Thanks A Lot and Out with the Garbage
“I think I have a problem with drugs and alcohol.”
He was weeping. My best friend. He was overwrought and falling apart. He had come to the right place. I have, long, been the right person to go to when you have a problem. I have a strength, inherited from my mother, and a wisdom, passed on to me by the school of Life, not to mention a genuine desire to heal what ails my loved ones. In this case, I was especially well suited for the job, being an alcoholic myself, with many years sobriety. I listened to the upsetting and woeful tale of how my best friend had fallen down the rabbit hole of addiction. His fiancée and he traveled so much that they never saw each other and they were growing apart, in spite of a deep and abiding love for one another. He was unhappy in his job and drinking to escape the misery. He was overworked and underslept and using cocaine to stay awake during meetings and while completing projects at home and in hotel rooms. He was using and keeping it a secret from his live in lover. He had hit his own version of rock bottom; but the latest news was the worst. While on a business trip he had opted to go out to a bar with friends, of which he had many, being in a city that he, once, called home. He drank and did bumps and drank and did bumps and, in the morning, he awoke in his hotel room, beside a stranger. He remembered nothing; and the stranger was not helpful at filling in the blanks. My best friend was devastated and terrified, afraid that he would lose the love of his life and their future together. What was he to do?
I offered my usual strength and all the advice I had, based on the years of experience I had as an addict and as a longterm couple. I promised him that I would be there for him over the next few weeks, as he got clean and put back together the relationship that meant the most to him. This is what we did for each other, for many years. We held each other up. He was there for me when I got sober. I was there for him when he fled an awful roommate situation. He held me up when I threatened my relationship with a dangerous affair with a younger man and I helped him get through several different breakups, one with a man who had been a member of our little family for five years. He routed for me when I was losing 60 pounds and I helped him get to work every day the winter he was on crutches. We were never not there for each other and we shared everything. That is what best friends do. This was one more rite of passage we would see through, together.
How proud and happy was I when my best friend managed to beat his addictions? He found his center of strength and got clean. He changed his life. He was honest with his spouse and, after a requisite period of discomfort and therapeutic talking, their relationship was stronger and headed to the altar. In fact, that year we were each others’ best man at our respective weddings. All was right. As rain.
That winter, I called my best friend, drunk. I had steered right into a rough sea. Under copious amounts of stress in my personal and professional lives, in extreme amounts of pain after a serious back injury, after the loss of careers in photography and health and fitness, not to mention to loss of a body for which I had worked for nearly ten years, I began drinking again. Ten years of sobriety, down the drain. I called my best friend, drunk and miserable, walking home from work one night. I wept the entire time. I sat on the stoop of my apartment building, weeping in the cold, for half an hour, talking to my best friend. He was kind and polite; he encouraged me to believe that all would be well, in the end. It was nearly Christmas, his favourite time of year, and all would work out for the best, in the end, of that, he was certain. Christmas is not my favourite time of year; indeed, it ranks low on my list of my favourite times of year – though not dead last. I did not share his optimism, though I appreciated his encouragement and the glint of hope he dangled in front of me; and, indeed, I made it through the month of December, hoping that January would bring solace, would bring peace.
In January, my best friend was visiting New York from his new home out west and asked me to go for a walk with him on a cold, winter day. We strolled our old haunt, Central Park, for a little over an hour, talking about everything except my drinking. When we finally did talk about my drinking, I opened up like a floodgate and he listened, without much to say. There was little advice given, some supportive words of encouragement. Then I said it. “I miss us.” His reply: “Whatever happens, we’ll always have the memories.” This was not a subtle or vague message, though it was clear that it may have been meant as one. One of the gifts God has given me is that I see the truth. I see people, clearly; and I hear messages, clearly. It is not only a gift the universe has given me, it has been the focus of my life since the first day I picked up a camera. I was being broken up with. Determined to not make a scene, I stayed the course of our date. We walked and we talked and, upon reaching our destination, he said, with a pat on the back and a peck on the cheek, “Well, it was great seeing you. Bye!” He turned and walked away, with his husband and their friend who had come out to meet them. I stood on the sidewalk of 8th Avenue and felt a part of my life, of my history, of myself, walk away. It was over. That much, I could see.
My former best friend came to a screening of our film when it played Los Angeles. He brought his husband. My former best friend posted photos the he took of the television when my husband and I appeared on MSNBC. That is the extent of our society in one year.
I recently discovered, quite by accident actually, that the husband of this man I once called brother had de-Faced me. Facebook can be rather dangerous in this way. It’s kind of like the tv show Survivor where, because of one thing, a person can find out exactly where they stand in their alliance. The husband was Facebook friends with twelve people that I know, including my husband and our best friends, the couple with whom we produced our film; but he was no Facebook friend of mine. Not a seventh grader, I didn’t have any particular feelings about this. An adult, I had some thoughts about it – mostly vague thoughts that feel more comfortable being named realizations. To the best of my knowledge, we had no fights, no falling outs, nothing negative between us. Not even my former best friend, who remains on my Facebook friend list but who has made no contact with me in a year, has had a negative encounter with me, that I recall. So I am actually in the dark as to what wedge came between us; I only know that the messages coming at me are neither vague nor subtle.
Here, though, is the interesting angle in this entire experience. I feel nothing. I am neither angry nor upset over the death of a friendship that I thought would last me to the grave. I am, strangely, no more than a little sad. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being a little sad. However, most of what I am experiencing is thought, rather than feeling, which is uncharted territory for me. I have, my entire life, been a creature of emotion. To have a friend break up with me, to have his household, essentially, throw me out like just so much garbage, should be an emotional experience for me. Yet, it is not. It is a purely intellectual one. I find myself able to look at the situation dispassionately, to judge the events scientifically and to say to myself “ok – that, as they say, is that. On to the next day.” I am able to experience what it feels like to be tossed aside and, truth, it’s ok. I am not hurt. I am not angry. I am, simply, as I am. I have a family that stands beside me and accepts me, with all of my human imperfections and fallibilities. There are, in my life, enough people who ask to be there, who make me feel special; no requirement exists for people who wish not to be there or who actively operate to diminish my perception of my worth. To have someone who has ceased to care for me turn and walk away affects me, not in the least. Why should the husband of my former best friend have any associations with me? In fact, why should the former best friend? Answers, I have not. Answers, I seek not.
I wrote an email saying goodbye. I wrote an email, without emotion, stating that I know, not, what has come between us. I included a wish for peace, health and happiness. Then I said goodbye. One month later, there has been no reply, though my former best friend has clicked ‘like’ on my Facebook postings. The message is not vague, is not subtle. Closure for everyone is a blessing. Perhaps the door will stay closed; who can say? What I know is that I am grateful for the years of happiness and for the memories; I am grateful for the experience of being let go, as a friend, and grateful for the growth I have had that gave me permission to have the experience from an intellectual standpoint, rather than an emotional. I am grateful, full stop. Gratitude is a gift; as big a gift as awareness. I am grateful for the ability to see.
I see you. I see all of you. I read you, loud and clear. Every time.