Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Toxic

An online friend of mine sent me an interesting article a while back, after I had complained to her for probably the 9186th time about my friend Pam. The Seven Deadly Friends talks about seven types of "toxic" friendships. My friend Pam is numbers 1, 3, and (in our younger days) 7. The article offers suggestions on how to defuse these toxic behaviors, except for type 3. If you stop always being there for that type of friend, they no longer see you as useful and go looking for a new person to drain. I think my usefulness to Pam has come to an end. I haven't heard from her in months. Let me back up and share some points.

You may have read my post about Friends - I talk about how I met Pam there. I've known her a long, long time. Does knowing someone for 27 years automatically earn them friend status? Do the few high points make up for the overwhelming, soul-crushing low points? Let's review:

  • I sent her bail money when she was arrested for DUI.
  • I looked the other way when she would throw herself at slimy guys in bars (she seemed so desperate for men to think she was desirable).
  • I shook my head and held my tongue when she was visiting a "boyfriend" in Attica (prison)...he was serving a sentence for statutory rape.
  • I was disappointed when she elected to move with a man to WV after only knowing him a week. I had a feeling this rash decision would lead to her missing my wedding. I was right. He ended up being abusive and she needed to run for her life.
  • I sent her money so she could move out of the battered women's shelter she was living in.
  • I was worried when she called and told me she was pregnant and I didn't hear from her for months after that. Turns out she had developed a serious drug problem and the baby was born without a brain. She told me she would NEVER have more children. She would make a horrible mother. I believed her and agreed.
  • She moved to Virginia Beach. I sent her more money so she could pay her old medical bills and get creditors off her back. I feared she used the money for drugs.
  • I was disgusted when she stole a co-worker's husband and ran off with him, but I never told her that. I sent her more money when her new boyfriend was out of work and they couldn't afford to pay vet bills or buy food.
  • I was happy for her when this man asked her to marry him. Even though he was a three time loser in the marriage department, I had hope that this time she would have a lasting relationship. He was considerably older than her...a father-figure, I suspect.
  • I was supportive when she called in a panic to tell me, a week before her wedding, that she was pregnant again. Her husband-to-be had grown children and made clear he wanted NO MORE. I convinced her to tell him BEFORE the wedding. She did and he ran out on her; but only for a day or two. He came back with an ultimatum. The baby would be entirely HER responsibility. I cried when she told me she agreed to this heinous pact. I knew she should never be a mother. I also knew marrying him was a huge mistake.
  • I gave her more money to help with her wedding expenses.
  • I went down to see her shortly after her son was born. She complained nonstop about how her husband wouldn't lift a finger to help her with the baby. I refrained from reminding her about the pact.
  • I saved the baby's life one night when she passed out in the bed with him next to her, and she rolled on top of him, stopping his breathing. I never told her that.
  • I gave her more money to buy the baby a proper bed and bought him lots of clothes and things. I really wanted to take that baby home with me and never look back.
  • She called me several months later and asked if I wanted to adopt him. She couldn't take it any more. I thought about it. My fears about what he had been exposed to in the womb and the dubious gene pool he was from paralyzed me. I didn't think then that she REALLY meant it. Now I think she did.
  • I was secretly happy when her husband finally started showing signs of love for his new son.
  • I was thrilled when he moved them all back to his dirt-water home town to get Pam away from her druggy friends and easy connections. I prayed while she slowly lost her mind, got clean, and sank into the deep abyss of depression.
  • I sent more money when her husband was unable to find work and they had lost their electricity and phone.
  • I cried with joy when she graduated from college with her associates degree. I had high hopes she was turning her life around, finally.
  • I sent even more money when they had to leave their rented home and move into a dilapidated trailer.
  • I ignored her frequent offers to let me adopt her son and carefully tried to help her raise him right.
  • I cried as her marriage fell apart from the constant fighting over money, wifely duties, and the boy.
  • I panicked when she sank into manic depression and was hospitalized for an over-dose. I pleaded with her to seek professional help and get proper medication. I wept when she was diagnosed, finally, as bi-polar.
  • I wept again when her beautiful son was diagnosed with ADHD, an attachment disorder, anger issues, and began showing a completely unnatural fixation for sex and other taboo subjects. He was only 7. I was horrified to find out he had been exposed to hardcore pornography by his father and it had warped his fragile mind.
  • I secretly screamed with joy when someone called Social Services on her and filed a medical negligence and abuse complaint. I danced when a social worker was assigned to her son to monitor his medications and therapy. I leapt with joy when she was given state assistance so she could also seek ongoing medical treatment and was finally on drugs that were helping her.
  • I couldn't contain my joy when she left her husband and moved into a trailer home of her own. I sent her a new TV/VCR when she complained that her son had nothing to do.
  • I invited her to join us at our first beach house vacation. She brought her son, left him in our care, and proceeded to act like it was HER vacation away from parental responsibility (complete with smoking pot in our hot tub, drinking, and sleeping the morning away in a sleeping pill induced coma while her son ran wild and unsupervised around the house.) Her son seemed so starved for attention, discipline and love. He was much more calm and well behaved by the end of the week than he was at the beginning - which only made me wonder all the more about his home environment and influences.
  • I felt horrible when I had to say no to her further requests for money (we were out of work by then and had nothing to spare). I knew she was angry with me.
    Her phone and internet service were shut off. I worried. She had again lost her job.
    I wrote her a letter and drove down to see her, not knowing if she would be home...not knowing where her new home WAS.
  • She never called my cell phone to acknowledge the letter. I lucked out and found her when I stopped by. She acted awkward and uncomfortable.
  • I was happy she had found another job and her son was doing better. She was taking her medication and keeping up with her therapy.
  • I was NOT happy to see a spent "roach" and clip on her kitchen table. She was using again. I went home feeling very uncertain about our future as friends.

She has not called or written to me since.


Looking back over this list, I realize I was an enabler. I feel like I should have spoken up...called for help...notified her family. But I never wanted to betray her trust. Her family is more dysfunctional than mine. They don't help her when she needs it. She doesn't confide in them, she only confides in ME. They are too wrapped up in their own issues. Perhaps it's genetic. The points above are only the tip of a very bizarre iceberg. I could add so much more...but this is already too long. Toxic friend? You bet. The cycle ends here. I am not calling or writing to her. I'm not sure what I will do if she decides to finally contact me. I am open to suggestions. I also don't know what I will say if her ex-husband calls me again trying to get me to help her (he has done this quite a few times). I'm just so tired. I think I need for this life-sucking, joy-killing, guilt-fest of a friendship to end.

Any one looking for a new best friend? I am available.

1 comment:

*** Coy *** said...

Hi Becky ... just stopped by to say hi and yeah, how about that beer? lol!
Good luck in your new little corner of the world.