By: Jana Greene
Well hello, dear Readers.
Today I’d like to talk about something that happened to me several months ago. I’m hoping writing about it will help clear my head, because its been a good while now and it still smarts. Sometimes, putting an issue out into the universe by means of keystrokes helps me process and deal with things.
File this blog post under “no good deed goes unpunished.”
The gist of it is that I had a friend who was also in recovery. After a stay in rehab, she was released back into her natural habitat with all intentions of staying sober. Or so I believed.
We had mutual friends at the time, and someone suggested she reach out to me because maybe I can hook her up with some meeting resources, and just generally be her friend. As a result of her past choices, she relied on others to get her around town, and I was all too happy to be her recovery buddy and take her to meetings with me.
And become her friend, I did.
Not only did she confide in me, but I in her; and regularly. Looking back now, I cringe at the uber-vulnerability I felt comfortable engaging in with her. I wasn’t her sponsor, but I was her friend, and I have a propensity for letting it all hang out anyway.
She had close ties with people who used to be an intimate part of my life – family even – but I trusted her (mostly.) She seemed to trust me, too.
What I should have caught on to, but missed by a mile was that her wildly elaborate and passionate stories about recovery. How could I not have seen them as overkill? I have had teenage daughters before – I should KNOW that when someone clearly sells past the close with oversharing.
Sample conversation with (insert name of teen daughter…)
Me: “Where do go last night?”
Teenager: “Emily needed help with her homework, so I went over because we are learning the square root of infinity and she doesn’t really get it, but I’m good at math and….”
Me: “And you did this by sneaking out at 2 a.m.?”
Teenager: “Well, her dog had passed out, so I went over to show Emily how to give it CPR, and then a group of bandits broke in to her house and held us hostage, so I couldn’t come home, and when I finally did, a clown driving an ice cream truck followed me and I freaked out, and then Britney called and…..”
Ok, I exaggerate. But not terribly.
On our rides together, she was super animated and would often even quote from my own blog to me. I would sometimes think, ‘okay…THAT was weird,’ but most of my friends – and certainly me – are weird. Some of the personal stories she told suspended belief!
Eventually, this friend needed witnesses who ‘knew’ her pretty well, and as her meeting buddy, I felt confident about testifying for her. “You’ve worked so hard on your recovery,” I said. “I would be honored to help.”
The funny thing is that while all of this meeting hopping was going on, I mentioned to My Beloved, “Hey, wouldn’t it suck if **** was just a mole placed strategically to report back to my estranged family about how I feel about them?” We had a good laugh. That was PREPOSTEROUS.
What wasn’t so preposterous was that I came to later find out that the whole shebang – including the two years of her sobriety – was an elaborate ruse designed to soften my heart toward this person. It worked.
I don’t know if she was ever a mole and I really don’t care – but she was definitely a user. A user who is still drinking and – as all evidence now proves – likely may have been all along, and I’m a SUCKER. I staked my name and reputation in the recovery community on my belief that she had been truthful.
The Oscar for Best Actress goes to ….
After I was a character witness for her, I never saw or heard from her again. She fell off the face of the Earth. It’s hard for me to imagine that degree of deception, and over the course of a YEAR, no less.
I kind of pride myself on this mission statement: I don’t have relationships with people I don’t trust. That assumes I know untrustworthy people and can tell when they are lying. I thought I had decent discernment. Maybe that pride needs to go the way of ALL pridefulness. In the sh*tter, where it belongs.
The question I keep posing to myself is thus – HOW could I be so stupid and gullible? I honest to God just didn’t see it.
Deception. So much deception. Looking back, I’m not sure ANY of what she had tearfully told me was true. Like I said, I am a SUCKER. I lost a friend who I prayed and hugged and laughed with.
There’s no way to wrap up this post all clean and tidy, because life is just so messy. I don’t think I’ll hear from her again; she got what she had befriended me for. I’m angry and hurt and feel like a complete idiot.
What I experienced ain’t terribly original. Active addicts lie. It’s kind of what they do. They deceive, minimize, maximize, lie, cheat, steal, and all to protect their best friend – the drug of choice. I myself used to strategically hide BOXES of wine all over the house (although I’m not sure why, as those in my life at the time didn’t seem to mind if I drank myself to death.) But once I got into a program, I learned to call myself out on these behaviors and stop lying to myself. Because calling yourself out keeps you sober, frankly. “Rigorous honesty.”
Yeah, that old chestnut.
As with most things about recovery, I’ve learned tons about myself during this time. Had I to do it again, what would I change? Even if I knew she was using me and lying about her addiction?
I would still offer to take her to meetings with me. I would still give her a safe place to vent. I probably wouldn’t have shared as much of my personal life with her, and I surely wouldn’t have vouched for her. Like I said, it sometimes seems that no good deed goes unpunished.
Although the deception happened TO me, it is not ABOUT me. It’s not about me in the least. But it stings all the same – I’m just being honest about how this whole debacle made me feel.
Still, God calls me to be grace-full, and I’m trying. He never called me to be a sucker. I have forgiven this lady (although she never asked for it) after wasting precious hours and hours on trying to figure out what clues I missed.
But forgiving someone doesn’t mean you want to break bread with them. You can forgive, walk away, and be wiser for the trouble.
I still pray for my friend. I hope she gets honest with herself and gets well. I hope she is safe and that others are safe around her. I ask God to give me discernment, but at the end of the day, I’m going to try to love people anyway. That’s the messy part.
The rest is on her.