Just because the call is welcome doesnt mean its easy

There are some experiences common to all of us in a social society.

From our very origins, we all have family. None of us get to choose them, they are ours by ‘happy’ consequence. For better or worse, they are ours for life. No matter how toxic or blessed a force they are in our lives, we all have to deal with them.

We all have friends. Especially when we are young, our friends are much like family. They are ours by coincidence. Usually based on their proximity to our bicycle path. They are handy, we are bored, VOILA! A partnership forged on concrete! As we get older, the bike path gets bigger. we have a larger pool to pick from. If the kid on the block is a jack ass, he can do it without us. If our buddy from around the way moves, he gets replaced at school the next day. Into college, and with the internet, if our BFF decides they’ve been called to evangelize to pigmys in Burma, we can hop online and slaughter a village of wolvar, or dance to a literal garage band, or trade philosophical barbs with a Nigerian prince…or so I’ve been told.

Friends aren’t like family. They can be forgotten. Even if you disconnect physically from family. Cut all communication. Distance yourself emotionally. It’s still just that. Distance. Friends may be old friends. They may be close friends. They may be good friends. But if they drift away, it typically doesn’t have the same psychological drain on us as family.

I have no close friends from grade school or high school. Other than my wife, I have little contact with anyone from college. That is not to say there aren’t some special and worthy people who I consider friends in those groups. It may just mean I’m easily forgotten. Or easily distracted. Or hard to find. The point is, there is no drama or animosity surrounding the loss of contact. It just happens. Loss of contact with family is rarely such a drama or stress free situation.  That separation, even when it is undoubtedly for the better, eats at your soul. It is always there.

But, there are people who wander into our lives. Some come from the random geography of our young years. We share a base of memories and references that you truly had to be there for, and if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t understand. Some come from the random pool of interests and life paths shared. Wherever they come from, and for whatever reason it happens, they take on the standing of family in our lives. They truly feel like brothers/sisters.

It isn’t necessarily that they are that much closer as friends. It isn’t a matter of length of friendship. It isn’t a matter of circumstance of the relationship. I do think it is possible that people who don’t have those brother/sister relationships feel a need for them and may connect to friends in that way to satisfy that. But, it seems as likely, those who HAVE strong bonded circles around them know how those relationships work, enjoy the positives of them, and handle the negatives easily.

I think, in the end, there are some friendships, like some romantic relationships, that are just destiny. There is some preordained cycle that matches people. I don’t know what it’s called, and i don’t care from whence it comes. It just is. Don’t try to work it out or fit it into your philosophy of life. It just is. And you know it!

Now to the point of things.

I have such a friend. We met when I was maybe 10? We played hockey together in Texas…so we were in a pretty small pool! Through various gyrations and misadventures we ended up in the same school in 6-8th grade. He ultimately lived in my house for almost 18 months. As high school began, we both spun wildly out of control. John never controlled the spin.

Now, 25+ years later, I received a call from my old friend. It is a call I have received several times over the years. Sometimes lucid. Sometimes incarcerated. Sometimes wealthy. Sometimes desperate. Always charming, bright, hopeful, funny.

Always apologetic.

I’m never sure how to take these calls. It’s a little like a train wreck. You can’t turn away. It’s a little like my own private Oprah episode. It’s a little like a pretty compelling drama. For someone with such problems and issues, he really does live quite a life. But, how do you handle this call.

First off, he apologizes. He was an ass. He was selfish. Blah blah. Thank you, Captain Obvious! But, he’s a total addict. He tries to fight. I, for one, will never badmouth someone for falling off the wagon. I’m in awe they keep getting ON the wagon in the first place. Am I disappointed? Yes. I don’t think its helpful to him, or me, to pile on and detail how disappointed I am, how hurt I am, how much he has cost me… I can’t be as disappointed as he is. I don’t hurt like he does. And he has lost everything. Over and over and over. But, I also don’t want him to think it’s all good.

Then he wants to tell you why this time is different. He has a great support network. He is going into treatment. He has dried out enough to think through a plan. He sees where he fucked up before. Unfortunately, this is the same story every time, and not nearly as fun to listen to as the tale of how he ended up in the slammer this time.

The call always ends abruptly. ‘Hey, I’m leaving my sponsors house to move in with a sober friend so it’s all good. I’ll get in touch with you before I enter treatment.’

Do I want to take the call? Yes. I’m a pretty melodramatic dude. I listen to song lyrics, even the country ones. I imagine how things should have been. I hope when I hear the phone ring that there is something exciting on the other end.

Do I know what to do with it? Not really. I want to help, but that ship sailed years ago. I want to be involved, but we aren’t living in the same worlds anymore. I definitely don’t want to hurt his recovery. But, insubstantial as my input may be, I haven’t seemed to help much so far.

So, I offer platitudes. ‘This is a great opportunity.’ ‘You have a lot to offer people.’ ‘I believe in you.’

I feel like a complete failure because there is no way for me to convey to him how much he means to me. How often I still wish I could have him around. How much I genuinely hope he can pull himself together.

And I feel like a wuss for not telling him how selfish he is. How much talent and opportunity he is literally smoking away.

COULD he do it? Could he mount one of the truly epic comebacks in the history of comebacks? YEP. He could. After all this, he is the real deal. He has done literally everything wrong. You name it, he’s done it. Usually in spectacular fashion. If he turns his attention to building something and not destroying himself, you will know him. You probably won’t be able to miss him! You certainly will never forget him.

WILL he? I, of course, have no idea.

He wants to.

He has a plan.

And he has a Brother.


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