The scholars say “You are on the path of your company, so choose them wisely.”
I did choose wisely. I met a woman who was a good mother with a warm, charitable heart and a beautiful smile. She was my running partner for six years. We ran miles and miles through wooded paths along the West Virginia mountains. Some days we could hear morning dew trickle off the leaves and ricochet down lush, green foliage. The sun poked it’s rays through the forest canopy and our hands and face basked in it’s warmth. Arms and legs pumped to the rhythm of our running breaths. We often talked for hours on those trails. About life, death and everything in between. Sometimes we ran together in silence, reflecting on our thoughts, dreams and silent prayers. And some days we just laughed and laughed.
Three years into our relationship, exchanging recipes, organizing school events and playdates, sharing cultural and religious practices, the truth of her addiction surfaced. It seemed to be a legacy in her family. Both her parents are alcoholics and she too suffered from a disease and desire beyond her own soul’s limits. She said with tears in her eyes “ I hid it from you because I did not want to lose your friendship.” At that moment, deep wonder and amazement touched me. How could she think that I would abandon her? Does she not know that my faith moves me to show kindness,compassion and empathy to those in need? Does she not realize that it’s God’s teachings that hold me to a standard above my own self interest? Of course I comforted her with a warm hug, lots of tea and long conversations on our deck by the forest.
For me, life became a roller coaster after that day. Seeing and learning about her addiction consumed a big part of me. She would often call or text me in the middle of the night and ask me to pray for her. She’d slur “Recite Quran, it makes the darkness inside me go away.” I saw her husband and children suffer in silence.
My heart set calm when she joined Alcoholics Anonymous. She found short term resolution in some of her fears and cravings for alcohol. But her addiction for inner peace lay restless. With each yearning for comfort came intense cravings for alcohol. “I just want the pain to go away, I just want not to feel for a while, to be numb.” She tried to pacify her need with shopping, manicures, or excessive socializing into the night. In the process, she lost her marriage and big fancy house. She lost her family’s respect.
Amidst all this, I stood by and painfully endured the brutal reality of consequences. I kept telling myself to be supportive and positive. Change requires love, hope, and a helping hand. But change requires something more precious than compassion. It demands personal will to strive for better.
My friend acknowledges she has a problem. That’s a good first step . Her sobriety wavers, but she tries hard to hold it together for her kids, her family and her very own survival. My heart aches for her struggle. Some mornings I wake up and wonder if she is alive. No matter how far deep she goes, I always try to bring her back. Remind her what life could be like with a clear mind and healthy body.
Unfortunately, a day came when her addiction hit rock bottom. Today she isolates herself . Turns me away. She says she needs time to sort life out on her own terms. In some ways, I think that it means it’s time for me to move on. When she wants me I will be here. Until then, what cannot be helped with hands or words will rest as well wishes and prayers in my heart.
Sharda is a Canadian born mother of two little mountain climbers. She has a keen interest in learning to foster leadership & compassion in young children. She works part time as a physical therapist.