I have two friends at crossroads right now….well, sort of. They are both in completely untenable situations and need to make very difficult decisions, but they can’t. One of the two isn’t ready (and knows it), and the other is in serial crisis mode, reacting to one scenario after another, unable to come up for air and can’t get above the situation to work on solutions.
Both are intimately involved with someone in long term, ongoing, addiction. With addiction, they deal daily with their loved one’s incapacitation, unemployment, lies, theft, legal and financial problems, volatility and unpredictability. In short, a living nightmare.
I’ve been down this road trying to help from the side, with these two before. I’ve found these type of relationships have a way of sucking the sap out of me; no amount of assistance or advice seems to ever really help. Cries for help come at all hours of the day and night. I’ve spent hours calling in favors on their behalf, including getting help from local resources only to have them or their loved one not show up, listening and drying tears, in the end to discover they are back in the soup yet again. I liken it to that old Disney ride with the toad—you hop into the cart and go every which way at breakneck speed. Something completely crazy is just around every corner or at the next dead end. Therapists call it co-dependence.
These friends have a way of locking on; I feel guilty walking away from someone in such serious need, and am afraid that if I do, something even more horrible is going to happen to them. Of course we don’t want that on our conscience. Once in, it feels like I can never break free.
A few years ago, I was helping someone I loved with all my heart. I wanted the best for this person, the absolute best. She was offered several options and didn’t know which to choose. I was in a quandary as to what to advise. My friend Michelle took me aside and in her gentle, loving way she said, “You know each of us is on our own, unique journey. Your loved one has her own journey whether you are there or not; whether she chooses one option or another. Her path is her own.” I eased off. I opened the situation in my heart to the universe. I stood back and watched as my loved one went on her journey. I would always be there, cheering her on, but the journey, from that time forward was hers.
This wasn’t to say we shouldn’t encourage our friends to take the most optimal option. It’s that intimate dance between them and the Beloved, which shapes their journeys. For every decision we (or they) make or don’t, there is a reaction moving us toward or away from options and consequences. At the same time new options and consequences continue to emerge. We can step into the flow and allow ourselves to be drawn along or fight against it. It’s completely our choice every moment of every day.
I’ve learned that what seems the “best” course of action to me is just one of many “best” options. Letting go of what I thought would be “best” for my friends and their loved ones immediately lightened my load and relieved stress. I leave what’s “best” between them and the Beloved.
On stepping away: Cutting the cord feels harsh and cold. There is a palpable emptiness that all the drama once filled. It’s disquieting at first. And then there’s the guilt. I discovered most of the time, my friends found ways of coping on their own. A few times my stepping away was actually just what they needed for them to make substantive change on their own. Other times, they found someone else (often better suited) to take my place. This is not to say that the worst won’t happen—but what ever choices others make are theirs to make, not yours or mine.
These days, I stand firm in protecting my peace. I sincerely offer my prayers, I listen, but I don’t engage. I offer general resources, and allow my friends to follow through if they choose to. I leave the choices and effort to them. I have learned to trust in the Beloved, (most of the time) and in the natural flow of life, even if it’s hard, disappointing or painful, sometimes.
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