meetings and rehab, like I have the past four months, you forget that, at least I did. Every day, you’re replaying a tape of your addiction and addictive behavior. But, being there, with normal people, I was reminded that I am so, so much more than my disease.
It’s strange how time goes on in sobriety, and how lost I’ve felt, only to be found in the strangest and most sane of places. Found in a stranger’s kitchen, with a chicken roasting in the oven and two screaming girls clamoring for ice cream. And, it feels so….normal.