“Friends with benefits”
When I hear that phrase what I actually hear is: “Friends with benefits … (wink wink, nudge nudge, snicker snicker)”. The phrase connotes a certain self-centeredness. It is a one-sided, one-way description of relationship. When the phrase is used by the one speaking it, that one is never the one “with” the benefits. Rather they are the one “receiving” the benefits, right? It’s definitely one of “what I can take from the relationship” not “what am I contributing to the relationship”.
It’s not a very positive message, in my opinion, but it got me thinking. What does that phrase sound like, what does it look like, from the third-person point of view? Is there any difference if it is used to describe a person without the self-centeredness undertone? What if we insert a comma in just the right spot? “Friends, with benefits.” Looking at it in that light, the tone and meaning changes dramatically from selfishness to one of recovery, redemption and grace. It turns into an apt description of those progressing toward wholeness in life.
I attended a wedding not too long ago. Two friends I’ve known for several years. Two friends I’ve been privileged to get to know on a deeper level. Two friends I met in recovery. They met in recovery, fell in love in recovery and are building a life together … based on the principles of recovery.
Years ago, that kind of life would have been unfathomable. Years ago, addiction tore, tattered, bruised and shattered their lives like it did mine. It was unrecognizable from the whole life they experience today. Today, although it sometimes seems drab, mundane and unexciting, the possibilities are limitless in their new, redeemed lives. Marriage, new careers, family, travel, adventures, friendships and hope are all blessings for them.
In recovery, especially in early recovery, we’re fortunate to be employed and employable. Lord knows we weren’t the most trustworthy or reliable people when addiction ravaged our lives. Because we weren’t dependable we were unable to hold down a job which led to feelings of worthlessness and despair. That, in turn, caused us to dive deeper into our addiction in order to numb those feelings.
I ran into a young adult in town a while back. She used to work at a local eatery but I hadn’t seen her there in a while. I came to find out that she has a new job. It’s a better job. The job carries more responsibility. She smiled as she told me she now works in a bank. While she was describing her new job she was visibly animated and excited about the direction in which her life was heading. I could see the positive effects on her self-confidence and self-image. The blessings of improved self-worth was a catalyst to her further growth and she could sense it.
I was at a meeting recently. A friend was celebrating 20 years in recovery and the room was filled with well-wishers and loved ones. One of the speakers that evening related a recent incident that occurred in a market parking lot. Someone called out his name and when he turned he saw someone he used with in the past. She was drawn, disheveled and desperate as she begged for money. It served as a reminder of where we were in our addiction – slaves – and that we have an obligation to help the still sick and suffering. How grateful we must be that we are free souls in recovery, one day at a time.
We don’t ever have to be suffering in addiction again. We are people in recovery who get another chance to live again. We don’t get a pass on the trials in life just because we are in recovery. We just learn how to get through those tough times. We are blessed to experience everything life has to offer – the good and the challenging.
The celebrant’s family were at the meeting too. Mom had the opportunity to say a few words. The gist of what she said was: lots of mistakes were made along the way but we’re in a better place now; just know that you are loved, then and now. I could feel my own Mom speaking those same words to me that night, at that moment.
“I love you Philip.”
“I love you too, Mom.”
Hugs and kisses across eternity.
Friends with benefits? No.
Friends with blessings. I like that much better.