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More Imaginary Friends

More Imaginary Friends


In year three my imaginary friend network was now starting to grow.

 

Occasionally my “non-imaginary” friends would ask me about the people at the meetings.... “Do you have any friends there?” they would ask....sure I would say....and then I would elaborate on the imaginary friendships I had created in the rooms.....I would, of course, omit the imaginary part.

 

Since disclosure of last names in the meeting rooms is reserved for only the deepest of relationships.... early on I created my own naming structure to help remember who was who. I simply took their first name and added a descriptor in front of it....so, as an example, my current sobriety team consisted of weightlifter Paul & Tennis Eddie.....not to be confused with District Attorney Paul or Brain Surgeon Eddie.

 

Oddly though, when people asked about my friends, I always mentioned weightlifter Paul, Tennis Eddie and then added two other names to the list....four imaginary friends seemed better than two imaginary friends.

 

Everyday at 5:45....maybe 5:50....my two other imaginary friends would walk in and take their seats in the front of the room facing the meeting leader. They talked the whole meeting, they used bad language, they were irreverent.... and they laughed constantly....mostly at their own jokes. They both shared a lot. To me, they were like Butch & Sundance, Laurel & Hardy, Martin & Lewis and Ben & Jerry all wrapped up into one. Their presence was often bigger than the meeting....heck, most days they were the meeting. Unfortunately for me, they did not fit neatly into my new sophisticated naming structure. There was no one word descriptor that I knew of, that could adequately describe either one of these guys personality. They were the Bono / Prince of the 5:45 Meeting.

 

Imaginary friend number 3 was from New York. He was a former drug user / drug dealer. He was a big guy, slightly intimidating. He may or may not have killed someone before. He wore coaching shorts and tank tops a lot. He had been sober a while and now originated mortgage loans and sold “hard to find” beanie babies on the side.

 

Imaginary friend number 4 was a few years older than me and quit drinking right around the same time I did. However, he had spent his first two years sharing, meeting people and working the program. He was a smart guy moving up the corporate ladder very fast....he had money and style....but honestly I didn’t know what either of those things looked like at the time....and he was the kind of guy that wore both of them very unassumingly.

 

I was in awe of their ability to live so comfortably in their own skin....and of their friendship.

Outside of the meetings, my life was moving forward. School was going well. I began participating in local track meets and I was finally out of the mailroom. I was going to church a lot too. I lived with a friend of mine and his wife....in kind of a basement apartment thing they had.

 

Financially, things were better....but not good. The GI Bill helped with college expenses.

By year three, I was beginning to place a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to “catch up” to where my peers were. My friends had neat jobs; they were making good money, buying houses....and things. At that time in my life, I placed a lot value on what the title was on my business card....and I didn’t have a business card.

 

I met some old friends at a bar one night. I had not seen these friends in a while and we spent a few hours catching up, telling jokes and reminiscing about the old drinking days. As the night wore on, one of my friends said “Joel....you know what I like about you the best.....it’s that even though you have stopped drinking.....you haven’t changed a bit.”

Fudge.

 

I know he thought it was a nice compliment....I know he meant well....but what I heard him say was - “Joel....you know what I like about you the best....It’s that even though you have stopped drinking....you’re exactly the same. “

 

Yes, I was not drinking. Yes, I was doing more healthy things. Yes, my life was....not worse.

But for me....that statement.... at that time ....by a good friend .... made it clear to me that....no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, no matter how hard I prayed....self can’t change self.

 

If I was going to change....I needed to be a part of the program....not just around it. The program is based on one alcoholic helping another....it’s a give and take....and in all honesty....I wasn’t doing either.

 

The next day after the 5:45 meeting ended, I walked over to imaginary friend 3 & imaginary friend 4, I put out my hand and said my name is Joel and I need help.

 

I remember it perfectly....as if it happened yesterday. I remember it because that was the exact moment that my life began to change. I mean really change.

 

To my old landlords – Thank you. I owe you both. I Love you both.

 

To my friend at the bar – You are one of the best people I have ever met in my life. I hold you in the highest regard. I’m glad we’ve had lunch a few times lately. Roll Tide.

 

New real friend 1– Thank you for pushing my hand away and giving me hug. Thank you for making room for me on the front row center.....even if it meant sitting on the floor a lot. Thank you for making me clean up and straighten the chairs after the meeting. Thank you for changing my life. I Love you. I miss you.

 

New real friend 2 – I’m simply sober today because of you and your friendship over the past 17 years. You’ve impacted every aspect of my life. ”whatever happened to Joel?” “Take a trip....not take a trip” “you know what’s gonna happen” all of those still make me laugh. I Love you.

 

Stay Tuned....or Don't

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