For most of my life, friendships were hard to come by. Either I never fit the image of what was cool, or if I did, I was far too selfish and self-centered for anyone to want to remain within it. But one of those friendships denied all those odds and withstood the many tests I put it through over the sixteen years since it began. And this past weekend I got to spend quality time with this friend while I helped him celebrate his 50th birthday in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
It’s pretty amazing to see how far this friendship has come ever since the first day we met. That was on a Monday evening back in 1997 in Brockton, MA during a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. For whatever reasons, we hit it off immediately and were soon inseparable friends. There was a major difference between us though back then. He was very immeshed in his recovery from his addictions, whereas I was very immersed into finding more of them to live in. Within six months from that time, I chose to move back to Virginia after having lived in Massachusetts for less than a year, solely for the purpose of finding another geographical cure for my misery in life. Many miles and a bunch of states then began to separate our friendship, but something deeper kept it alive, which today I can only say must have been God.
Over the next decade though the distance between us grew as my path of self destruction got worse, while his path of freedom from addictions grew even stronger. I would occasionally visit him on trips I took back to Massachusetts to see my sister who still resided there. As hard as it is to say this, it was always about me when I was in town visiting. I never wanted to go to those AA meetings with him when he asked. More often than not, I guilted him into not going to them and instead would convince him to do something completely different. So what we did, where we went, and any itinerary that was established always came back to my own doings and control. Essentially the friendship was running on a lot of my own self will and was weakening day in and day out without me really even knowing.
Eventually my life fell apart in Virginia, when I had lost my business and a long term relationship. I felt I had nowhere else to go except back to Massachusetts since the only two remaining people left in my life who seemed to give a crap about me were my sister and this friend. In a total act of desperation, I chose to go to his AA home-group on a Friday night when he asked me to tag along. For years I had only gone to an AA meeting for either the sole purpose of looking for a sexual hook-up or for those times when I was having a down day and just wanted to dump my mess on someone else. Having so much pain and anguish within me, and seeing how happy this friend always was, a part of me felt that maybe the path he took all those years ago when we had first met, was the choice I should have taken too. That night, I began my recovery after many years of being a dry drunk, but I also started something else as well. I starting trying to work on a much closer friendship with this friend seeing that it was beginning to run out of steam due to my actions.
Unfortunately, over the next five years, I tried to juggle my recovery alongside my addictive behaviors while trying to maintain that friendship. I continued to perpetuate those seriously unhealthy and toxic based relationships and became so codependent on most of them, that I often sacrificed the time I could have been spending with this long standing friend re-developing a closer bond. For someone that had stuck by my side through thick and thin, I didn’t show much of the same dedication back towards him. After enough times of me choosing to stay more devoted to those toxic friendships than to working on mine and his, he began pulling back a little at a time until so much distance was between us that it was as if I was living again in another part of the country. It’s ironic that just about a year ago, that distance had grown so great that I thought this friendship was truly over. The damage I had done to it from all those years of acting out in various addictions had made it seem totally beyond repair. But one thing HAD started to change last year that gave this friendship a glimmer of hope. ME.
It was around that same time that I had finally begun removing all those toxic people out of my life who I had kept around for way too long. Layers and layers of baggage were lifted off of me and my life from that action alone. Then I started working on turning my life COMPLETELY over to the care of God every single day. Not partially and not by a certain percentage like I had always done in prior years, but fully, I made the decision to have God take over the reigns of my life. Through this, my friend became willing to sit down with me to see if God wanted us to salvage what was left from our once very strong connection. When that day arrived and we met, it had been over two months with almost no communication between us. I had already come to the acceptance that if God wanted the friendship to still be there, it would be. And if not, I would move on.
Three hours later, my friend and I embraced after having made very deep amends to each other for the parts that we both contributed to, in the distance that had grown between us. We made a promise to set time aside each week to hang out from that point forward, and to talk in the days that came in between those times. And through our own relationships with God and the strength that continues to build in each of them, we have kept those promises now for close to a year.
I can safely say that today, as this Provincetown trip comes to a close, my friendship with this person is now stronger than it ever has been in any of our previous sixteen years together. The laughter, the tears, the embraces, and the warmth within it, are beyond any of the friendships I have ever had in this life with anyone else. For that I must give all the credit to God who was able to guide me out of that darkness back into the light, and also saw fit to breath life into something that I thought my destructive ways had moved beyond resuscitation.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson