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?