wellness

"I ask that you don’t make contact." My best friend of 20 years dumped me via a letter.

The author of this article is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous. 

My heartbreak was delivered by post.

"I want to thank you for 20 years of friendship, but now it is time for me to focus on my recovery and I ask that you don’t make any more contact".

I couldn’t exhale. The ever-constant ringing in my ears intensified. My limbs felt simultaneously electrified, and numb. Shock and shame washed over me. Overwhelming guilt for an unknown and uncommitted crime spurred me to throw the postcard in the bin. I spent the ensuing days in a fog.

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I had been dumped. My longest and most meaningful adult relationship was over. I was best friendless.

We had met at 17, at the university we had each moved from our home towns to study at. Both simultaneously scared and exhilarated by the possibilities of our futures .

“Will you come to dinner at my place?”

She stood above me, long curly hair catching the light, baby faced and eager.

Friends had always chosen me first.

Outwardly confident, but inwardly insecure, I never made the first move. 

But she had decided and now here she stood. We were to be best friends.

Together we navigated the next two decades. Our teens to our twenties, our twenties to our thirties. We shared houses throughout our uni days, and then road tripped to Sydney where we embarked on our adult lives. 

Two more years of flatting together before boyfriends and new careers disrupted our living arrangements, but not our friendship. When after five years of struggling to make ends meet, she announced that she was moving back to her hometown, I cried that I couldn’t imagine life without her. Simply and without pause, she said, "come with me", and so I did. Figuring it out together, finding home in each other, that was our constant.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing and whilst we never had a fight, our differences did grate on each other. I was certain of the next steps and keen for adventure, while she needed a gentler approach to life. Circumstances had forced me to be self-reliant from a young age, whereas she had the cushioning of family and so didn’t need to push as hard. She was confident and accepting of others whereas I was cautious and not quick to gather friends. 

Our tastes in art, music and men were always at odds and yet we were so compatible. Our humour was absurd and aligned and we only ever wanted the best for each other. We held each other in the highest regard and felt smug in our friendship. For 20 years everyone saw us as a unit and knew that we were each other’s number one.

In our mid-thirties, her addiction came as a shock but looking back not a surprise. Both married by 30, I was well into motherhood with two young children when it became evident that her drinking was increasingly out of control. 

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The distress of a divorce propelled her frequent social drinking into something more complex. She had never been a “happy drinker”. It was obvious from 18that she was one to get circumspect and melancholic after a few wines, and over the years I had found myself not offering her that third drink. That third drink that had always seemed to turn the conversation from light and funny to confrontational and accusing.

A series of embarrassing and potentially dangerous events pushed her to take steps towards recovery and I admired the way she took hold of the situation. 

However, as is common with healing, it took more than a few goes at achieving wellness and I felt that often I was the only one pushing back when her stories didn’t add up and ringing her friends and family to make sure we were all united on how to help her.

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I was certain that I was the only one close enough to see the transparency in her ever-changing stories and called her out on falling off the wagon when others around her couldn’t or chose not to see that she was still spiraling downwards.

When in the darkest of her dark times I felt the terror of her disappearing to her illness altogether I cried to my husband "what will I do without a best friend?". I imagined our friendship ending because of a terrible accident caused by her drinking, or an inability for her to banish her demons altogether. I never imagined it would be because she just didn’t want to be friends anymore.

I can only speculate why she severed ties. There was no particular incident, no harsh exchange. I know I did no wrong. But I can see that my "bad cop" approach to her recovery may not have been the way she needed help. And that our thirties had placed us in circumstances that were opposing and made it difficult to support each other without distraction. 

Friends are for "a reason or a season" as the saying goes. For nearly 20 years she was for both.

I miss her. I feel her absence. There is an ache in my life and a dark spot in my family where she is supposed to fit. Occasionally the grief is overwhelming. I can’t look back without seeing her. 

She infused my most formative years and there isn’t a part of my story where she doesn’t feature. My elder two children don’t remember her, and my youngest has never known her. The eight years since she left has coincided with a new life, new community, new friends and a new career. And no one in this new life knows my old one. My new “best friends” don’t know my old one. My first real one.

Mutual friends tell me she is better. And has a young family of her own. I am relieved to know that.

A short while ago an old friend from our university days told me that she had asked if he thought I would like to reconnect. He flagged it with me. He knows that pain I carry. My answer surprised us both. No, I told him. ‘Please give her my love, but tell her no’.

Not because of spite or anger, but because of sadness and exhaustion. I am heartbroken, and the now shattered pieces of my heart can’t survive another break. If our friendship was to fracture again, I couldn’t muster the strength to go on without her second time.

I think of her every day.

Feature Image: Getty.

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