When I asked my peers in rehab, what friendship meant to them the words which came up were trust, company, camaraderie, empathetic, rare, a confidant, companionship, support, generous, patient, fun, reliable, non-judgemental, honest, loyal, kind, good listener and various others, there were some expletives as well, as one with a rather cynical view who used words such as “non-existent”, “fake” and “a chance to let people in to stab you in the back”. I want to come back to those points from Mr cynicism in a moment, but first to touch on the other words above. .
For me friendship is a lot of the above things, I would say its mainly reliability, loyalty and honesty which are paramount, someone who is there through the good times and the bad times, someone who is brutally honest with you (even when it hurts both parties), someone who always has your back, who is fun and makes you feel comfortable so that all your barriers/defences are gone. No Masks necessary.
With this said how does taking drugs and drinking with your ‘friends’sit when you are buried in addiction? Is it OK? are the enabling you? is it destructive? are they actually friends?
Firstly for me it depends on whether people are cognisant of your situation, secondly it’s what their motives are for the friendship/s, is it because it is genuine and honest or is it because its a convenience, a ritual, a habit? an excuse to use? If I take my personal situation then I think the one common denominator was drugs. It was as I mentioned previously literally a ritual, a culture, meet down the pub on a Friday, get off our nuts, stay on through the weekend, go out to a big DJ night Saturday and with a lot of help from Ecstasy and Cocaine would manage to battle the way through the weekend having what I thought was the best nights of my life with my friends. Don’t get me wrong, they were amazing nights, some of the best laughs I’ve had and probably ever will have, but when I look back all the friendships I had and still have now have evolved from that environment of that ‘rock and roll’ lifestyle if you will. Luckily my core of true friends have grown out of it all, so all is not lost from that previous poisonous situation.
In hindsight I was deteriorating at a rapid rate that it was impossible not to notice really, although I thought I was hiding it well. If my family and work associates could notice so easily then how can my friends not?
Looking at it from the ‘friends perspective’ what do you do? How do you approach it? what do you say? I can see the difficulty, but not everything in life is easy, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, tell it how it is, no bullshit, straight down the line. With this said why don’t your friends tell you how it is? Why aren’t they brutally honest? I think the answer is because they aren’t your true friends, they’re associates, companions, pals or mates, or more to the point just drug friends. Don’t get me wrong my friends who I have used with over the years I love dearly and they will always have a place in my heart, but I’m struggling to see how I can fit them into my life now as I only seemed to spend anytime with them when it revolved around drugs. Nights out, football matches, lads weekends away, stag weekends the list goes on, in fact its hard to remember any kind of normal situations with them where substances weren’t involved, and I was as guilty as any of them, even weddings and christenings, it was all the norm.
When my situation deteriorated (beyond control) what I needed, was a friend, a true friend, and more than one (although that seemed unlikely), someone who would tell me to get a grip on my life, stop wallowing in self pity, be grateful for what I have, get my act together and sort my shit out. I had a lot of people that were happy to use with me, have a drink and a line, but out of my ‘friends’ I could probably say that maybe 3 or less fit the profile of what I actually needed.
Why does this happen? I think its for a few reasons really; 1. The age of social media; We are currently living in a generation whereby ‘friends’ are defined by how many friends we have on Facebook, how many followers we have on Twitter or how many likes we have on Instagram. Its a great ego boost to see that 1000’s of people are following you or are on your friends but how many of these people will be there in a flash when the shit hits the fan? From my experience its maybe one or two.
2.We live in a culture whereby its socially accepted taking drugs and drinking excessively that its almost fashionable and is looked down at by your friends if you don’t engage, in fact it feels like you can be excluded if you don’t.
3. The harsh reality is that there are actually plenty of people of there (‘friends’) out there that want to see you fail, or stay in the gutter, or at least at the same level as them. Maybe it normalises it all and makes it feel acceptable for them, makes them not look at the reality of what they are doing and how destructive it is , if not to others, themselves or financially.It’s all probably too close to the bone from them.
This is why you find that out of you friends that follow you on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and the ones that you go on the lash with, using drugs or drinking heavily with, it wont be these guys that are there for you in your hour of need, in your deepest black hole and when the shit hits the fan, it’ll be real friends, a select few, the ones that have your best interests at heart, and not the ‘social’ aspect of their lives, the ones who if we look back to the words at the start, things like honesty, loyalty, kindness and reliable….
A TED talk by a guy called Johann Hari about society and what we know about addiction sums this up beautifully https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY9DcIMGxMs
When you use with people, whether you think they are friends or not can you attach these words to them? I don’t think that you can, its not kind, honest or loyal to get off your nut with someone, if you really cared for that person you wouldn’t do it, maybe it’s my view from experience and maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think you can.
My measure of what friends are now may seem a little black and white, and I am also guilty of being that user so I am aware that its a two way street, but I think that if you can say your friends are honest, loyal, kind, reliable etc then its a good marker, also ask yourself, when do you see these people? I found that I only saw most of my mates when I took drugs, not doing anything else other than that, maybe that was mostly down to me, but it takes two to make relationships work and that includes friendships.
Now that i’ve completed rehab, I have been able to decipher through my friends list and what I thought was a big list of friends is actually a closer knit circle that I realised, but for me that’s a good thing. They will always be my pals, and people I’ve spent loads of time with and had amazing days/nights/weekends and holidays with, but for me true friendship is something that is rare, someone that you connect with on an emotional level, someone who you can be open and honest with and drop the masks completely, and that’s hard to find, so why do we feel we need lots of them, when we really don’t.
As for ‘Mr Cynicism’, his view is more black and black, than black and white, maybe he’s been let down too many times by people he thought were his friends, or maybe he’s never really had a true friendship. I hope he finds one and I hope that he has a better relationship with himself.
We all need a friend, a true friend, as a famous song said “I get by with a little help from my friends”