Loving an addict is harder than you may think.

We all have that friend from high school. You know the one. She encouraged you to do all the things your parents told you not to do, was never more than an arm’s length away when you were doing those things, and when you really thought about the future, you were a little worried she wouldn’t make it that far.

Yeah. That one.

Mine was Carly. Carly was known to be loud as hell, always looking for a party, and rarely said no to anything, even if she should. My mother was understandably horrified by my frequent choice to spend time with Carly. I was not nearly as pissed off at the world as she was, but I was always up for an adventure. Needless to say, Carly’s attitudes about life got her into many situations she needed help to escape. As her more logical sidekick, I was often called upon to help. I once drove to the middle of the ghetto at 4am to find her because she was stranded and scared. I was witness to people I’d never met taking drugs I knew nothing about, having sex with people they knew nothing about and destroying entire rooms in homes or seedy motels I’d never seen before that night. I engaged in my share of dangerously reckless behavior but I do not have an addictive personality, nor had I ever experienced it in my family home, so when I was ready to move on from being wild and irresponsible it was not difficult.

After high school, Carly and I lost track of each other. When we reconnected, I discovered that our paths in life had varied quite a bit. Carly had never graduated from high school. She went on to have a child but was never sure who the father was. She had also been in a terrible car accident which caused her to lose a small amount of her brain. About five years ago, we got together for drinks so we could catch up. The next few occasions we spent time together, I noticed that she was taking a lot of pills and often talking to dealers on the phone. I asked her if everything was alright and why she was taking so many drugs. It was clear that she had never developed any kind of coping or faith in herself and therefore, turned to drugs and alcohol, just like she had when we were teenagers.

I resumed my position as her sidekick but maintained a comfortable distance as to keep her from becoming dependent on me. Carly deserved to feel worthy of everything she worked for and while she did them with my encouragement, they were her accomplishments. She applied for a program where she could finish her high school education and obtain her GED, signed her daughter up for a local children’s soccer team and bought a car. Carly was on a good road and seemed very positive about the future.

About a year ago, I noticed that Carly was much less focused on the things that we had worked toward for her future. I was disappointed but I was determined to help her however I could. She eventually started displaying signs that she was much deeper into drugs than I had ever seen her. I was constantly worried about her and checked in with her daily. In early 2014, I received a phone call from a mutual friend who had spent the evening at Carly’s apartment. He told me one of the men she had over that night had threatened him with a knife. I was stunned, to say the least. I called Carly immediately, hoping that she was safe. I very nearly called the police on her “friend.”

Within a few months, I began getting texts and voice-mail messages in the middle of the night that were mostly nonsense. It was around this time that Carly’s mother petitioned the court for custody of her granddaughter. Carly was hardly in a position to contend this petition and the request was granted. Her contact with her daughter was reduced significantly, I assume in an effort to protect the child from her mother’s influence.

The spiral had begun and Carly purchased a one-way ticket on the high speed railway to get to the bottom. She lost close to 100 pounds, which is a lot for someone who is legally a little person.  I started receiving phone calls to borrow money, which I had foolishly given her before, but never with any expectation that it would be repaid. She showed up at my office and my home unexpectedly, at all hours of the night, begging to sell me her prescription pain killers or her prized personalized pool cue. Once, she offered to sell me her car for $75.

I had no choice but to confront her about her drug use. She had surrounded herself with junkies and they certainly weren’t going to stop her. It took some pushing, but she finally admitted that she had been using heroin and meth intravenously. I was devastated. She had worked so hard to re-establish a “normal” life after her accident and now she was destroying it all.

It has been six months since I found out that Carly was deep into her addiction. She has been arrested a handful of times in those few short months. I regularly get calls and texts from numbers I’ve never seen before. Every time she calls, I hesitate to answer because I can predict what she is going to say. In October, she tried to trick me into doing pornography with her. Part of me was amused that she thought I was not bright enough to see through her trickle-truthing and begging for me to “just talk” with her “friend” but I know that the drugs played a major part in even considering asking that of me. Carly is currently living on the streets near San Pablo Bay.

Now, just thinking about Carly makes me cry. She has had some legitimately awful experiences in life, but I never wanted to see her give up. I want to help her and I could help her. But I won’t. Not because I don’t care or because I am angry at her. I know that no matter what I do for her, she cannot overcome this obstacle until she chooses to.  I still hold out hope that one of these days, she will call with the news that she’s gotten into the residential rehab in her area. Until that day comes, she maintains her sobriety for a significant amount of time and I see that she is committed to staying sober, I will just continue to let her break my heart.

Carly, I have loved you for 15 years and I hope that someday, you will love yourself as much I love you.


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