The Importance of Authenticity

Tribute to a Special Friend

I have a friend named Gitte.

A woman friend, you ask? Yeah, sure. I’m happily married, but I also have this special friend and she is a woman. Gitte and I knew each other back when we were teenagers and then lost sight of each other for the next thirty years or so. Recently, she came back into my life.

A couple of months ago, while rummaging through old photo albums, I stumbled upon a picture of Gitte when she was fourteen years old, young, blond and spirited. Of course everything came back in a flash. That careless time of youth, of endless possibilities, long before my own problems began.

I scanned that old picture and sent it to her, which triggered a lot of memories for her too. We started texting each other and then had dinner together one evening.

Well, it turned out we still get along like nothing has changed.

There is a reason why I’m telling you about Gitte. I have been sober now for more than five years, and for the longest time I was simply unable to reach out to other people, with the exception of my wife who has been my stronghold through all of this. I guess that, mostly I was still occupied with my own emotional survival in this new sober and cold world.

Then all of a sudden, I felt ready for a friend. But not just any friend. I was looking for someone authentic. Someone who is not pretending to be anything he or she is not. Someone who stands up for what they believe in. Someone willing to be putting herself out there and be vulnerable, like me.

Well, that is Gitte all right.

Although the differences between us are plenty, we are tuned in on the same soul frequency. She and I resonate. It’s amazing how three minutes with the wrong person can feel like an eternity, yet three hours with her feels like only a moment.

Gitte has kept me grounded since the day we became reacquainted. She speaks her mind and teaches me about myself, and how I look at the world around me. I can feel how this furthers my personal growth.

She does what she does in an unique way because she is an HSP, an Highly Sensitive Person. That does not make her life any easier as she is constantly aware of subtleties and details, which makes decision-making challenging. Even if there is no “right” or “wrong” decision—for example, it’s impossible to choose a “wrong” flavor of ice cream—highly sensitive people will still tend to take longer to choose because they are weighing every possible outcome.

Gitte’s own nervous system is set to “anxious” because she doesn’t feel safe or secure in the world in the way that other people do. On the flipside, her sensitive nature brings countless benefits, such as being able to read the mood of a room quickly and factor in subtle cues when assessing a situation.

HSPs can truly feel concern for other people when they see others in a difficult situation. And that is exactly what Gitte does for me, and that feels good!

She tells me I am a good listener. At least that is one thing that sobriety has taught me: the ability to become quiet and just listen. As a result of listening, I also have learned to see other people’s point of view.

Addiction is a disease of loneliness and isolation. I alienated myself from friends and family for the longest time. This isolation breeds anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, which can fuel further drinking, and the process becomes a vicious cycle. When forming new relationships with sober friends, in my view, it is important to look for people with an assertive, straightforward communication style, self-awareness, healthy and clear boundaries. People who are trustworthy and compassionate.

I guess I’m lucky in more ways than one. Not only did I make it through recovery, I’ve also found this one friend who has these qualities and is a source not only of connection and support, but also a lot of fun!

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