So now it’s time for part two, “Fool me twice. Shame on me!” About five months after the first roommate disaster of 2014, I got a Facebook message from a friend, who was in dire need of help. He told me he had been couch surfing for the past few days because he had been abused in the home he was living in with his parents. Without having much information to go on, I told him he could spend a few nights until he figured out where he could live. When he walked through our front door, his face was bruised, and it turned out that he had several fractured ribs from the incident that forced him to leave his home. Providing him a safe place to stay where he could heal was my priority.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.
Once he got here, I learned more of his story and found out that he had recently gotten out of rehab. I was thrilled about this since I had been concerned about his alcoholism for years. In fact, I knew him through my ex because they both played in a band together. However, no one in the band would ever tell one another if they had a concern about another’s welfare. Is that a guy thing? I just don’t get it! It seems like telling a friend you are concerned about their addiction can only help everyone. I’ve seen this first-hand in my own relationship with this particular ex, and none of his friends or family wanted to hear that he was an alcoholic. Finally, it appeared that one of my ex’s friends was taking responsibility and trying to get his life back on track.
He told me about all the meetings he needed to attend each week as a part of the after care of rehab., and he was excited about going back to school to get a degree. My dogs loved him, and he was taking them on walks most days when their dad didn’t come over to walk them. This was a huge help to me since I can’t walk them with my dystonia. There’s just no way to hold my head up on a walk with the dogs. He was sharing cleaning responsibilities with me at the house, and the recycling was getting taken out by him almost every day. It seemed to be a good fit as his life appeared to be heading in a direction of healing, and he was helping with my own healing since he could easily do things I couldn’t. We came to an agreement that he could stay longer on one condition: if the living situation started to interfere with my health, he would need to move out.
Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
A few weeks after he moved in, I had a gut feeling that he should be moving into sober living. I got together with a new friend I had who had just entered sober living to ask him what he thought. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get to that topic of discussion when we got together, but the thought continued to remain in the back of my mind. He was always blaming someone for something, always the victim; it became worse as the days went on. There were always more people who were out to get him. As it turns out, my gut feeling was right. About two months into our living situation, I heard him yelling at his brother over the phone. Even the dogs were scared, which is saying something because his living space was upstairs. When he came down after hanging up on his brother, I discovered he had been drinking. His face was blotchy. He averted his eyes when I asked him a question. When I asked him to come sit by me so we could talk, he went upstairs first (most likely to rinse out the smell with mouthwash). And when he did sit down, he sat in a different room. Had he really relapsed? The possibility never even entered my mind when I agreed to him moving in, but it should have been. How long had he been in relapse? Thinking back over the past couple of weeks, I knew this wasn’t the first night. I was so upset and just felt used. Since I am not a drinker, I had offered him a safe and sober place to stay. And here he was relapsing in my home. A lot of conversation ensued, with a careful boundary being set between being supportive, yet not enabling him. Of course, for him, the alcohol did all of the talking. I told him to get the alcohol out of the house and that if he every brought it back, he would need to move out. Needless to say, he passed out as soon as he went back upstairs.
Earlier in the week I noticed he hadn’t gone to any classes. He also stopped going to his aftercare meetings that he was required to attend. He stayed upstairs for almost a week straight. I thought he was sick, like I had been the week before. It never dawned on me that he had been drinking that whole time. I was worried about him, not quite knowing what to do with the intense information that was emerging from our conversations together. The fuel that ignited the fire occurred on a Saturday afternoon when I told him I was going to the co-op. Since it’s only 5 minutes from my house, it’s one of the few places I can drive to. We walked into the co-op and agreed to meet up front. When I was done, I couldn’t find him anywhere. I walked outside, and there he was, crossing the street from the liquor store. He completely used me! The only other time I felt this used was when it happened with my ex, every time he promised me he had stopped drinking and then he’d pass out from drinking a liter of vodka. And now, my ex’s friend had the audacity to take a co-op bag with him to put the liquor in, as if I wouldn’t be able to tell where he was coming from. This was the final straw! I could go into what happened after that, but it’s still too raw. This was only two weeks ago but feels like years. To make a long story short, his family paid for my locks to get changed that night and they picked up all of his belongings the next day. I still care for this friend, but he’s not allowed to poison himself in my house. He has to make the decision that he needs to take responsibility for himself, and he needs to want to get sober. I was there for him to offer him a second chance, and the alcohol won, as it so often does.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
You know the old saying, “Everything happens for a reason,”? Well, I have had to explore why this showed up in my life. Since it’s still so new, I have to admit I’m still figuring out how to process it. I do know that I was a good friend, one who told him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear. I was a friend who cared enough to say “No More! You’re not killing yourself in my house.” I was a friend who cared enough to communicate with his family to share what had happened. For me, I spoke my truth and was firm about it throughout his stay here. When he looked at me in the car as I was waiting for him to take his alcohol and leave, he really couldn’t believe I was kicking him out. When he came to the house later that afternoon, he really thought I was going to let him back in with apologies and pleas. I learned how to speak my truth immediately in every situation throughout those two months, no matter how difficult the truth was to tell. That was a huge realization of growth for me! Telling the truth right away leads you to your outcome that much quicker, no matter what the outcome may be. I found myself doing all the right things, and even though I was scared in the end, I know that I was a good friend. In the future, there is only one person who has ever lived in my house with me as a positive influence, and that is the only person who will ever be allowed to call himself “roommate” again. Because being a roommate, as well as a friend, is a two-sided partnership. I need to be respectful of the person I am living with, and I deserve nothing less than to be respected in the same way.
MY HOPES: First, for my friend, I hope he will come to the realization that he needs help and get it, sooner rather than later. For addicts, there is always a bottom they need to hit, and I truly hope it doesn’t require bodily harm or the police for him to hit his bottom.
For me, my hope is to continue to speak my truth in every situation as it’s happening. That doesn’t mean I have to be cruel. It just means I have to remember that speaking my truth is best for my health, and it is respectful of the other person. As a former colleague used to say, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” If I hadn’t been strong and stood by my words, I wouldn’t have been his friend at all. Enabling is the worst thing you can do with an addict, and I’ve unfortunately had to learn that from two of the addicts in my life, one whom I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
My final hope for you, the reader, is that you will openly discuss addictions and mental illness with others. What you are about to read is based on my experience with alcoholics so please remember I’m sharing what I have learned. You may have your own nuggets of wisdom to share, so please do. From my vault of experiences, I’ve learned that when you know an addict, it’s important to express your concern to them. Be honest, but don’t expect them to get help because of you. This is a disease, and they have to be strong enough to choose living over the alcohol. This is not easy and is impossible for some alcoholics. They don’t think they have a problem and have to arrive at the truth themselves. In addition, I’ve learned the hard way that when they start asking you for money, rides, or a place to stay, tell them no. We want them to be in a safe place where they can get help. We are not professionals and can’t give them the help they need. Finally, if you are in a heartbreaking position of living with an addict (whether it be your significant other, a family member or a friend), all I can say is don’t waste your time thinking they’re going to change. If they won’t get help and admit they have a problem, love yourself enough to leave. That same love extends to the person you are leaving. If you stay, it shows them their behavior is okay. Believe me, I wasted too many of my younger years wishing for a change when I should’ve been free to find someone who deserved to be with me. Someone who was in the same place I was emotionally and spiritually. This is such a complex topic, which is why I believe we need to talk about it as a society, and I greatly hope it doesn’t take another Hollywood death to inspire our culture to do something about it. How else will we be able to identify those of us who truly need a new beginning before it’s too late?