“I’ve never had friends like the ones I had when I was twelve years old. Jesus, does anyone?”
– Gordie LaChantz
When I was at Valley Hope, every night, there was a gratitude circle. It was something that was started long before I got there and I heard not long back that it was still going on. Every day, at the end of the day, people would gather in the cafeteria, join hands in a circle, and when it was their turn, say something that they were grateful for. The central idea of the gratitude circle is that in sobriety, you should remain ever mindful of all the things in this life that you are grateful for and how drinking or using again could jeopardize those things. The concept of gratitude has significance in the program too. It is often recommended that you take time at the end of every day to conjure a list of 5 things you are grateful for for the same reason.
Now me being me, I try to come up with 5 very specific things that, the absence of which wouldn’t necessarily jeopardize my sobriety but would definitely make me a lot more glum. And we are not a glum not. At the end of a given day, I have added to the list my dog Kilgore, potstickers, Radiohead, The Sopranos and the Chicago Cubs among many others. My thinking is that if you’re going to make a list every day, you can only say “my family” or “my job” so many times before that gets old.
This morning when I was doing my meditation, I had to stop abruptly and start writing this post. I had started my meditation listening to a mix of songs that was given to me by one of my best friends. The first song, “Ohio” by CocoRosie, is one I will always associate with Dave because it’s one of my favorite songs on the mix. That led into a song by Cold War Kids, which made me think of Greg who is going to see them soon. I have been friends with Dave and Greg for more than 20 years. A long time. That got me to thinking that there’s quite a few people who have been in my life, and are still in my life thanks to the magic of Facebook, for that long.
Dave sticks out in my mind because he was the one who, when I was on my deathbed, offered to come back to Omaha to see me off. Greg is the one who, now my sponsor, was also the first guy I got drunk with (insert comment about poetic/tragic irony here). But thinking about it, there’s so many people I thought of (again, thanks Facebook. It really only took a scroll through my Friends list) that I have been friends with for many years that I am so grateful to have back in my life. The drummer in the band I was in in high school (I use the term” band” loosely. We had approximately 3 songs we could play start to finish and they all sounded suspiciously like “Cat Scratch Fever” thanks to our guitarist) My high school girlfriend who at the time I was a cold-hearted bastard to (well, to be fair, she wasn’t that kind to me either) and now offers me many words of encouragement. The woman who I became friends with because our older brother and sister dated when they were in college and who also eventually dated Dave. That same woman was watching her kids sleep one night recently and had to stifle back laughter because I made her giggle. The guy who was my boss at the ripe old age of like 20. He was host at a party where I was first introduced to “jungle juice” (we called it “airplane fuel”) and who also recently ran for public office. The guy who was around for Kilgore’s formative years and recently introduced me to his son. And so it goes.
There are many specific things I offer up when I think of what I am grateful for. 24-Hour Fitness and my home group and my piece-of-crap car. I also sometimes shoot higher and think of the loftier things like my family and the natural world. Today, I am grateful for those cats. The ones I’ve known since I was in short pants, as Junior Soprano would say. There are people in my life who, just by nature of longevity, have a special place in my heart. The quote I used at the start of this post, for me, has always had one variation on it. I’ve never had friends in my life like the ones I had when I first met the world.