Everybody needs best friends to help them navigate through this mad adventure we call life. A best friend who knows your personal struggles, greatest joys, best ideas, and your deepest fears – that is one of the most amazing things life has to offer. I would say that best friends are the biggest influence in your life because essentially they are your elected family. Your mom, your dad, your siblings, were all given to you; your friends are chosen. When opening up your heart to your best friends, you are giving them the power and ability to cause you extreme hurt but trusting them not to. And if you are like me, your best friend is like your other half, you share everything with her, and she knows more about you than you know about yourself – you’d trust her with your life. Though in my case, I probably shouldn’t have.
The years leading up to my moving in with my best friend, let’s call her Alice – were a very rough time in her life. Her older sister had left for college leaving her alone to navigate through her parent’s nasty divorce. I knew she was struggling with a severe eating disorder and had been self-harming for some time when I discovered hidden cuts and scars up and down her wrists. Yet she was my best friend and despite the instability in her life, I wanted her and I to have a fresh start experiencing college somewhere besides our small town. But it seemed almost as soon as we unpacked our boxes something in her changed. We always had enjoyed going out and hitting the bottle pretty hard, maybe smoking a joint or popping some pills, but her mindset soon shifted and she had become an unpredictable, angry drunk. Any time alcohol was involved she ended up running off alone only to be found crying in our bathroom or passed out in her car out in the cherry orchards. I was extremely worried because though I had seen her struggle at times with bouts of slight depression, I had never seen these extreme mood swings to where she couldn’t even begin to face the issues she was having.
Fast forward a few weeks, I came back one night to our dorm after a study break at Starbucks. I found Alice mumbling and stuttering to herself as she sat on her bed completely incoherent. Majorly confused, I heard her phone continuously ringing and I picked it up when I saw that it was her mom. In a panic her mom told me to call 9-1-1 and get her to the hospital because apparently she had swallowed a whole bottle of her prescription drugs and washed it down with a bottle of wine. After spending the whole night with her in the ER, watching her vomit up a black-tar-looking substance, I had a conversation with her explaining how worried we all were and she decided she wasn’t going to drink anymore. It wasn’t worth the pain she was putting herself through, the risks she was taking, and the strain it was having on her relationships including her drunkenly cheating on her boyfriend. I’m not so sure I believed her and thought she should get help but she was able to convince the doctors and her parents it was an accident and she refused to get any treatment – she still didn’t think she had a problem.
I thought maybe she had gone through enough of an eye opening experience that she would start to make better choices when it came to her mental and emotional health. But it wasn’t very long after that I was chasing a very drunk Alice through a very large frat party where she was trying to leave with three very sketchy men that were trying to get her to take some acid or something. I was pleading with her to come back to the dorm with me terrified that something bad was going to happen to us, but she wasn’t having it. She yelled at me, something I couldn’t quite understand, but to the affect of “fuck you!” before walking off towards the alley with the guys who were very clearly looking to take advantage of her drunkenness. Though she had made me angry, I wasn’t going to leave her alone but I lost her in the crowd and when I called her cell, I repeatedly got her voicemail. After looking for her for what seemed to be forever, I hustled back to our dorm to see if she had gone home. To my surprise, she had. But I still wish she hadn’t, because the next five minutes changed our ten-year friendship and our lives forever.
As I walked in the door and saw her, I let out a sigh as I looked at her tear-streaked face honestly expecting some sort of apology but boy, I was in for a surprise. I sat, completely stunned as she began to scream at the top of her lungs, “Fuck you! I fucking hate you! You ruin everything for me and you are so fucking pathetic you fat bitch! I never wanted to be your friend and I still don’t! You are such a loser you fatass!” As she was saying all these horrible things to me I remembered all the times I had stood by her side, and I understood how badly she felt about herself but I also realized that all these years I had allowed her to convince me these things she was saying about me were true. And as I stared at her blankly not knowing what to make of this, she continued to scream over and over again, “Fuck you bitch, I fucking hate you!” At which point I finally screamed “Shut the fuck up!” and sent her into a rage. She picked up our four-foot circular floor fan and charged at me exclaiming she was going to kill me. She swung it a couple times before I knocked her to the ground trying to wrestle it away from her. As we were on the ground she proceeded to pull my hair, scratch and punch me repeatedly, yanking me down by my clothes every time I tried to leave. Eventually I was able to break free, grab my keys and run from the room.
As I made it into the dorm common room I ran into the security guard who noticed my bleeding face, neck and torn clothes. She told me my only option to get her out of my room was to have her arrested, so I slept in my car that night. The next morning I headed back to the room and discovered she had ruined all of my brand new bedding and pillows by drenching them with red wine, and had also smashed my iPod and stereo and left the broken pieces on my bed as a blatant “fuck you.” As I sat and replayed the whole thing in my head, it clicked – I didn’t ever want to have people in my life that talked to or about me the way she had (not to mention the physical violence that left me with emotional scars that took a long time to heal). I thought she had been my best friend, but what our relationship really was, was a horrible cycle of mutual self-loathing, bad decisions, drug abuse, and negativity. Our friendship taught me so much about what to expect from people I want in my life and about the way I want to treat myself.
A few days later, Alice seemed to force out a half-assed apology, but the damage had been done. We both knew there was no going back and she soon moved out. It still hurts my heart to this day to think about the pain that friendship and whole experience caused me. But I also learned that everybody is fighting their own demons and you do need people to stand by you. I was completely willing to stay by her side and be the friend she needed. What I truly think she needed though, was to be a friend to herself. To treat herself with love and compassion. Yes, it is extremely important to stand by your friends no matter what, but there is also a line to be drawn. You have to learn when to walk away or distance yourself from friendships that are not positive and fulfilling especially when another person is hell-bent on taking you down with them. For years, I let her down talk me, make me feel like I was a loser and it killed my self-esteem. Looking back, there was a time to let the friendship end and it was years before we moved in together. Looking forward, I am thankful for that experience so I could learn to truly appreciate my real friends, and also I learned to believe my mom when she told me “when someone shows you who they are, believe them.”