Friendship Fail – Guest Post by Grammatteus

wpid-1372822668663.jpgI was a young man. She was a young woman, an ex of a friend. Both of whom belonged to my church. She was attractive: slim, blonde, fair-faced but most importantly, a pleasure to be with. I had no real aspirations on her if I’m honest – she had quickly hooked up with another guy after the end of her time with my friend. I suppose had she been available, I would’ve been interested, but there was no pining after her that young men can find themselves doing at times. However, we became good friends, and our mutual interest in drama led us to form a drama group within the church together.

The relationship with this new bloke (who quickly became her fiancé) didn’t bode well. We (the circle of friends in and around the drama) noticed the drama developing between them: rows in front of others that one associates with couples long married and prone to that crushing familiarity and weariness of the other’s foibles. Murmurs rumbled around us of things like incompatibility and ‘recovering from the rebound’ of a previous relationship. And there was the first lesson not learnt: I was not a good enough friend to be able to sit down to address this problem with her before she walked down the aisle. We all did the ‘polite’ thing and butted out of it and just talked about them out of their earshot.

And so they married: the ceremony was standard, uneventful, as expected, with the normal tones of romance. I had a feeling of unease though, as if I just knew this bloke (who was genial and friendly enough, don’t get me wrong) didn’t really appreciate the beauty of this rose. Was I jealous? Maybe I could see myself in a different life with the opportunity to propose marriage to her, able to be loving and devoted, but as I said, there was no real chemistry between us. I was a concerned friend, but saw no vision of me jumping out of my pew and saying “STOP! I wanna kiss the bride!”

So it really was a surprise when one day, only weeks after she married, she traveled the 15 miles from her marital home to see me. I still lived at my parents’ house then, and my Dad made a quick excuse to go out once I introduced this attractive young woman, thinking he would be a bit of a gooseberry. She sat down and exchanged small talk for a brief few moments once I’d brewed some coffee before she suddenly landed the bombshell in a conversational pause:

“You know, I always thought when I was younger that if a man raised his hand to me, I would leave him immediately!” I was young and inexperienced, and I do have something on the autistic spectrum radar, which makes me often unaware of non-verbal communication and inept at reading emotions, but I knew enough then, without going into the theory of implicature in conversation, to grasp what she was saying, albeit indirectly. She should have packed her bags already, and left that unhappy marital home, and chalked up the brief marriage to experience. But the young man she was talking to… no, appealing to… was unable to offer advice or even a shoulder. I was dumbstruck, literally. I recall mouthing something like “oh! That’s… awful! Emmm?..” and that was maybe it. Silence followed. I think she changed the subject, but the rest of the conversation cannot be brought to mind now. She wasn’t there for a nice chat; she wanted somebody to do the right thing by her. But I had no idea what the right thing was. Marriage is sacred, isn’t it? Our vows mean something. They have to! Why walk to the end of an aisle and utter them, in the presence of everyone dear to you, and God, and not believe they mean anything?

She left my house, and I never saw her again.

She hadn’t shown up at church for a few weeks, so eventually I asked a friend about her. Those were the days before mobile phones, and long before Facebook, so communication was not so easy: I had just expected to see her and talk again after a church service. The friend I asked, said “oh hadn’t you heard? She left her husband, and moved into a flat in Belfast somewhere. She’s not coming back to church, she’s too ashamed.” I cannot describe the emptiness I felt. Somehow I knew I’d not see her again, maybe ever. No point in trying to ring a telephone number I didn’t know, or visit an address few knew too, and as I said, I was lost for words anyway the first time, what more words would come to my useless tongue? At least she was out of that relationship!

Much later, after some soul-searching over why I couldn’t help a friend who sought my comfort, I realised what I should have said on that day:
“Your marriage vows mean something, yes, but they work both ways. His are as important as yours, and he promised… promised to love, honour and cherish you! In what universe does abuse measure up to the standards of love and cherishing? He has already broken the vows, so you are under no obligation to stay. Get out! I’ll go with you now and help you pack what you need. Go back to your parents, tell them. I’ll go with you. If you can’t face your own family, or you want to get away from where he can find you, I’ll ask my parents; I’m sure they’ll let you stay here for a while once I explain. Take my bed, I can sleep on the sofa. Stay as long as you need until you sort things out. Do you think you’ll need a counsellor? If you just want to talk, I’m here, or if you just need a shoulder for your tears.”

That is what I have promised myself I will say if I ever encounter a friend in this situation again.

Postscript:
Though we never met again, many years later, she came back to my mind in my prayers. For about a year, every time I prayed, I said one for her, then the desire to pray faded. A year after that, I met a friend who had known her too and asked if he knew how she was. He said, “yes, she settled down and married again, and has two kids now. She backslid from her faith for a long time, but about a year ago, I was told she came back to the Lord.”

Three Days in Never Never Land

judgeOkay. I’d like to clarify something. Saturday, I received a call from Chef saying he had been released until Tuesday, at which time, he was to report to the VA to be entered in to rehab. For about 4 hours, I refused to answer his calls/texts. I had his wallet and telephone, so he basically had no identity and no one else’s phone numbers. 🙂 I found out from the hospital that he’d been released, but nothing more, and of course, I immediately assumed the worst. Finally, after hours and hours, I gave in, picked up Chef, and demanded he show me in black and white that he had not just signed himself out. When he did, I shot him a quick apology, and then lectured him on the consequences that come from lying through his teeth to me for over a year. And some of you thought Chef was lucky still have me…tsk, tsk. I’m not so sure my help is worth it to the poor guy. Everything he says or does is run through this mental “How will he hurt me this time” filter I’ve erected around me, and that is just making me feel awful.

Tonight, he and I attended a Celebrate Recovery meeting, and he gave his life to the Lord. I am happy he did this while sober, but again,wndy that B******t Filter kicked in, and I have a wait-and-see attitude. I just hate myself for that. I really do, but I’ve just seen too much when it comes to him. Still, I think God takes those prayers seriously even if the pray-er doesn’t, and I’m resting assured, God can handle His business with Chef.

What I’m learning this last few days, though, is rather humorous. First of all, the do-or-die junkie life is a whole culture unto itself. Don’t get me wrong. There are addicts on every rung of the financial ladder. I’m a firm believer that Bill Clinton did indeed inhale, probably more than once. Personally, I have mad respect for people who tell the embarrassing truth. I’d have been blown away by the guy if he’s have looked at the camera and said, “Hell, yes, I smoked a bowl!! You trying doing this job and then come back and tell me you couldn’t use a little dubage, smart-a**!!”  He, and others like him, would be what I would call high-functioning addicts. They keep jobs, are able to restrain themselves from spending the mortgage money on dope, and maintain a flimsy bit of control over the drug of their choice.

bed and breakfastI’m not talking about the high-function-ers. I’m talking about the people who move past being recreational users, sail by the drug abuse category, slip past the high-functioning crowd,  and crash-land into being completely lost in their addictions.

These lost people always make me think of a warped Peter Pan & the Lost Boys, with Bernice in the role of a deprived, evil little Tinkerbell. The little set that hail Chef as their Peter Pan are a rough little lot. None of them have jobs, yet they seem to always have a way to pay for a date with Bernice. They move about town on foot, sad little clumps of humanity, each bearing the invisible stamp that marks them as the truly addicted. Each day seems to start off with a tally of Bernice-worthy possessions to sell in order to secure a date with her. This usually entails stealing….. from each other. There really is no honor among thieves!! Invariably, a skirmish will break out between members of the Bernice Fan Club, tempers will run high, and there’s always a ton of smack talking going on. Once money has been had, next comes tracking down the dealers. This is all too easy, in my opinion. Finally, Bernice will make her appearance, and everybody becomes friends again. It’s crazy.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that each of the ones with a real address become host/hostess to a kind of whacked-out  Bed & Breakfast. Wherever the motley little group lsdrun out of steam, and Bernice, is where they crash for some long needed sleep. The first time this happened at Chef’s house, I all but came unglued. I could just see the cops raiding his house, and Chef trying to convince the law that this twitchy group of misfits were just having a sleepover at a 55-year-old man’s house. I just don’t believe any cop is going to buy that, and given the ages of some of the girls, I’m inclined to think Chef could have bigger problems than Bernice if the law stopped in for a visit. Best to avoid giving the appearance of evil, I’m thinking.

The thing that just makes me shake my head is that they will text/call/drop by for a little chat at literally any hour of the day or night. Chef’s phone had gone off all night long those first couple of nights he was in the hospital. When I finally couldn’t t stand to hear that stupid Sons of Anarchy ringtone reminder go off, I got up and checked the phone, figuring there had to be an emergency or something for someone to be so very persistent. But, no.  Without fail, they all were the dumbest reasons to be texting someone at 3am. “Are you awake?”, “You up?”, “I’m at your house. You in there?” and my personal favorite, “This is Tiff. Remember me? Are you still going to buy me a new tire?” The first three I texted back, “No.” but the last one I just ignored. The next morning, Tire Tiffany, started calling and calling Chef’s phone at the un-Godly hour of 6 am and every 10 minutes again after that. Finally, I answered, grumpy from being woke up by Chef’s Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black ringtone. There’s no need to go into a lot of detail. Let’s just say, Tire Tiffany understands now that she won’t be getting a new tire from Chef and there are polite times to call  people and times that frankly, are dangerous to a person’s health, and should be avoided unless it is a dire emergency like bleeding from your eyes. I voiced my curiosity that Chef had promised to buy a tire for some random chick whose phone number he didn’t even have programmed in his cell or may have reason to not even remember of her existence.  But, as a member of Chef’s Lost Boy’s, Tire Tiffany didn’t seem to think this was odd at all. She’d given him a ride once, and he’d promised to buy her a new tire. I cancelled the verbal contract, and sent old Tire Tiffany on her way. Still,  I find it kind of sad.

I know that I’m sounding snobby, but that isn’t what I feel for these people at all. I know they are of equal value to God as much as anyone else. But given that I feel I’m engaged in a battle for Chef’s life, these people are his enemies, and I have to treat them a bit harshly at times in order to make my point clear — Chef isn’t going to be your Peter Pan much longer. If Chef should emerge from rehab and pick up where he left off, then I’ll dust my feet and walk away. But he will have this one chance.

I just wanted everyone to know what the circumstances were that made him leave, and what I’m learning about this weird drug sub-culture. I appreciate all the support we are receiving from you guys, and hopefully we’ll have even better news pretty soon!!

— Bird