A friend in need.


I turned away a friend who needed a place to stay last night for the first time in my life. In the midst of my abundance, this just feels plain wrong – no matter what the backstory is. But at the same time the idea of this friend staying in my house sends me into a palpable, visceral angst because I know the emotional toll her presence brings to me and mine. I can feel my nervous system vibrating just thinking about it. The speed-addled speech, the rapid-fire stream of misery, the dishonesty and refusal to address the underlying issues. I can’t handle any of it at this point in my life, though I know there was a time when I was a lot more tolerant of these weak moments in others. Hell, there was a time in my life where I was almost as weak and misery-riddled myself.

But over and over again I’ve had to make the decision to be happy, or at least attempt calm even when the chips have been really down. I can recount more than one time during which I was at my lowest and wished for rescue from my own gnawing self, depressions, addictions. I’ve written about it here even, used this space as a place to call out from when I’ve felt my most alone. So I get need. I get wanting rescue. I get hitting bottom. And I’m not unfamiliar with the tunnel-vision this trifecta creates. But in the last year and a half I’ve reached my limit on this situation as it steadily travels from one disaster to another.

Last year, my friend C. suggested our friend simply had to hit bottom, and there was nothing any of us could do short of allowing that to happen. Perhaps we could provide resources when she was ready to start coming back up, but besides that little else would be successful. I balked at this at the time – and another friend and I attempted an intervention that lead to a clean period of a month or so – but C. was right….. it only forestalled the sharp decline that followed and perpetuated the idea of “rescue” the drowning person always grasps for.

Contrived Hollywood plotlines aside, there is no such thing as external rescue from the self. Which is what my friend is looking for and I can not provide. A helping hand to someone working their way out of the abyss? Yes. Of course. But a place to hole up depressed and using drugs? No. A place to come and get clean? Maybe, but I’m not so sure our household is equipped for detox-energy either.

This is a hard call for me, and one I’m justifying to myself in my head over and over (hence this post) because it is so far beyond me to deny anything to someone in acute need. But I’m afraid that by letting her in I will be robbing my own family of the stability and routine we function best with. It is this family and structure that keeps me from hitting bottom again, that keeps me on a path away from depression and addiction, and I am loathe to toss that into the wind for even a few days for fear of what might happen. Where is the line between selfish and self-preservation?

4 Comments on “A friend in need.

  1. Oh I can so relate.. this same friend has been calling me and although we have been phone tagging rather than actually communicating I have a feeling she is requesting my help and wanting a place to stay. The thing is.. I am unable.. really unable. I am awaiting a call for an emergency appointment that will decide whether I am going to be induced this week. Not the best week to have drama in the house. Low stress is the doctors orders. Yet despite this boundary that I know I have to set I still feel guilt. My heart is open but my door is closed and that sits heavy in my throat. I just hope she pulls through this.

  2. She is definitely headed to Victoria, but I have no idea what the plan is beyond that. It doesn’t surprise me that she’s calling you…. but really! You’re about to have a baby! (Sorry to hear about the potential emergency inducing – that’s stressful)….. Your first priority is obvious in this case, but as I wrote… it’s not easy to set these boundaries if you love someone.

  3. Sounds like she has found a place to stay.. and just wants a visit which I am grateful for. I can handle visits.. but I would be unable to house guest at the moment.

  4. It breaks my heart, which hadn’t been having the best spring ever this year.* (Not awful, just irksome.)

    M, I think I understand your conflict. If she showed up at my door, I don’t think I’d be helping much to take her in. I’d be expending so much energy maintaining my cool in the presence of the cyclone that there’d be little heart left for support. Then again, I’d probably feel like a butthead later for putting caring for myself on an equal footing. So I’d probably say OK, because I often think I’m more capable than I am, and can rarely resist a chance to help.

    Captcha: silicone who

    *witness being up at 3am.

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