Now we get to the hard part, what I must call my own personal passive-aggressive-slap-in-the-face-intervention. I admit, a good part of this is selfish and motivated by self preservation. I just can’t do it anymore, watching someone I love deteriorate before my very eyes and lie to himself and the world about the impact his decisions are having on his own mind, body and spirit. I need to create a figurative and literal space between us.
What follows is my response and call to action that I hoped would not fall on deaf ears…
Dearest “Bill W.”*,
First, know that I love you and have been so very grateful for our friendship. We’ve shared so much, good, bad and otherwise and I consider you family…and it is for this reason that I must come clean and be brutally honest with you about something. If not now, I’m not sure when. And if not soon, I’m not sure there will ever be a later…
When I graduated from high school and was about to enter college, I interned with the local police department and as a result was able to work in every facet of law enforcement, including records and bookings. Imagine the unbridled freedom of being able to run an arrest history on anyone and everyone I could think of? Well as luck would have it, I did just that and what a burden this Pandora’s Box would render for decades to come…
My inquiries led to discovering a file on my best friend’s fiancee who had recently been arrested for soliciting a prostitute. Turns out I knew the arresting officer and she all too generously confided that it was not his first time based on his record and behavior. I was faced with the debilitating weight of what to do with that information…and I agonized over it for days, knowing that nothing good could immediately come out of this for anyone. But I knew what I had to do…
I ultimately told her the truth, knowing that it could destroy our friendship. As much as I relish being right, this was not one of those moments…not only did she disown me but the whole thing became my fault. She married him anyway, had a terribly tumultuous and short marriage, and didn’t talk to me again for almost twenty five years when she reached out to me on FaceBook to reconnect. She’d ultimately married a wonderful man after that terrible time, had beautiful children with him and lived a wonderful life. She had not forgotten me, in fact the whole thing haunted her to this day. She was so very sorry she hadn’t listened to me sooner but I knew even back then that she had to get there in her own time…it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and yet I would do it again in a heartbeat if it meant sacrificing a part of myself to save another.
I’ve written this letter to you so many times in my head since last Saturday…sometimes it starts with some funny cooking reference or benign salutation, others it cuts right to the quick of what I’ve been feeling and agonizing over for far too long. Dinner was lovely but you’re drinking was not. It made me very uncomfortable…for you, for me, for my son, for all of us. Can you see any hypocrisy or idiocracy for that matter in having me shuttle your beer from place to place because your crutches would not allow you to do so effectively without spilling? The same crutches that were a result of your recent drunken fall from a tree which could have killed you and taken you away from so many who adore you!? I hated it and hated myself even more for not speaking up at the time. You seemingly “celebrated” surviving your near death experience by the very “crutch” that caused it in the first place!
I think the final straw for me was your reaction the following morning when you texted how your husband had given you the third degree as expected but how you felt it wasn’t so bad since you weren’t hammered (only two beers after all) and at least you hadn’t fallen out of a tree this time. Too soon? Yeah, maybe, probably, I just don’t have a sense of humor about any of this anymore.
I know and I fear that in order for you to take yourself seriously in your sobriety that something worse, something HUMILIATINGLY DEMORALIZING, is going to have to happen before you get better, before you see the light and love yourself enough to realize that you are worth it and deserve so much more. I can no longer stand idly by and watch you deteriorate and fall apart. It’s tiring and I’m not sure I have the energy to be here when it does…and it will.
So this is me being real and calling out the bull$h!+. I’ll always love you and you’ve got a friend in me like no other when you’re ready. But for now, I need a break. I’m not being the best friend that I can be for you if I’m not being totally and brutally honest in my concern for your well being.
You will remain in my prayers no matter what…and I’ve already considered the possible outcome and potential aftermath of a gauntlet throw such as this…but please know that you are worth it. I would give you up a thousand times and endure the heartache tenfold if it meant saving you just once. I want the best for you, always have, and if I can help then so be it…even if that means letting you go for awhile…I wish you the best and hope that your surgery goes as well as it can and that you have a speedy recovery!
With Love and Friendship Always, Very Sincerely Yours,
*”Bill W” is not my friend’s real name but he did give permission for me to share his letter. He also suggested that if I changed his name that I use this one instead as an homage to one of the two men who helped start Alcoholics Anonymous. Read more about the history of this organization here.