My dear friend has been in rehab for almost five months now. After 90 days in the program, he earns a four-day pass every month. For both his October and November passes, he came to stay with me.
Given the way things turned out in the weeks he stayed with me prior to entering rehab, I was anxious about his first visit. He’s doing great, but I’m a horrible cop, and was afraid of what might happen. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded.
The program he’s in is run by the residents. He got on the kitchen team in the second month, and by the third had been promoted to kitchen crew leader — one of only three crew leaders at the facility. Prior to his first visit, he’d been promoted to head resident. That’s not the title they use, but it fits. He’s in charge of the other crew leaders and meting out punishments to guys who violate the rules.
I have felt responsible for the mess he got himself into. If only I’d (fill in the blank), the whole mess could have been averted. I told him as much and he let me know in no uncertain terms that what he did was in no way my fault. Of course he’s right, and on some level, I knew it wasn’t my fault, but hearing it from him made a difference for me.
During his first four-day pass, my apprehension got in the way of us having a good time. My tendency toward bossy and controlling kicked into high gear. I couldn’t help myself, and he reacted accordingly. When he left (around noon), I cried my eyes out and pretty much didn’t stop for the rest of the day.
Sorting out my feelings took a couple of days. As always, my expectations were the issue. After all I’ve done for him (none of which he asked me to do), I unrealistically expected to be placed on a pedestal and worshipped. More important, however, was a sense of loss. The simple truth is he doesn’t need me anymore.
He’s planning to stay in South Georgia for at least another six months after his six months is over. He might stay on at the facility, or move to a halfway house the next county over. Instead of being proud of him for taking charge of his life, all I could think about was how much I needed him to come back to Athens. He can’t plan his life around me, and I can’t burden him with the responsibility of taking care of me.
His second four-day pass went much better. We had a quiet and peaceful weekend, and enjoyed spending time together. At least I did. I’m pretty sure he felt the same way. When he left, I shed a few tears, but didn’t feel the overwhelming grief I’d experienced the first time.
Letting go is hard, but I know it’s what he needs now. It’s what I need too. Our friendship hasn’t ended, and won’t. We don’t need to need each other to remain close. In fact, taking need out of the equation enables us to get closer. Being a slow learner, figuring this out took some time. But finally I realize, my work here is done.