I was recently given the opportunity to read “MY OTHER EX: WOMEN’S TRUE STORIES OF LOSING AND LEAVING FRIENDS” edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger, before its release on September 15.
As a woman, mother, sister, daughter – I am well versed in the intricacies of the female friendship – and this book hooked me at the first page. Reading every single story was like sitting down with a nice warm cup of tea and chatting with a long lost friend, sharing the stories of our lives. I connected with every heartfelt story.The dynamics described, the emotional toll of loosing a BFF, even the stories that took place in grade school spoke to me. I was thoroughly impressed with this collection of essays. I am thankful for the light that has been shed on how loosing a friend can negatively affect a woman – for years.
Reading the book, I felt inspired to share my own story of loss. My “other ex” was a huge part of my life during my “formative years” – my early twenties, when I was living on my own – without my immediate family nearby. She became my family. Adele (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) was my BFF for almost a decade. We were friends “through thick and thin,” which later became “hot and cold” and then finally “on and off.” We recently found each other again on social media, but this time as “Facebook friends,” nothing at all like what we shared before. I am saddened to have lost the friendship for good – but relieved to have her in my peripheral vision, so I can make sure she is OK.
Turn back the calendar to another lifetime – to 1994. I was working in the Operations Department of a small community bank, 20 years old at time. I had been in the States for two years. I was living with a room mate and had recently left a very bad relationship – one that scarred me for… well for a long time. In walks Adele. She was 30, funny – no that’s not even close – she was hysterically funny, intelligent and caring.
She brought with her more baggage than anyone I had ever before met in my life. But through our shared love for all things sarcastic, we bonded. Our sense of humor became the glue and the foundation of our friendship. We did not take anything too seriously – especially not ourselves. She was everything I was not, yet she was also everything I was. We became each other’s family, shared holidays, ups and downs, trials and triumphs.
The only thing that could dampen our laughter was talking about Adele’s 12 step programS! Yes – plural. She had lived a lifetime full of demons that I had never been exposed to in my twenty years of sheltered life in Denmark. In spite of, or rather because of her struggles she was the most empathetic, caring and nurturing friend I have ever had to this day.
We spent the early years of our friendship twelve stepping through life. I have never had a substance abuse problem, but I saw the constant fight it was to stay clean for Adele and her friends, so I embraced the philosophy of the Twelve Steps in support of her. I went with her to open meetings, we read daily affirmations together. I garnered lessons for a lifetime and a respect for other people’s battles. She taught me understanding, she showed me that everyone deserves a second chance at happiness – she deserved a lifetime of happiness.
Our lives moved forward and ahead, sometimes by leaps and bounds, other times just by twelve steps at a time. Our jobs changed, our homes improved, we each made new friends, we had boyfriends, we lost some friends, lost some boyfriends… but through all the changes we still remained in each other’s lives. I was the Maid of Honor at her wedding. She was the only person to ever question my narcoleptic behavior (ten years before my diagnosis). We were just inseparable for a long time.
Adele’s energy fueled our activities. On particularly manic days we would wallpaper a room or change the landscaping in her backyard. Other days we would watch a TV marathon, listen to grunge music or go on a shopping extravaganza. Adele’s compulsions were our inspiration. Her mood set the tone of our get togethers and determined the speed at which we moved.
But as we both grew, matured and proceeded through life it became increasingly hard for me to accept that regardless how much I cared about Adele, I would never be able to “cure her.” I couldn’t silence the constantly nagging voice inside her head. There was always a temptress luring her with thoughts of “using again.” One slip-up could derail her life and make her start back at square one – all over again. I felt powerless, and after having watched a few steps backwards and feeling that she was slipping away for good, we slowly drifted apart.
In hindsight I see that there was fault on both sides. She sometimes disappointed herself by having to start her recovery all over again. I had never personally experienced the stronghold that those demons can have on you – so while I felt I had an understanding of what was happening to her – I still didn’t fully understand or accept how her recovery wouldn’t be a linear process, but rather a tango of sorts: “one step forward, one to the side – maybe even a few steps backwards…”
After a while, perhaps selfishly, I needed a life without the peaks and valleys of a recovery process. I don’t think there was one definitive situation that ended our friendship. We didn’t have a big blow up argument, there was no hanging up the phone on each other, slamming doors or any abrupt endings – just a slow fizzle… without full closure. I started to focus more on my other friends, my job – and she at that time had moved further away, was married and had two kids, so I guess you can say that “life ended our friendship.” We slowly drifted apart – twelve steps at a time.
(I have to add that she is still in recovery, married and her boys are now grown young men. I am so proud of her for raising her family – and I am relieved to know she did get a lifetime of happiness. The life lessons I learned from her are with me every single day. I am forever humbled and grateful for her friendship.)
“My Other Ex”: Order It, Follow It – Get Hooked!
You can pre-order “MY OTHER EX: WOMEN’S TRUE STORIES OF LOSING AND LEAVING FRIENDS” edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger on Amazon.
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