It’s day 1 of the therapy break and I’m already feeling J’s absence. It was a tough weekend, and even tougher because I knew I wasn’t going to have therapy today. I know I’ll survive, but I can’t help feeling daunted by the prospect of two weeks without seeing J.
The weekend brought some big challenges for me. A while back, I had to back off from one of my closest friendships to keep myself safe. My friend M, who I love dearly, was being hugely self-destructive. I was almost permanently afraid for him. And I was the only person physically and emotionally close enough to help. His family relied on me to check on him. They called me when they were worried, and each time their names flashed up on my phone the anxiety in me was incredible. I’d shake and feel sick as soon as I saw the caller ID.
It wasn’t right for me to have this responsibility. Although I love M and want him to be OK, I realised that caring about and for him was making me ill. It was damaging my recovery. And I am not his wife or girlfriend. It shouldn’t be my job. It dawned on me that I needed to focus on my wife and my relationships with friends who have a positive impact on my life.
Making the decision to distance myself from M was hard. I was scared it would destabilise him. But I also realised I was scared of him too. He has various substance addictions, and when he’s using he can be frightening. His temper flares and he’s not a small guy. This happened when my wife and I were with him once, and we were both scared of him.
A year ago, M was sharing our house. We asked him to move out after his angry, drunk outburst. He was reluctant and he wasn’t in a good place. I tried to help and expedite things by packing up all his belongings. I didn’t just throw things in boxes. I did this lovingly. Eventually, he came and removed the boxes, but he left a load of gym equipment in our basement.
We told him not to rush to move this stuff. But a year later it was still there. So my wife tried to arrange with him to get it moved. He kept making plans and then cancelling them. After this went on a while, I started to lose patience. I felt like he was taking the piss really, after we had stored the stuff for so long without badgering him. So when he agreed to collect it on Saturday morning, I moved it all upstairs to make it easier for him.
On Friday afternoon I told him I’d done this, and that his things were occupying the whole room. I said I needed it to be taken away by midday because I had friends coming over for lunch and we wouldn’t be able to sit down at the dinner table otherwise. He chose not to cancel until 6.30 am on Saturday.
That made me really angry. Having made the plan, told him I’d helped, and explained that his things were all in my way, I was furious that he didn’t seem to care about any of that. It felt like he couldn’t care less about us and had no gratitude at all for us storing his stuff and trying to help him move it. I wrote a slightly angry response, basically saying it wasn’t good enough to cancel again. I deliberated about issuing an ultimatum, but I couldn’t think of another way to resolve the situation. So I told him that I’d be getting rid of his things if he didn’t collect them that morning.
This didn’t feel unreasonable to me. I didn’t want to be so assertive, but I was forced into it. And he responded with nastiness. That’s the only way I can describe it. He was angry and hateful and it really hurt. I wanted to reason with him. I wanted to change his mind about me; to explain myself so he could see that I am really not a horrible person. It’s so hard for me to tolerate knowing that someone has such animosity towards me. Especially someone I love.
It’s stupid of me, but I so easily take it on board when someone criticises me. I soak up the insults and I believe them. I spent the whole weekend questioning myself, trying to convince myself that what he thinks and says about me isn’t true. My self confidence is so low, that I am left full of doubt about what kind of person I am. It hurts because I can’t stand thinking that someone I love hates me that much.
And he seems to really hate me. His messages got so abusive that I ended up barring his number and blocking him on Facebook. I can’t cope with that nastiness. But he lives a few hundred yards from my house. I’m bound to run into him. And I can’t help but worry that he will get drunk and turn up on my doorstep to vent his anger.
It all sounds irrational and over the top I know. Such a small thing has turned into a big drama. I don’t need drama. I don’t want it. The saddest part is realising that this friendship that was once so precious to me is never going to be salvaged. I had hoped it would.
Not long ago, I would’ve told M anything. He wanted to be my big brother, to replace the monster who abused me instead of protecting me. I loved him for that. I loved that he cared so deeply about me and that he was fiercely protective. I loved him being the caring brother I always wanted.
But friendships are transient. They don’t stay the same as we change. And it seems we both have changed a great deal. Reflecting on this today, I noticed that I wasn’t losing anything by losing him now. There is nothing good in our relationship anymore. I don’t enjoy seeing him, and when I think of him all I do is worry.
But none of that changes the sense of loss I feel, and the unpleasant mixture of anger and regret. And it’s hard right now to manage all of this without being able to talk it through with J.
Photo: DeeAshley, Creative Commons.