Learning To ListenTanis Miller
I caught her peering into my bedroom window just as I had stripped off my clothes and was standing in the middle of my bedroom wearing a pair of pink polka dotted granny panties.
I screamed, she smiled and my brother, who had set up the entire prank, laughed until he almost peed himself.
My blue-eyed spy turned into my bestest friend. We were inseparable, even when her parents moved from one location to the next; we managed to find a way to spend weekends and summers together.
She was my maid of honor at my wedding and I thought we’d be best friends until the day we died.
I was wrong.
Turns out it’s hard to be best friends with someone whose real best friend is crystal meth.
My blue-eyed friend’s addiction was the demon that came between us. For years I struggled to remain close to her as she wrestled with her drug problem but time, children and life all conspired to end our relationship.
An overdose killed the last shreds of friendship we had. She lived but she was never the same. The drugs stripped her of her essence, leaving behind brain damage and an irretrievably broken bond.
I didn’t stand a chance really. I didn’t know how to be friends with an addict and I did everything wrong.
Her addiction didn’t just steal her health; it stole our friendship and my heart with it.
I’ve been fussy about my friendships ever since. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and my heart bruises easily and so any friendship I form is regarded warily at first.
And then I met her.
She had curly hair and more joy to her than any one person had a right too. She laughed easily and every time I was near her, I found myself laughing alongside her.
She became my new best friend and we were inseparable. Even when I moved from one location to the next, we found a way to spend as much time together as possible.
She was my the focal point of my sanity when my son passed away and without her holding me up I may not have survived. I thought we’d be best friends until the day we died.
I was wrong.
Turns out it’s hard to be best friends with someone who is married to an alcoholic.
My curly haired friend struggled to stand by her husband and support him through his fight to stay sober and I sincerely thought I could help her through their intensely personal and private problems.
I had the very best of intentions.
I didn’t stand a chance really. I didn’t know how to be friend’s with an addict’s wife and I did everything wrong.
Instead of holding her close and propping her up in her time of need, I ended up pulling our friendship apart at the seams. No matter what I did, or didn’t do, it was always wrong.
Her husband’s problem and my ignorance of what kind of monster addiction really is damaged our friendship and my heart.
My curly haired friend and I have managed to remain pals, and I love her so but when she laughs these days I see how it isn’t easy and how it has cost her. We will never be the same.
I have never been the same.
And then I met her.
She is a shorter, prettier, smarter version of myself and everyone thinks she is me. In her own words, she is seldom a mister and never a lady and I know first hand the woman is incapable of keeping a hamster alive or baking a cookie.
I knew our friendship was special the morning I woke up in a Los Angeles hotel room and found myself using her breasts as my pillow and she didn’t have me arrested or beaten.
She became my best friend even when my country rejected her and kicked her and her family out faster than Mary Poppins could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Distance is meaningless when one can harass the other via IM and video chat 24/7.
Shannon is my best friend. I plan to always be her bestie because I can’t see a day I will grow tired of teasing her and coveting her children.
I hope I’m not wrong.
Turns out it’s not as hard as I thought to be best friends with someone who is married to an alcoholic.
Her husband’s addiction and her family’s perseverance through it has awed and inspired me. It has also terrified me.
I don’t want to repeat my past. I don’t want to do everything wrong despite meaning to do it all right.
I have the very best of intentions. Only this time, I know that isn’t enough. In the years we’ve been friends, she’s taught me more about addiction, compassion and forgiveness than all my other experiences combined.
I’m still very ignorant about addictions. But time and experience and love have made me less judgmental about them.
It’s the hardest thing in the world to watch someone you love struggle to stay above water. And sometimes, instead of tossing someone the life preserver they so desperately need, you end up drowning them.
I understand that now.
This time around, while I’m cheering my friend and her family on in their struggle for sobriety, I’m not only taking the time to educate myself about how addiction affects family and friends, but I’m doing something I’ve never done before.
I’m taking the time to listen. It can be really easy to not be heard over the noise of an addiction.
I hear you.
And I’m here.