Flowers sent to my friend to celebrate a year of growth
I've decided to do something different this year: I'm writing a non-traditional valentine to one of my dearest friends. I'm not going to name you, galentine, but you know who you are.
Last year she was going through a rough time, this friend. Actually, it had been going on for longer than a year. We had been confidantes in each other for quite some time. We called each other when things were bad. We went out to lunch and cheered each other up on dark days. But I didn't realize just how rough of a time she was having until the night her sister called me and said, "My sister is suicidal. Can you go over to her house and take her to the hospital?"
Immediately I knew what the problem was. It hit me cold in the stomach. And in spite of our long-standing friendship, and all this friend has done for me, immediately I flatly thought, "I am not the right person to call. I don't want to do this. I can't do this."
The problem was alcoholism - a problem I am all too familiar with.
Let's make this about me for a minute.
My father was an alcoholic and I have spent my entire life distancing myself from those terrible memories. I moved away from home at age 18 and never moved back. (I have only recently been able to admit this to myself.) I have been to countless Al-anon meetings. I have been to years of therapy. I have read books. I have done thought worksheets. I have attended church groups for families and friends. I have ditched out on relationships when I've felt alcohol was a problem so I could save my heart. It seems I've done it all, and I am done.
So... back to her. In spite of this, I love my friend. She is so dear to me! I had to go help her that night. I just had to. I knew she would help me if I needed it.
So reluctantly I drove over to her house. I'm not kidding when I say I had to drag myself to the car. I parked on the street and sat there and steeled myself until I was ready to go in and help.
We stayed in the hospital for the night while she detoxed. Almost like watching another person, I saw myself in the hospital room, talking to the nurses and social workers and doctors. I saw myself keeping her from leaving. I saw my hands still hers when she tried to pull her IV out. In the morning, I saw myself walk her out to the car and drive to the rehab facility. I saw myself sit down on a bench after she walked through the check-in doors so I could put my head in my hands and just breathe.
On my way home, I was so distraught that I got lost driving back. I was only driving from Salt Lake City to West Jordan - a drive I have done many, many times. I cried almost the whole way home. I felt I was reliving a horrible nightmare. I felt I was losing one of my closest friends. I had absolutely no faith that any of this would help her. I felt like once again, I had been sucked in and fooled.
She spent a few days there, checked out, and enrolled herself in an intensive out-patient addiction treatment program. She asked me to attend family meetings with her on Tuesday nights because her family doesn't live in Utah.
Can we make this about me again? Because once more, I thought, "I am not the right person to call. I don't want to do this. I can't do this." I made it completely about me.
Unwillingly, I went that first night. As I drove there, I thought, "I have been hearing this same old shit since I was in the fifth grade. It's not going to work. I'm just going to get my heart broken all over again." I even made a comment like that in the meeting.
But I did go - in spite of the baggage I have been carrying around since I was a young child, in spite of not believing she would stay sober, in spite of thinking it would only hurt me. Because of her love for me, I went.
Because let's be honest. It wasn't ever supposed to be about me.
Don't think for a moment that I was being selfless, because I wasn't. Nobody was being more selfish than I during those months. In reality, she has no idea how much she helped me. No idea at all. You see, in spite of my unwillingness to help her, in spite of my inability or unwillingness to love her fully, she reached out to me anyway. She loved me. It was her hour of need, but it was mine, too. One that I didn't even know I had.
This program was amazing. I found myself really looking forward to attending every week. I found myself releasing deep, cleansing, sobs on the way home each Tuesday night. And my friend was amazing. Her ability to open up, to feel, to share, to talk, was just amazing.
I'm sorry if I'm using that word too much: amazing. But it was. It really was.
It was so healing for me. I came to understand addiction much better than I ever have. In fact, I don't think I ever understood it at all. Obviously as a child, I thought it was about me. I think that's pretty normal for a kid to believe. I thought that if I was a good enough girl, a good enough student, a good enough daughter, a good enough friend, a good enough wife... etc etc... then that person wouldn't need to drink or do drugs.
But it had nothing to do with me at all. And that's what I learned from my friend.
I learned not to expect perfection. Not from her, not from me, not from life. I'm still learning that. Failing is a part of healing. Relapsing is a part of recovering. Falling is a part of getting up.
This really is a very strange valentine, I know. But I want you all to know, and especially my dear friend, how much I love her. I have learned more from this experience than I have learned in a lifetime. I am so thankful that she came into my life and chose me as a friend.
Happy Galentine's Day, L.