My Best Friend’s Relapse
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My Best Friend’s Relapse


best friend's relapseI met Bob (not his real name) at an AA meeting on the East Side of LA. I had quit Adderall, a drug I’d been using since the age of eight, two months earlier. I don’t remember what I shared in that meeting but if you ask Bob, it was completely crazy. I’m sure he is right.

Bob is a half Native American, half German alcoholic who was adopted into a stereotypically neurotic Jewish family. He’s been to two rehabs, multiple sober livings and is one of the most sensitive and beautifully kind-hearted souls I’ve ever encountered. He’s also helped me move out of a psycho roommate’s house, stood by me when I confronted my abusive ex-boyfriend and stayed with me all night while I cried about what addicts cry about. In many regards, Bob is my soul mate. I always joke that if we were an 80’s movie, I’d take a knife, cut both our arms and mix our blood so we’d always be a part of each other. When we met, Bob had about a year-and-a-half sober. He lived, breathed and talked the program. He quoted the Big Book like a preacher quoting the Bible, went to meetings five days a week, held commitments, fellowshipped and took 5:00 am phone calls from newcomers.

The summer before Bob left for grad school, though, he was really nervous about the move from LA to the East Coast. Isolating is a symptom of alcoholism, and that’s exactly what he did when he started school. Bob rarely went to meetings and when he did, he told me he didn’t like the people there; I think he went to five meetings during his entire semester on the East Coast.

I later found out that Bob’s relapse started that semester with Robitussin cough syrup. He’d asked me at the time if I thought it was okay if he took it and, not knowing any better, I told him it sounded fine. While Bob chose to take the drug, I should never have made that recommendation. Still I only said what I did because Bob had told me that he felt it was okay to use cough syrup since it wasn’t alcohol—his true drug of choice.

Bob ended up failing out of several classes and was forced to take a semester off of school. He came back to LA and split his time between my place in Los Angeles and his parents’ house an hour away. I had a job with crazy hours so he took my dog Lulu hiking every day, ran errands for me and cleaned my apartment. He went to meetings and spent time with his sober friends. Yet there was still something unusual about his behavior and he really wasn’t acting like himself. He told me that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go back to school or get a job. He seemed directionless, unmotivated and depressed. Because he was staying with me and going back to his old meetings in LA, it didn’t occur to me that he was using.

I later found out that during this period, Bob had begun secretly using edible marijuana. One night, I found a chocolate bar wrapper on the floor of my bedroom and realized that he must have left it in his bag and Lulu must have found it. There were three very strange things about this situation—one, Bob knows Lulu will eat anything left out within her reach. But secondly, Bob always finishes his food. The likelihood of him leaving over part of a chocolate bar was nearly impossible to fathom. The third and really obvious giveaway I missed—or rather failed to acknowledge—was that there wasn’t a Hershey’s brand wrapper on the label sleeve. It was green foil. I don’t use medical marijuana, but I’d seen edibles like chocolate marijuana bars, which are legally sold at dispensaries all over Los Angeles. I confronted Bob and asked him why he didn’t just put his chocolate away in the pantry or fridge. He said he didn’t know and then, several months later, confessed his relapse to me. I don’t know how I didn’t see it. Perhaps I was too self-centered. Maybe I was too afraid to believe it. I just know that I was happy Lulu was alive.

After his semester off, Bob was able to get back into school. But shortly after returning to the East Coast, he slowly stopped returning my calls and texts until he just cut me off completely. Unbeknownst to me, he was binge drinking for weeks at a time.

Considering we normally talked on the phone at least once a day, I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t communicate with me. After a week, I sent him the following email:

I know something is up. I love you. It’s okay. Please let me know what is going on.

No response.

A few days later, I sent him another message:

I don’t know what to say except for the fact that you cutting me off is really hurting me. I know you aren’t normally like this, so you must be in a lot of pain. I’ll leave you alone until you are ready to speak to me. I hope you feel better. I am in a lot of pain, too.

At least he wasn’t dead. I knew this because I continued to receive the mass spiritually themed text messages that he continued to send out to most of his friends every day without a hint of irony. In hindsight, his relapse was so obvious, it couldn’t have been clearer if he’d taken out an ad on a Hollywood Boulevard billboard. But I didn’t want to believe he’d relapse so I told myself that for reasons unbeknownst to me, he was angry and didn’t want to speak to me.

After two weeks of dead silence, save for the mixed signal mass spiritual text message, my sadness evolved into anger. Ultimately, I made the decision to just pretend he was dead. I knew he was alive but I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I should have gone to Al-Anon but it was easier to act like his relapse wasn’t happening, like a child closing her eyes and covering her ears to avoid something unpleasant. In all honesty, Bob wasn’t the only problem I had at that moment. I was having a very difficult time at work and I wasn’t able to emotionally handle both that and him. Deciding not to think about him or acknowledge what was obviously going on seemed easier at the time than dealing with it.

Six weeks later, Bob called me. I didn’t know how to react. It was like having a conversation with Bob’s voice. It was as if a demon possessed his spirit and made him angry, immature and selfish. He told me he relapsed and apologized for his actions. He had one day sober. I was in shock but relieved he was okay. Bob explained that he cut me off because he was afraid I would be angry with him for drinking and using. He said my emails made him feel bad because I was suffering, but he was too deep in his web of lies to respond. I explained that I wasn’t angry with him for drinking and using but for cutting me off, trying not to be too emotional.

After taking a day to digest everything, I called Bob and firmly but lovingly shared how his relapse affected me. I needed to express my feelings to him and take care of myself, but being angry and scolding him wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Still, I wasn’t going to let what he did slide. I told him that if he relapsed again, I wouldn’t be angry with him but if he cut me off again, I wanted nothing to do with him.

After five months of sobriety, Bob is Bob again. He goes to meetings almost every day and is highly involved with his sponsor. He isn’t failing out of grad school. He also now has a better awareness about and willingness to do what it takes to manage his addiction. He likens his relapse to a diabetic who stops taking their insulin.

Still, his relapse wasn’t only educational for him but also for me: it gave me a better understanding of the disease of alcoholism. I always worry he is going to relapse again but if he does, I can’t fight it. I just need to let go and acknowledge my own powerlessness.

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About Author

Amanda Lauren is an actress, writer and troublemaker. She lives Los Angeles with Lulu, her very tolerant dog. She’s written for a number of outlets, including xoJane. Please follow Amanda on Twitter on @amandalauren.