These are complicated and fragile times, my friends. Forces chip away at our personal worlds every day that would undo us. Whether it’s work, slipping relationships, body issues, bills, you name it – as it spirals around our bubble of happiness we often need to shore up our defenses, bolster our perceptions, feel better about ourselves.
This internal support could come through many means, but today I’m talking about the not-so-healthy methods that can lead to obsessive, addictive behaviours. Food, shopping, sex, drugs, and especially booze can be the weapons we use to fight against the onslaught and for brief, lubricated moments all is good. Of course that ill-founded strength quickly fades, needing reinforcement. One top up after another and our wiring is redone; we’re stuck in. We’re addicts.
Now it goes without saying that this is the simplest of descriptions. There is a vast array of psychological and biological influence going on inside an addict and for details on those the Internet or local addiction programmes can be your best friend. I’m simply here to embrace those for which this is all too real.
I have a dear buddy whose life was recently flipped on its head when family and friends staged a very necessary intervention, leading to him taking up a 90-day residency in a reputable recovery facility. Long-term unemployment and ready access to destructive influences (among other things) begged for this to happen.
For the past couple of months he’s been pulling long, intense days getting his old self back and rebuilding his life. The cocoon he had spun around his public self was only the projection of his desired persona. Inside, the shell was an utter mess I can’t begin to retell. What I can say is that a core group of supporters have attempted to straighten out the mess back home, unearthing painful realities that speak not only to his frailties but the lengths to which he would hide that reality, even from those closest to him.
My friend continues to build strength and confidence, preparing himself for the scary world outside recovery. He’s lost his apartment, has no job prospects, and is at the bottom of a cavern of debt. He’s not sure where he’s going or what the next step will be. Scary stuff for anyone, but throw in all the thorough self-work that’s requisite with recovery and there are indeed challenging times ahead.
This is where friends come in, if not from the start then at least as the butterfly emerges from the cocoon. From sending supportive and appropriate letters and gifts (sorry, no blow-up doll for sex addicts), to precious phone chats or quality time in person whenever possible, to physically helping them sort through the mass of life that overwhelmed them in the first place – helping them to get a grip on it all. This is what being friends is all about.
I have seen so many friends slip through our social net into an abyss of loneliness or worse because they felt there was no one who believed in them. I’m not talking about those who just are completely unable to help themselves because let’s face it, if they really want to recover then they have to come to the party. No one’s going to do it for them. For those who are giving this big break all they can, however, I believe there’s no end to the support they deserve.
Yet there are so many people, even within our supposedly supportive and inclusive community, who get left behind because their addictions somehow make them less fabulous. A burden. People don’t write to them, or they unfriend them on Facebook (I know that should hurt but when someone’s already fragile it can feel like a massive dagger). Folks even weave smack about them amongst their mutual friends in what I can only imagine is an attempt to validate their choice to cull this defective person from their perfect lives. Who knows why people do the stuff they do, but it’s truly sad.
It doesn’t take much to lend strength and pride to someone grappling with addiction and the ever-winding recovery road. How much effort is there in writing a letter or two to someone who’s sequestered and dealing with the darkest of their issues? When they’re back on their feet and looking for direction, having someone to hold their hand can mean the world. It’s comfort and compassion. It’s defending this person against bitchy haters who would publicly cast off addicts as weak.
These are just tastes of what we can do for our tender friends when they need us, although this can all start much earlier, before things turn to shit. It’s way back when times are dark and the only light is in a needle or a bottle that these little outreaches can save a life. Staying active in the life of someone you feel has a problem can stem the destructive tide. It can remind them that not all is lost.
My friend has a few close folks with great faith in him. He’s done so much for me over the years and perhaps I see some of the same weaknesses in stages of my own identity. Whatever the connection, wherever he lands, he’ll always be my friend and I won’t give up on him.
| Leif Wauters