How Recovery Has Strengthened My Friendships

Holly Jespersen
The author with friends on a beach

This past June I celebrated 12 years of recovery, and I always mark the day with something special. This year I went for a sunrise paddleboard with two of my good friends. Being out on the water with these two women, watching the sun rise over the Long Island Sound—I cannot explain the gratitude I felt. Just recalling the memory brings me to tears. Why? Because I know that this beautiful life I have today and the relationships I hold dear to me would not be possible without recovery.

My relationships are the biggest gifts I have received in my recovery. I have learned how to have meaningful friendships—how to be a friend, how to have a healthy relationship, and what that looks like. I have always been very social and surrounded by people, but today I have healthy boundaries and am not in codependent relationships. I put a lot of time into my friendships. They really matter to me. 

I used to try to be everything to everyone and spread myself too thin. I used to feel guilty if I did not have time to meet all these people from my life for coffee, etc. But today, I do not have that guilt.  I choose to spend my limited free time only with people who really matter to me. That does not mean that I cannot be kind and gracious to others, but I understand now that I do not need to say yes to every invite and feel guilt-ridden. 

It feels good to be authentic, and to make my core friendships the priority in order to be truly present for those women. This may sound silly or simple to other people, but this was a huge lesson I have learned in sobriety. I also had to learn to not put people on pedestals. We are all fallible and human. Realizing these realities about relationships has made my life so much more fulfilling. 

Today, I have a handful of dear friends in my community—my people—with whom I spend time and share my heart. We walk, talk, go to movies or the gym, paddleboard, have coffee, etc. It’s intentional, quality time spent together.  I also have friends all across the country, and I’ve kept up these long-distance friendships over the years by investing time, be it a phone call every few months or a visit. All of these people matter to me and bring me joy. I am also blessed with many acquaintances from my communities (recovery, church, and my hometown) whose support and presence brighten my world. 

I did not achieve these friendships overnight. My bonds with these women were built over time, and we continue to build. Life is an ever-evolving experience and that is what is beautiful. People move away, pass away, grow apart from you. These changes can be tough, but they make room for new people in our lives. So, I will look forward to not knowing how I will spend next year’s sobriety anniversary, and instead keep being open to life’s next adventure and the people who will join me on the ride. 


Holly Jespersen is Shatterproof's Senior Communications Manager.