**To respect my friend’s privacy, I will be using “Jane” as a fake name**
At 17 years old, I confronted the force of drug addiction, but it wasn't mine—it was Jane’s, my best friend. We had hung out with the same people since 7th grade but how we spent our free time started to change around sophomore year. I started taking soccer more seriously and she started hanging out with new people. I never really thought much of it though, I mean everyone finds new friends in high school, it's a part of growing up.
Besides the fact, all of my sophomore year was great, we were close and were still hanging out. However, that summer before our junior year is when things really started to change. My summer was jam-packed with soccer so I had to focus on training. Even so, I’d reach out often but Jane always had something come up. But as soon as my texts started being left on read and my calls weren’t getting returned, I knew something was up. I would call time after time until she would pick up. To which Jane would tell me she’s fine and misses me, but is just really busy. I always wondered what she was busy with but overlooked it because I was busy too.
So I kept believing the short affirming answers until junior year rolled around. Assuming since we were back in school, we’d be back to normal, but we weren't. I hadn't seen her in a while and noticed a big weight loss. When I asked about her summer or how she was doing, Jane was only concerned with telling me about her new boyfriend. Something felt off.
Soon after, I noticed her skipping class regularly. When I saw her at school next, I asked where she had been. Jane admitted her boyfriend was trying to get sober off drugs and that he needed help during the day. Right away, I said it wasn't fair to her and I thought the relationship should end, to which she agreed. But skipping class continued.
It takes a lot to truly let go of someone, so I respected that Jane would need some time to end things. Countless times, we would sit in the bathroom during 3rd period as she cried and had anxiety about being away from him. After a couple of months, her demeanor changed completely. When I went to comfort Jane, she’d push me away and defend him. I wholeheartedly believed my best friend was brainwashed. It hurt me to see her like this. I was so confused as to why their relationship was still intact until one of our friends told me the truth.
It wasn't just the boyfriend who was addicted and using drugs, it was my best friend too. I blamed myself for not recognizing the signs earlier, for not realizing that my closest friend was battling addiction. Once I understood the gravity of the situation, I supported and implored her to seek help. I spent months trying to separate them and encouraged her to tell her family about the drug usage. There was no expectation to quit right away, I recognized it's a long process. But still, if Jane wasn't going to show effort, my next step would be to tell them myself.
Jane would lie and tell me it was over but then other people would tell me they saw her using drugs again. It was almost the end of junior year and I was struggling to help her. Getting her sober all by myself felt impossible so I decided to tell Jane’s mother. I had to, I wasn't sure if my best friend would survive if this continued. I realized that change could only come from within. Although she might never speak to me again, that was okay because it meant my best friend was going to get better.
It was the most difficult decision I've ever had to make but letting go became a way to establish boundaries. After this conversation with her mom, my number got blocked and I didn't hear from Jane for almost two years. I kept in contact with her sister but never pried too much. Those years were filled with guilt and doubt about if I had done the right thing.
But recovery is possible and so was our friendship. Two years later, I ran into her mother at the grocery store and she shared the good news of her daughter's sobriety. The positive news filled me with relief and joy. So, I put my stubbornness aside and picked up the phone. We talked and laughed about how we wanted to call each other but weren’t sure the other would answer; so us! Jane shared with me that she had gone through rehabilitation, therapy, and a grueling journey to recovery. I knew my best friend had lost precious years, and I hadn't been there for her. I expected resentment, but to my surprise, Jane thanked me over and over again.
She told me that losing me had been her greatest motivation to get sober. Jane expressed gratitude to me for setting a boundary that she couldn't set herself. We both agreed going through years of our lives separately was extremely difficult but now all that mattered was we found each other again.
We continue to work on our friendship one step at a time and our bond has grown to be stronger than ever. Setting boundaries is not a dismissal but it is a guide towards mutual respect and understanding. If you're meant to be in each other’s lives, you will grow and find each other again. In the end, Jane’s road to recovery from addiction is a testament to resilience and the enduring power of friendship, proving that recuperation is more than possible.