Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
My friend developed a serious a drug problem after college. We all knew that something very bad happened in her life, but none of us really understands what it was because she withdrew after the crisis. Still, for years, everyone who knew her struggled to help keep her on the path to recovery. She had relapses, let people down and lost jobs. Finally, after she was nearly killed driving her car into a telephone pole, she was given a choice and chose rehab over jail time. Since she’s been out, she really does seem like a changed person. She went through a lot of therapy and dealt with many personal issues which I’m sure were part of her addiction cycle.
The problem? I, along with her other friends, are reluctant to trust her again. She lied to us, stood us up over and over, and was secretive and callous. Now that she is acting like a caring human being again, we are all afraid that the moment we let our guard down and trust her, she’ll relapse and start the whole downward spiral again. We’ve all given her so many chances, and been let down so many times. None of us can forget that when we trusted her, she used and manipulated us.
I’ve known her since I was in college, so I want to believe she turned her life around. But I’m always on edge and it’s no fun to be around her because of it.
How do I stop anticipating the worst? Or should I?
Your friend is not who she “used to be;” no one is. We are all who we are now. Your friend has been through a lot and hopefully has grown. Get to know her again, without any expectations. She will never again be the girl you went to school with, and any pressure in that direction is a major source of relapse as it is impossible.
Given that, I believe it’s best to forgive but not to forget. You need to forgive her and she needs to forgive herself; but neither of you should forget. Past behavior predicts future behavior so your wariness is understandable.
If you think you might want her back in your life, it is smart to take it slow. Let her know that you loved her once, but you need to see how her recovery plays out. Respect has to be earned and only love that stems from mutual respect is real.
Remember- trying to recreate the past is a violation of respect. I hear a little of that going on now with both of you.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: people are a bit like Pavlov’s dog- they are easily trained to expect repeated patterns. Your friend has trained you to be distrustful and disappointed in her. It is up to her to train a new set of responses by presenting a new set of patterns. Hopefully, these patterns will consist of positive experiences and behaviors.
I’d be careful though. Granny has lived a long time and she has yet to see anyone change their basic nature. Energy cannot be created or destroyed- and it can only be re-channeled through effort and constant attention. Your friend will probably always have a tendency to want to cover up her problems rather than sharing them, and this is at the root of many addictions. If she is realistic about her recovery, you ought to be able to talk to her about your feelings. If you can’t, that tells you something right there.
I advise you to keep your guard up. You’ve already been shot down a few times. Only a fool would go back in without a bullet-proof vest.