Monday, August 27, 2012

Life With Arms

My friend Heather and I have a running joke.  Especially after we've spent some time together, like we did over the first couple of weeks of August, when we part we talk about how not being with the other person feels like missing an arm.  I'll miss a call from her and then text her later asking if she's okay, and she'll reply "I'm fine. Just missing my arm."

Or after we parted from our trip to Kentucky, I texted her: "Having a hard time without my arm.  Miss you".

You get the picture.  I can manage without my arm, but it feels like I'm missing some important part of me.

I'm lucky, though.  I have two arms.  My friend Amanda (or Manda, as I call her) is my other arm.  Heather lives hundreds of miles away, and Manda is in the same state as me, but I don't see either of them nearly enough.  Some days I feel like I don't have any arms, and one of them will be there at the other end of the phone, or the email, or text, and then I can function again.  They are both friendships where I can go a long time without actually seeing them (or sometimes even speaking) and we can pick up right where we left off.

They are also my sober sisters, my touchstones.  They get me.  I've known Heather for three years but it feels like I've known her my whole life. Manda I have basically known my whole life - over thirty years.

This past weekend I had the honor of giving Manda her two year sobriety medallion. I've written before about how she helped me get sober, and then a few years later I was able to return the favor.

As I handed her her two year medallion and gave her a hug, I thought about all we've been through together.  We've each lost a parent to cancer. We've propped each other up through alcoholism and recovery, through my cancer.

A friendship that started in 1978 when she was new to the neighborhood and came over to help me rake my lawn blossomed into something way bigger than both of us.

As I sat in the audience and listened to her accept her medallion, I marveled at her strength, her radiance, her courage and her heart.  She was the party girl, the wise one, the fun one - she drank to have a good time.  I was the shy one, the nerdy jock, the people pleaser.  I drank to fit in.

Alcohol got us both for a while, but miraculously - and as I watched her up there at the podium I realized holy shit, sobriety is a miracle - we got sober.

Sometimes I forget to remember how lucky I am, that my best friend growing up, the woman who knows me better than I know myself, is also a sober sister.  That we both made it out.  At least for today.  And if we fall away, slip up, the odds of getting back on the beam are so much greater when there are arms out there to reach out to you, help you back up.

Sometimes I forget to remember how blessed I am to have two arms - Heather and Manda - two amazing sober sisters, friends, soul mates and touch stones.

Someday I will be able to post a picture of the three of us together.  Someday.

Who are your arms?  Have you called them lately?  Have you remembered to think about what a blessing they are?  Life without arms is possible, but it makes day-to-day life much more difficult.

If you feel like you don't have any arms, it's not hard to get some.

What I find is that the more open I am, the more willing I am to share pieces of myself - vulnerable or frightened pieces of me that I'd rather keep hidden - the more people will open up to me.  And some of those people become touch stones, best friends, soul mates.

It's the gift of opening your heart to others, shedding that voice in your head that keeps you from sharing your vulnerabilities or fears, that tells you people don't really want to be your friend, or makes you jealous or resentful.

Because really we're all so similar inside.  If we start comparing our insides instead of our outsides, we can have as many arms as we need.


  1. oh my gosh! I was trying to figure out why you had a picture of Gretta with some other little girl in this post! Then I realized you were posting a series of pics of you and Manda! You sure look like your daughter! :)
    Glad you have arms - we all need extras sometimes, to help us!

  2. What a lovely post, Ellie. I'm so moved by the people in your life and yes, what a miracle that we are sober today! As for arms, I sometimes feel like an octopus over here. There are so many amazing arms to fall into in my life today. I guess today, I'd have to say that my friend, Jen E., who was my first sponsor is one of my arms. When she's traveling and such, there is a part of me that goes with her. My other arm would be a relatively new friend who moved to my area about 3 months ago. I instantly felt at ease with her and an amazing ability to be honest about who I really was with her. She and Jen both have amazing recovery, the kind I aspire to have. I am teachable and that is a gift. May I remain this way. My "arms" help me feel safe.

    Moving on, I have to say, the most recent picture of you and Manda is the most radiant one of all (excluding the childhood picture, which is just darling). What a blessing. Sending love and gratitude for you and your arms, sweet Ellie. xoxo

  3. I have tentacles. What could be a greater blessing than tentacles?

    Love you guys.

  4. My cousin and I call each other our arms. I thought we were the only one...
    and might I say, you two look WAY better with age.

    Loved this post!

  5. How lucky you are to have such amazing close friends. I have one very close friend that lives nearby but many of my closest friends I have found through blogging. Thank goodness for the sanity I have found here.

  6. You are blessed to have such close friends. I have always had a really hard time making friends... and it has made staying sober that much harder. I am so jealous of all you ladies who move through life with such close bonds.

  7. You are so lucky to have arms. All my "arms" have completely and utterly failed me the past couple years. I got sick and they all ran away. I became "un-fun" (stopped drinking), and they all stopped calling. I am 42 and have never been in such a dark place with my friends then I am right now. It hurts every hour for me. And with one of my closest friends of the past 10 turns out she needed many arms....arms after arms after arms and therefore it really hurt our relationship.
    So I ready your post and I feel so happy for you and the friendships you have. And I do believe it is what helps you get through things. I am in the darkest time of my life and it truly is because of the "dump" of most of my "friends." I know I am not explaining it very well here...not in enough detail to make any sense. But just know how truly blessed you are!!
    And like one person wrote, I too, find such comfort in my "friends" in the blogs I read. (Who really aren't friends because they don't even know who I am...I just know who they are so it's kind of weird.)
    But I still find so much comfort in those 4 or so blogs (yours included) that I read regularly.

  8. A friend is like your arm who would be with you always. A true friend will be the one who would always be with you, not only till you buy them free drinks at some bar so if you want to see who your true friend and arm is, just test him or her and you would know.