Friendship As We Age

As we grow older, many aspects of our lives change. We start to dress a little different, sleep patterns vary, and joints to start to make weird noises. One thing that I recently realized that also changes, is the types of friends you have compared to your age. Of course, certain friends, you have no matter what stage of life you’re in. But, if you really sit back and think about it, you can see a trail of friends that you only associated with, because of your phase in life at that time.

Your first friends are just about having someone to play with that you don’t hate. Pre-school kids aren’t very picky and decently tolerant. Sassy’s “best friend” changes daily, based on mood. Her friends are probably based on who follows her orders with the most enthusiasm and skill. I only have a couple of people I have remained friends with after this stage. We just don’t have standards as toddlers. Otherwise, I would have never hung out with the weird kid that glued a crayon inside his mouth. Yes, that really happened in my kindergarten class.

In middle school, your friends like the same people you do, are involved in the same activities, share the same classes. Your mortal enemy is anyone that has a crush on the same person as you. You can’t drive, still have to ask permission, and cooties are just now becoming a thing of the past. Middle school is where you start figuring out what it really means to be and have a friend.

As a teenager, you want your friends to be as excited to get out and see the world as you are. You want friends that are always wanting to go out and do something, meet new people, have an adventure. You also look for friends with similar curfews as you. Friends as a teenager are all about whoever you can have the most fun with, and not much else. It is highly unlikely you will remain friends with the guy who bought everyone beer, or the girl that lets you use her fake I.D., but you never know.

Once you enter your early twenties, it’s time to find your bar friends. You want the friends that you can go out and have a great time with. The friends that are “fun” drunk. Life, at this point, is all about being legal to drink and going to all of the places that involves. It’s also important to have at least one friend that is the nurturer. The one that takes of all the drunks and treats your hangover. This may be your most valuable friend at this stage in life. In my group of friends, I was the hangover fairy. I would leave bottled water, crackers, and B12 for everyone. This is also where you befriend some of your most questionable acquaintances like…

  • The guy who let random people tattoo him.
  • The girl who cried. EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
  • The guy that only spoke in Greek when he drinks.
  • The guy that thought it was funny to pop out his fake teeth when you weren’t looking.
  • The guy that made a party trick out of his scrotum.

Your mid to late twenties, you start looking for friends that want to “go out” a similar amount to you. The new has worn off of being legal and getting older and  having a full-time job doesn’t mix as well with hangover as it used to. This stage is do or die for several friendships that survived the bar phase. Some friendships were born simply out of love for the same tequila, take that away and there’s not much else to talk about. This is the time you also start learning excuses as to why you can’t go out, that doesn’t involve the truth. The true excuse is being too comfortable to change out of your pajamas at 8 pm. Plus it’s not the day I wash my hair, rain check?

Sometime between our barfly days and our “somewhat” mature responsible adult days, something happens. We start to figure out who we really are. What we like as individuals, not as someone trying to fit in a group. You start to care less about fitting in, and more about loving yourself. That is the moment where lifelong friendships transform into being solid as a rock, and the convenient ones flicker out.

In your 30’s, and a parent, you want other parent friends. Parents have less than no time to go out. I’m canceling plans I haven’t even made yet, because I already know I’m going to be too tired. This is also the time in life when you’re starting to understand that there is a sudden realization of aging in your 30’s. All of these weird things like joint pain, fatigue, and adult responsibility. If anyone can honestly tell me they can still go out and drink all night like they did in their 20’s, they are either a dirty liar or Keith Richards. My friends now, are the people who I can have a fun dinner with, or enjoy hanging out at their house, because I don’t want to deal with the general public. I want tired, yet fun and entertaining friends now.

I’m not sure what sort of friends I’ll be looking for in my late 30’s or beyond, but I’m pretty certain the last level of friendship will be the best. What do I think the last level is? Matching old lady track suits and fanny-packs, and it’s going to be fantastic.

So My Best Friend is an Addict…

My best friend is a drug addict.

Addiction has left no one untouched by it. You either deal with it personally or know someone who is. The most common and easiest thing to do is criticize or ignore the problem. It has such a stigma around it and causes so much damage, people give up on addicts almost easily. Between that and the ease of acquirement, it’s no wonder addiction is so prevalent.

TL and I have been best friends since the first day of kindergarten, we are now in our thirties. Most of my memories of growing up involve him. We lost two of our friends in our twenties and it hit him hard. He had a back injury from work, and the pain pills helped with more than one kind of pain.

I knew something was wrong when he stopped talking to me, he actually started avoiding me. He knew I would be able to tell there was a problem, and he wasn’t ready to accept that. The addiction grew, and so did his feelings of worthlessness. A downward spiral was soon to follow with arrests, broken relationships, and a lot of pain. Rehab was tried and failed more than once.

A lot of his friends walked away. Most of the ones that stayed, needed to go, they were part of the problem. I refused to give up on my best friend. I had invested twenty-five years of friendship in him, and I wasn’t going down without a fight. I called or texted him everyday knowing I wouldn’t get a response. Once you get your butt chewed out by me once, you really don’t want it to happen again, so he avoided me.

I knew where he lived.

It wasn’t about driving him crazy, and giving him grief for having a problem, it was about making sure he knew that I was still here. I was going to be here for him, waiting impatiently for when he was ready to talk, whether he liked it or not.

He went to another rehab, lied to me about making it through the program (he was asked to leave), and was still using even though he was able to convince me otherwise for a few weeks. I don’t take the lies personally. That’s what addicts do. It was never about making him feel bad for anything that happened, it was always about making sure he knew he was valued, loved, and accepted. He thought enough horrible things about himself, he didn’t need me lecturing him, he needed hope.

It didn’t work.

A few months later, he was arrested and sentenced to almost a year in jail.

I was actually happy.

I didn’t have to worry about where he was, or getting that phone call that no one wants at 2 am because the police found a body. I knew he was safe. I knew he needed this to show him the consequences of his actions.

He was involved in a rehabilitation program while he was detained. I wrote him once a week, reminding him that he still had people who cared about him, no matter how much I wanted to slap him. When he was released, I could finally see that little glimmer back in his eyes. He found hope, and self belief.

He’s the best he’s been in a long time, he’s working, staying out of trouble, and working on himself. I’m so proud of all of the hard work he’s accomplished, and he continues to make progress. This isn’t the end of his story, he may back slide, he may not. I hope one day he is able to mentor other people struggling with addiction and show them that it’s only one part of their story, not their defining moment.

My best friend will always be an addict, and he will always be stuck with me cheering him on from the sidelines.

Addictions are ugly, destructive, chaotic. Wouldn’t you want someone standing by you with a rope if you fell down into that well of despair?

Just give it a thought the next time you think about giving up on someone with an addiction. Maybe you are that one thing they need to bring them back.