Not sure exactly where to start this story. The truth is, as is the case with many addictions, my best friend’s addiction has been going on for a long time. Perhaps I’ll start at the present and work my way back…
I recently visited my home city, Melbourne, and ironically, my best friend had just come out of a private psychiatric hospital the day I landed. I knew she was in hospital, or at least that she had been back on drugs (which in her case almost always results in hospital), not because swhhe’d told me, but because she’d stopped communicating with me. She’d gone “underground.” This time she’d been in hospital for a whole month to get off what we call in Australia “ice” but what is technically termed methamphetamine. She’d also been smoking copious amounts of weed which had become routine enough to be considered an addiction as well. My friend later explained to me that it was the weed that had helped her maintain the appearance of a normal life for many months; at night she would smoke huge amounts of it which would in turn help her get at least 4 hours of sleep. If it weren’t for the weed, due to the ice, she just wouldn’t have slept, and her mom would have cottoned on a lot sooner.
One night while hanging out in our PJs, drinking cups of tea, and watching TED Talks on my laptop on her bed (my best friend is alarmingly wholesome when she’s clean!), I asked her if she’d be OK with me writing an article about her addiction. It was my bestie’s suggestion that for the purpose of the article she be called “Jessa” since that’s her favorite character on Girls. So Jessa it is.
My friends and I were all wild youngins. When I say wild, I don’t just mean getting wasted on booze and maybe smoking a bit of pot on the weekends. I mean WILD. I mean 2-3 day drug benders (ecstasy, cocaine, MDMA, speed) at least once a week. I’m still not sure how we were able to afford such extravagant indulgences, since we were all students at the time, and, due to our sheer distance from the rest of the world, 1 gram of cocaine alone would cost between $300-$350 in Australia.
Jessa was never a “social” person. She was always a little shy and preferred the company of just her two or three closest friends, including her live-in boyfriend at the time. Residing with her mom, instead of heading out to all the parties, Jessa preferred to get up to the same kind of juvenile mischief in the comfort of her home.
It was when we were both about 24 and I was living in Sydney having recently finished studying, that I noticed something was askew. I was back in Melbourne for few weeks and rocked up on her doorstep with a bottle of red wine and a packet of ciggies. Jessa was still with the same boyfriend, and while their relationship was evidently co-dependant (bordering on dysfunctional) they were both a hoot and howl to get silly with. But progressively, when we’d have these “red wine nights”, things started to turn not so fun anymore. Jessa would become drunk. Really drunk. And our once innocent revelling turned dark. For instance, one night, my boyfriend at the time was also in town with me and we were all out at a bar. Another “red wine night”. Jessa’s boyfriend was ready to leave, but Jessa, never ready to call it a night, insisted on staying. It turned into a public blowup whereby Jessa, who, as we would say in Oz, was “pissed off her tits”, began ridiculing him so as to shoo him away. Her boyfriend was no back number and grabbed the closest pint of beer he could find, splashing the entire contents over her face. Suffice to say, Jessa still didn’t leave the bar with him.
But these kinds of public antics were mild compared to the emotional episodes that began occurring. We’d all be running an innocent muck when Jessa would at some point have cornered one of us, usually my boyfriend or brother or some nurturing male figure in the group, and begin pouring out her troubled heart. Like a flooding sewerage dispenser, it was as if once she’d removed the valve, her grief was never ending. These episodes would inevitably result in her boyfriend and then her mom obsessively calling her phone and then my phone to find her. This “running away” thing was becoming a pattern.
Then, Jessa disappeared on me.
And what I wasn’t aware of at the time was that Jessa, my best friend in the entire world, would continue to disappear on me for the entire remainder of our 20s.
She had finally been diagnosed an alcoholic with severe depression and was admitted to a private medical clinic for psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation.
It’s been about 7 years since then. I’ve lost count of the amount of times she’s disappeared, every time swallowed up by her addiction. Sometimes many months have gone by, entire visits home to Melbourne, and I wont have heard a word. I would call and call tirelessly, painfully, leaving messages begging her to answer the phone or call me back and to remember that “it’s me! I’m not gonna judge you. I love you!!” And every time it would result in a phone call from her mom or a text message from her finally telling me that she’d gone back into hospital.
Sadly, once Jessa had conquered alcoholism—she was dry for nearly 2 years—the seduction of meth encroached on her, and for the last 3 or 4 years, she has been battling it out with the devil.
It’s really hard loving an addict. They continue to let you down in ways you would never have imagined. The lying, the cheating, the hiding. But for me, the worst part is the absence. There’s a reason I call Jessa my best friend. It’s because she is truly the most beautiful, loving human being to have ever graced my life. She’s one of those people who’s blessed with a gift at communicating with children and animals. Her heart literally ribbons across the globe to wherever I am in the world, sending me her support, love, non-judgement, and always always always, selflessly rooting for me.
So when I’m confronted by Jessa’s cruel absence, when she’s trailing the sewers and sleeping with drug dealers, I feel I have lost a limb. Too many years I have mourned for my best friend.
Thankfully, Jessa is in a better place now than she has been for a very long time. And we spent much of my recent visit back home laughing about the various characters in her addiction support group and playfully scrolling through a drug addicts forum that she engages with from time to time.
For someone who has walked through the muddiest of waters, she sure does possess an abundance of light.