Monday, July 23, 2007

The Cost of Friendship

Yesterday my godson, who has a relatively mild (most of the time) addiction to crack, called me to ask my advice and help. He and his wife (who is now clean) want to move about 4 hours away from where they now live in order to be near her mother, a convicted embezzler who served her time. I think her sister and husband also live there, and she loves her sister but used to be frustrated with her inability to think clearly and her usage of alcohol and her husband usage of drugs.

What a question? How do they do that? If all they took was their clothes, would I take them there?

For the past two years, I have done nothing for them except pay for their storage spot. I did not speak with them for almost a year. I could not handle the drug usage and the irresponsibility that goes along with that. But, I love them both dearly. She is very bright and a schemer. He is less than normal bright but loving and intuitive. I recently sent birthday gift checks to them as we have been talking by phone every couple of months this year.

The pain of seeing them jumping from the frying pan into the fire is tough. It's a cost I've been willing to pay because everyone should have someone who loves them. The cost of friendship, like the cost of discipleship, is often high. Sometimes we must do things with which we disagree because we do love the person and we do believe in their right to make their own decisions (sometimes called free will - God granted this, I can do no less). I don't have to put up with the consequences of their poor decisions, but ....

And, there I hit a sticking point. What is enabling? What is the cost this time? Am I willing to pay it? Don't they still need that unconditional love? Will this move make things different for them? Somewhat since they will be closer to family. Will getting away from their round of addicted friends help their situation? Probably not since sister and husband also use.

It will not cost me much to move them. We have a truck; I love to drive; they are pleasant company.

The long term cost may be having to say "no" a lot more often. And, if they were out of my life, would I be better off? What if I simply said, "I cannot be your friend any longer; the cost to my serenity and sanity is too high." Would that be friendship, discipleship, self-preservation? I have had to do that once with someone that I love dearly. It hurt and it still hurts.

And, I know that for some people, I am not the easiest person with whom to maintain a friendship. Is it that way with them? Are they just using me?

I have friends who do not drain me - other friends who have great needs - other friends who do not have great needs. How do I determine the cost of friendship? How do I know when the cost is too high for my well-being?


klady said...
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Anonymous said...

I can empathize with your situation. I wish there were easy answers to those questions. I ask my self the same round of questions daily where my own daughter is concerned. May God bless and guide you.

And,you may want to consider your statement about a "relatively mild addiction to cocaine" - I don't think there is anything mild about any kind of addiction. Perhaps he uses intermittently - but it is still addiction. And cocaine is a drug that goes well beyond being 'mildly'addictive. I say this because we often try to soften or diminish the troubles of those we love.


sharecropper said...

Thanks, Laura, for the right word. Sometimes when I'm writing from my heart, the words just don't come. Intermittent is a good word for his addiction. Sometimes heavy, sometimes light, sometimes not at all. And, I know that relief from such addiction is almost impossible without a very strong support system, which he does not have and I cannot supply.

I told them that they had to get all their plans made about jobs, their current apartment, their possessions and such before I would even consider helping them move themselves. I will not move furniture and such. At times, I pray they won't come back with plans.

Thanks for your prayers - and I offer prayers for your daughter.

MadPriest said...

My apologies if I'm teaching my grandmother to suck eggs here but my advice, out of experience, is as follows. The number one rule when dealing with relatives/friends of the addicted is to get them away from the situation and to sort out their welfare first. Then you provide the opportunity to get help to the person suffering the addiction. If they do not accept this it is their fault - it is not the fault of the relative/friend who should be assured of the fact that the situation is not their fault. Addicts will play the guilt card to its fullest in order to get cash to supply their addiction.

In other words, Sharecropper, you must protect yourself and yours from any fallout from this bad situation. This may sound unchristian, but that is not necessarily so. Your withdrawal may, if it is explained to your godson, be one of the events that gives him enough reason to start to sort himself out. If it isn't then THAT IS NOT YOUR FAULT, it's his own silly fault, full stop (or as you Americans say - period).

sharecropper said...

Thanks, MP. I know that it's not my fault, and I do know how to say no. I spoke with them last night to wish her a happy birthday, and they are no farther along with plans than before; so I suspect nothing will come of this. And, if they use birthday money to buy drugs; so be it. I will send the token amount anyway - because I love them.

But, I will not be taken advantage of, nor will I feed their greed or habit or laziness.

Thanks for your words. They remind me of who's in charge of their lives - drugs. And, who's in charge of my life - God. And, God is life; so I have to take care of me. Again, thanks.

Dave said...

I have no good advice, just prayers and blessings.

Cecilia said...

Like pisco sours, the best wisdom I can offer is my prayer: (((sharecropper))), you and your family have it.

Pax, C,

Lapinbizarre said...

I have more experience of crack addicts than I need, but there's no question that things could have been far worse.

The first thing that strikes me is the observation that your godson has a "a relatively mild (most of the time) addiction to crack." That you did not speak to them for a year suggests that his addiction may, in the past, have been greater than this. All three of the addicts I have known moderately well or better have admitted, during the period of their addiction (one is now clean) only to slight or "recreational use". All three lied and, in one case, continue to lie. The important thing - and you don't need me to tell you this - is to protect yourself, emotionally and financially, because, as you know, you can so easily be trapped and taken advantage of both ways. In my experience, the only reality of the crack addict is the "need" to get high and to stay high.

I have no real advice to offer - I cannot entirely control the influence of that the one remaining active addict in my life has on me, so I can hardly lecture you, but I do understand what you face. That "my" addict is increasingly in and out of jail, and is there now, gives spasmodic ironclad relief. That he has advancing and untreated (US indigents do not get the best medical treatment) cancer, which will be fatal sooner rather than later, both gives an awful realization that the end to this situation is in sight and leads me to be more charitable to him than I might otherwise be. But it's a sorry business, no question.

But I have no useful advice to offer and no comfort beyond the knowledge that others have shared the same experience. I have copied your final paragraph ("I have friends who do not drain me ....." I believe that I will read it often in the days to come and that it will help me deal with my problems. Thanks. Roger

terri c said...

I am so sorry that you and yours are dealing with this. It sounds very painful and I do think it is almost a certainty that he'll find drugs in the new environment, this is not an escape. I wish it were not so hard on those who love them. Please don't beat yourself up about this. And very few things are completely simple. They may be using you, consciously or unconsciously, and they may also love you, as you do them. You, too, need and deserve a support system.

June Butler said...

Sharecropper, you've been given good advice. I'll add that when people begin to drain me beyond what I can bear, I set boundaries for the sake of my own survival. What good can I do for anyone, if I go over the edge?

Maybe that's right; maybe it's wrong, but that's what I feel that I must do.

I offer you my sympathy, for I have been there. I offer you and your relatives my prayers.

Anonymous said...

In the 12 steps tradition of Alanon, we talk a great deal about "detaching with love". Perhaps there is an Alanon group meeting in your area where you might find what you are looking for.

sharecropper said...

Dearest friends, thank you for the love, support and hugs that you are sending my way.

Episcopallooza, I have been a member of a 12 step group for several years, but you're right, Alanon does talk more about detaching with love - and I did that for two years, but I'm a sucker.

Now that I've written about it, I have more backbone to set those boundaries, Mimi, that need to be in place for all of us.

Lapinbizarre, I send you my love and my prayers as you continue to deal with an active addict and a dying relative/friend. I pray for strength and courage for you.

Lapinbizarre said...

Thank you Sharecropper. My thoughts and best wishes are with you also. There is no easy solution to these situations, but I wish that I had known ten years back what I know now. The "no fool like an old one" rule has numerous exceptions.

Anonymous said...


You have already been given some excellent advice here, so all I will add is my love and prayers to the heap.