a friendship on its last legs?

Postby calvinTO » Sun Nov 05, 2017 5:58 am

I've known "Mike" for over 25 years. We met in a 12 step program and connected as friends. He has a partner of over 30 years. He knows pretty much everything about me, and has been mostly supportive, and vice-versa. We've had some ups and downs but have worked through them.

In the first years of our friendship we used to see each other fairly often (because of 12 step meetings), though we never hung out much. We used to talk a lot on the phone. Today, we communicate mostly by email, even though we work no more than 1/2 kilometre from each other. We rarely meet for lunch.

Within the past 10 years I finally achieved some solid sobriety and he did as well -- or so I thought he did. He has struggles and I don't judge him on those. However, he has other issues (depression, diabetes) that affect his well-being. And, like any addict who struggles, he can be very secretive.

Whenever he gets into crisis mode -- ie, his issues get out of control and he acts out, gets more depressed, overspends -- he often returns to meetings, until the crisis passes. This happened again recently, only it was more pronounced. He changed therapists a few times, stopped going to meetings, broke some serious bottom lines, and so on. He made murmurings about suicide, and so I decided to speak to his partner (whom I get along with).

As it turns out, his partner knows relatively little. And I mean little beyond the 12 step program and the shrinks and the medications Mike is on. (They have an open relationship of the don't-ask-don't-tell sort, and it works for them.) He's supportive of Mike, but I was somewhat flabbergasted. This guy is supposed to be his best freind etc etc.

This made me take some stock. I feel like I have often been put in a position of Mr Supportive, verging on the therapeutic. To be fair, I've spilled a fair amount of heavy stuff to Mike as well; but I'm largely stable. Mike is always varying degrees of messy-ness.

Just last week, in an email exchange, he got on one of his hobby horses, which I'm usually careful about. I made a reply that included some personal issues; and he more or less attacked my character, which was a first. I had had it. I wrote back and said How dare you, you of all people, and I'm not going to take your abuse. He wrote back but I didn't bother reading it. I know him well enough to know he's not backing down soon.

And that's fine. I'm finding it quite nice to be living my life without his theatrics. And now I'm wondering if this friendship was maybe on its last legs anyway. We have turned into little more than a mutual support group (via email), and I'm tired of his psychological surprises and filling in for doing the kind of emotional work his partner should be doing. Am I interested in doing the hard work of salvaging something from all this, getting emotionally open and honest etc? Nope.

Thoughts?
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#1

Postby gaestraidr » Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:28 am

This more like the other party consent on you as dependable person, for a best friend it is good to open up to each other about their own problem.

And I assume it began to taking a tole on you, for every solution you taught him, whether draining your mental or physical state, then mostly the right choice is to let him find another person for his reliance.

Just to remind you, time had the power to change anything, more precisely making things adapt to surrounding.

If you're content with the choice you made , why question it? Unless, you still hesitate to cut contact with your long best friend, even a little bit.

Well thats what my thought about it.
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#2

Postby Livetowin » Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:43 pm

I don't think you need to the throw the baby out with the bathwater here. I believe you just need to readjust how you manage your relationship with him. You have to remember that your bonds really came about because of shared deficits in life. By your view, you may have fewer now than he, but that doesn't change the original reason why the two of you bonded.

Clearly if a person has discipline issues and is compulsive then you already understand through your own assessments, these are not overcome by sheer will power. It's a process that takes time. His challenges in life may be self-induced or they might have other components that you're not aware of. What he chooses to share with others is really his business and I wouldn't get to heavy-handed on judging him there.

People that you label "friend" come in a variety of facets. Depending on how you connect and how well the two of you understand each other weighs heavily on what you talk about and don't talk about. This is not your Priest. This is a person outside your own life. They have their own value systems, principles, and notions of right and wrong. You might be friends that connect on many of those areas but perhaps lesser so in others. So this idea that a friend becomes nothing but an open book to another is a bit naive and unwise.

There are some you hold closer than others depending on well they manage their own life and can operate securely in yours. The situation you're in sounds like a person you need to certainly keep as a friend, but manage more at arms length. You understand he still wrestles with a number of issues that unfortunately puts him through deep bouts of insecurity. Instead of rejecting him by saying, " I'm better now so I don't need you anymore," I would continue to be supportive but use your personal growth as a tool to understand when to take his comments at face value and when to recognize the depression and insecurity are talking.

You have to be able to step outside of your circumstances and understand people beyond their emotional moments. If you understand his intentions are universally well meaning but he's still struggling with his own demons that essentially united the two of you, then you need to give him that space (and consideration) to find his own path to healing. Maybe he gets there as you feel you have. Maybe he never does. But remember why the two of you bonded to begin with and maintain him in your life but from a healthy space.

This means when he's getting upset, give him space. If you see him making mistakes, but you feel you can not offer support to assist him then step back and let him learn for himself. Everyone has a path to walk. We only control ourselves and who comes in and out of our lives. Manage how he comes into yours. But I would keep your position supportive and less judgmental. People struggling with these issues are not capable of stepping outside themselves to see the bigger picture if you don't come at them with consideration for what they are feeling. If they could, they would not need an outside opinion.

Remember too when they act out sometimes that is done with a perspective that you know them better and can see the internal mechanism operating this behavior. In turn this means you will be more understanding when they are coming across in a raw expression that someone who doesn't know them might not fully decipher.
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#3

Postby TheCloud » Wed Nov 08, 2017 4:06 am

If you're feeling insulted, then I suggest you talk yourself down before jumping off this bridge. Running away from hurt feelings leads to neither growth nor solutions. We'd all prefer to have somebody caring and gentle to prod our sensitive areas and show us where we need to grow, but usually it's a much cruder process where someone carelessly steps on your panic button. That doesn't mean it's time to burn everything down.

On the contrary, this is the time to grow as a person, to take that panic button and transform it into something else. Which means letting people in, even rude crude uncultured oafs, not shutting them out. The more you cultivate your weaknesses, the more you have to be afraid of. The more you face your weaknesses, transforming them into strengths, the more choices you have and the more your life opens up.
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#4

Postby calvinTO » Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:04 am

Livetowin wrote:You have to remember that your bonds really came about because of shared deficits in life. By your view, you may have fewer now than he, but that doesn't change the original reason why the two of you bonded.

[...]

So this idea that a friend becomes nothing but an open book to another is a bit naive and unwise.

[...]

This means when he's getting upset, give him space. If you see him making mistakes, but you feel you can not offer support to assist him then step back and let him learn for himself.


Thanks. I've isolated three important parts of your response.

I really like the idea of thinking of this friendship as formed from "shared deficits." And now it occurs to me that we've never really grown past that. We have a lot in common (outside 12 step), such as a love of literature. But much of our issues concern the 12 step stuff, and much of our communication feels like a rehearsal of that. Which brings me to the second point....

We are open books to one another. I find it a relief that someone knows the "deep dark me" and doesn't judge me on it. The reverse is true. But then, the third point....

He makes mistakes. So do I. But whereas I feel I've largely learned from mine he's caught in a cycle, still, despite his knowledge of what is wrong. What bothers me is that we're both getting old and that I've cleared some space for the rest of my life and he has not. I fear that he'll be going into his retirement years still facing these issues because he refuses to give up the addict. This reminds me of the saying "If not now, when?" Well, for me, "when" happened. I got it, by and large. Not perfect, but I've opened up space in my life. I fear that "when" will never happen for him. And so I don't want to be his sounding board as we drift into our more senior years, and all he'll be doing is reminding me of a place where I was and don't want to be, and he'll be there still, treading water.

So, yes, maybe I'm projecting certain fears on to him. And I fear, too, that he'll "never learn." I just don't feel I can be there for him when the devastating sadness of that hits him, in his final years. Or maybe it never will, maybe he'll always be in denial. But I can't live in that denial with him. Yes, I can be supportive, but I need to move on from that "shared deficit" we began with. It's like a broken record. Yet sometimes I feel ashamed that I might abandon him so easily.... sigh.
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#5

Postby calvinTO » Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:07 am

TheCloud wrote: The more you cultivate your weaknesses, the more you have to be afraid of. The more you face your weaknesses, transforming them into strengths, the more choices you have and the more your life opens up.


And that's it, isn't it? The friendship is largely built on "cultivated weaknesses," sort of like what Liveintown refers to as "shared deficits." I've tried to be supportive simply by listening and setting an example, but there's a limit. He's not going to change, ever. And I don't know that I can be there while he dwells in the land of No Change.
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#6

Postby TheCloud » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:34 am

calvinTO wrote:And that's it, isn't it? The friendship is largely built on "cultivated weaknesses," sort of like what Liveintown refers to as "shared deficits." I've tried to be supportive simply by listening and setting an example, but there's a limit. He's not going to change, ever. And I don't know that I can be there while he dwells in the land of No Change.


It's not always the right choice to drop challenging relationships, and as a habit it is a poor one. Challenges foster strength. If you have no affection for this man, then you are not required to associate with him. However, his challenging nature is not reason to ignore what affection you might feel after 25 years.

What bothers me the most is the outrage you displayed in your last interaction with him. Outrage is absolutely not the state of mind to be making this decision in. It clouds both your judgement and your emotions. A choice made in outrage will lead you toward either weakness or destruction, without fail.

I have no actual advice on which choice you ought to make. But there are choices well made, and choices poorly made. Whether you want to keep a friend, or lose one, choose well.
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