Sunday, October 23, 2011
And this brings me to my focus this week. Crossing lines, and in particular those lines we don't see, but maybe walk each day; the lines between friends or family members.
I had a recent conversation with a friend about that fine line we walk with friends; when to intervene in their life and rescue them from a fate worse than death, or worse, a bad relationship.
She believed it was fine to intervene when she first became aware of the friend's problem, so I challenged her. If her mother or a friend were to point out some 'concerns' regarding a guy she wanted to see, would she listen? She had to confess, no. And she would probably resent the intrusion and/or the individual.
I must also address the age difference here. I have a little bit more life experience than she does. Just a year, or two, or twenty-some-plus. I also have had experience with addicts.
My first partner had several friends who used drugs recreationally, and he did as well though on a more limited scale, both in frequency and type. He only smoked pot occasionally while the others also did cocaine and who knows what else. I had lived a sheltered life and this was my first experience with such behavior. My therapist at the time recommended Al-Anon and I attended several meetings. I learned that the old adage is true, you can lead a horse to water, but can't make him (or her) drink. The addict must realize he or she has a problem and make the conscious decision to seek help on his or her own. And I learned you are ultimately responsible only for yourself.
I contend this also applies to other aspects of a friend's life, including romance. We must see the faults in the ones we choose to date on our own. How else will we decide what we can and cannot live with?
And I wish to add one more observation. As we continue on our respective journeys, the lessons in our lives are for us to discover on our own. I am the type of person who best learns alone. Pointing out to me what you see as my lesson won't do me any good as I need to experience it firsthand. It won't do our friendship any good, either; for most likely, I will see you as interfering or crossing a line with me, while you may think you have my best interests in mind. And there the conflict begins.
Another valuable lesson I once learned, "Expectations are planned disappointments." I expect my friends to sit by the side while I am on my journey. Some of them will want to jump in and point things out to me, believing they are helping me. But, in reality, they are not. They are only adding a distraction, and ultimately a disappointment in our relationship, creating tension. If I am lost or confused, I expect to be able to then ask my friends for advice, and am willing to hear what they have to say, but only when asked which, admittedly, is not an easy thing to do. But, please, don't disappoint me; allow me to learn my lessons by myself.
It is never easy for a friend to sit idly by, while someone they love is in pain. Ask any parent whose child is suffering, or anybody who has watched a loved one succumb to a terminal illness. I clearly recall the helplessness I felt as my first partner was ravaged by HIV until his death. I also recall the pain in the Al-Anon members whose loved ones were struggling with their addiction, whether they found help in AA or not. The addict must hit bottom and seek help on his/her own for the help to be meaningful. So, it is imperative to remain silent. Crossing that line could cause irreparable harm to the friendship. And bridges, once burned, are never as strong as the original.
"Don't give your advice before you are called upon."