Yesterday was not that great of a day. It started out well but then kind of fell apart in the afternoon. Of course, it retrospect, I can see many ways that I could have handled it better. I truly did the best I could in the moment...
I have this friend from high school. I have known him for 35 years. We haven’t been close the entire time but ever since we reconnected at our 10 year reunion, where we discovered recovery as a common ground, we have remained in touch over the years.
Two years ago, a few years after he lost touch with recovery, he showed up on my doorstep after being thrown out of his house by his wife. He was not in good shape. He was physically, mentally and spiritually a mess. I picked him up downtown and brought him home. I laid out ground rules: you may not drink, smoke or do any kind of drugs while at my house. If he used, then he could not return. He agreed.
Now let’s stop right here. You are probably thinking...”Why would she do this? Bring this somewhat stranger into her home with her pets and kids and allow him to remain?” Because it is who I am. I have always brought home strays. Beings that are bereft of a home, love, companionship. They need a bath, a meal and some tenderness. I have been doing this for as long as I can remember. I used to do this with dating as well. But I learned my lesson about the perils of doing that and now can boast that I do not do that anymore. Seriously, I haven’t taken in a stray man (dating man) in a very long time!
I still bring home stray animals. I still allow friends to crash on my couch. I feel like it isn’t asking too much for temporary shelter. I have it to give and it is an extension of my spiritual practice to do so.
So back to high school friend...
He stayed with me for three months. He made progress...sort of. He didn’t drink or do drugs. He lied about the smoking but kept it hidden from me until I caught him in the act. I finally asked him to leave. It was hard. I felt guilty but his conduct towards me and my generosity was not acceptable. He promised to do things that he didn’t do and then was angry and resentful for being called out about those things. He had no respect for the place he was living and left his things wherever despite being asked nicely and not so nicely to please pick up after himself. He would take on responsibilities that he would just abandon and then become indignant when this was brought to him attention. He refused to get a job, instead planning the start of corporations and other ambitions that were noble but so grandiose. It was a slow erosion, but finally I could see that his master plan was to do as little as possible while taking as much as he could. I got it and asked him to leave. It was very hard because I knew he would relapse. His resentment towards me for not being willing to support him, the catalyst to return to his self destructive path. I knew asking him to leave would mean he would do a deep dive back into the abyss. This would be why it took me three months to get there. I suggested sober living. He said that he didn’t belong there.
He left and didn’t speak to me for awhile. Despite his actions, I loved him anyway. I would reach out to him and check on him every so often. I allowed him to just tell me what he wanted me to hear. When the house he was crashing in burned to the ground and he lost everything, I tried to help him. I tried to be there for him. His anger and resentment towards me the buffer and saving grace to him requesting to return to my home.
I didn’t hear from him much for two years. He became homeless. Not at first. He lived in an old girlfriend’s parent’s RV for awhile. Then he lived with some woman who had some terrible issues of her own. Those places ultimately did not work out. So he and his cat began camping wherever they could. I do not know how long this went on because he didn’t really tell me what he was doing for a long time. He had bouts of sobriety but I think that more or less he spent the last two years drunk and or high. It was heartbreaking. In high school, he was super popular, fun and a good person. He is still a good person just super fucked up and seemingly hell bent on destroying all that is holy and good in his life.
He reached out to me about a month ago and said that he had 30 days. He seemed a little better and only ranted and raved about the same things he always rants and raves about for a little while. I listened because that is what I can give him...my time. I had already set really clear boundaries that he could not return to my house.
He called me again a week ago. Giving me some story about needing to come to my town to retrieve $100 he was owed or something. The story did not hang together all that well but I didn’t question him about it. He was reaching out - had 60 days put together and it would be nice to see him. He is one of the funniest people I have ever met. A good person to his core. Just lost. He showed up Wednesday night late. My kids were glad to see him because in the time he spent with us before, they grew to love him the way that I did. They could see his broken places but they could also see his heart. His goodness. It was a fun evening and I offered him a warm bed and shower for the night because he needed it and it is Christmas.
The next day he said he was leaving but made no overt moves in that general direction. I became concerned because I hadn’t thought this all the way through. He came at the holidays and I would not be alel to make him leave and feel good about myself. He knew this. I did not want him here again. I did not want to go down the road we traveled before. He is not capable of doing what he says and I am not willing to support him and allow him to take advantage anymore. So I called my friend that runs a sober living in Santa Barbara. I made inquiry on his behalf. I made the connection for him then approached him with a “you can stay with me one more night, if you will consider and check out this place.” He agreed and much to my surprise he went. Instead of meeting me for dinner, he moved into the sober living. I agreed to keep his cat for him while he was there so that both could recover.
I felt hopeful. I felt like he was on his way. I felt like I was able to be of service.
When I left for work on Friday, I asked him to help me do one task. He readily agreed and in fact, requested I give him more to do. "Use me while I am here, Erin" is what he said...I told him thanks, please just do this one task - break down all the amazon holiday shopping boxes and put them in the recycling. That is all, there were a lot but this is what I really needed help with. This one simple tasks set upon a day where he had nothing else to do.
Yeah, you guessed it, he didn't do it. Not one fucking box. I arrived home late Friday night to become completely deflated at his lack of follow through. I started to text him but then thought "he is sick, trying to get well, give him some slack." So I went to bed angry but silent. I woke up yesterday still mad but less angry. He texted about his cat and I told him the cat was fine. I thought he would get busy trying to find a job. My kids and I went about our Saturday feeling secure that he was in his new home in Santa Barbara and moving forward with his life.
Then he started texting me...from my house. He arrived without permission or my consent. He walked in like he owned the place. He came to see his cat. The kids and I were not home. I was not happy. He did not live with me, his cat did. I did not want a drop-in-any-time-you-feel-like-it-friend or roommate. Especially the non-rent paying kind. This was not what I bargained for and it was not ok with me.
I arrived home as he pulled up in my driveway. I think he had left but saw my car and returned. The boxes still sat strewn about the front porch and trash area. I instantly was pissed again. He walked in behind me, went into the kitchen and began preparing himself lunch. I was pissed. I knew that I was not capable of having any kind of rational conversation. I went out to passive aggressively attend to the boxes myself. He followed me outside. I told him that I was super pissed at him and I was not in a place I could talk. He responded by belittling my feelings and turning the tables to make it seem like I was in the wrong. He walked away after insulting me. I angrily tore apart boxes, wondering again, how the fuck I ended up here AGAIN!?
He returned, I re-communicated that I was not in a good place to talk. He upped the ante and took my inventory. Told me that this conflict was my fault. He told me I was not a good person. He told me that I was in the wrong and brought this on myself. I was shocked and calmly said to him: "You do not live here. This is not your home." He turned and angrily got into his truck and left.
I was upset. My kids were upset. I regretted that I hadn't handled that better.
Shortly he returned. I met him in the front yard and inquired as to why he was back. He said that he was going to get his things and his cat. I told him that I promised to take care of the cat and that I would honor that commitment. He told me that he didn't trust me and that he would be getting his things and leaving. I said ok, what else could I say? He took his time and got his stuff and drove away. He drove to the sober living, got his stuff from there and moved out. I do not know where he is today or if he is ok.
I woke up in the middle of the night and found myself praying for him. Praying for his safety and well being. I am super sad today. Sad about all of it. How it went down. The decisions he made. Sad that he let me down again. Sad that I allowed him access to do it again. Sad that in review, I don't see this coming down any other way. Sad.
It is heartbreaking to love someone who has addiction issues. You can always see the part of them that you used to know before. You want to believe in that person so much that you ignore who the person is that stands before you. The person standing before you capitalizes on your love and belief in the person they once were. They are actually counting on it. So begins a very painful and dangerous dance. One that I have done with him now a couple of times and in my larger life, done with many more, on many other occasions. Guilt and fear being operative to reinforce the feelings of shame.
I feel so broken today. I feel like a bad friend. I feel like I failed him again. I feel abused and taken advantage of but I also feel like maybe he is right. Maybe I do suck at relationships. Maybe I do have too many expectations. Maybe it is me. Maybe I am the reason there is conflict in my life. Maybe it is all my fault.
But I also know, that I am no longer susceptible to being told who I am by someone with an agenda. I am not going to be manipulated and controlled by someone else. I have a core and a truth and the ability to call myself out on my own shit. I know who the fuck I am. In this scenario, I was the person that took him in when no one else would. I am the one that believed in him when there was no one left for him to talk to. I was the one that cared when everyone else refused to return his calls. He can turn it against me any way he likes. I am not influenced by his flawed perception of reality. I can see that really there was no other way this ever played out.
I do not feel badly about how I behaved. I needed the anger to not accept something that was unacceptable. I never wished anything but the best for him, I was just not willing to allow what was best for him to become what was way less than best for me. I pray that he is safe and well. I pray that he finds his way. I hope he can see his part in how this all went down. I pray that someday he forgives me for what he thinks I did and can really see what I actually did.
For myself, I am going to honor my giving spirit but also realize that, while improved, this desire of mine to save other beings from themselves is still operative in my life on a dysfunctional level. I have made progress but I am not there yet. I am going to forgive him and myself and start the day clean. I am going to let go and trust that all of this happened in both our lives for a reason. Today, I will trust that perhaps someday I will know why.