Throughout junior high and high school, we were inseparable. It was a typical and utterly fantastic teen-girl best-friendship. We had crushes on the same boys, we added two girls to our group and became a clique, we had sleepovers and more inside jokes than we knew what to do with, we both took French class and tried for at least a year to write each other notes in French, we shared secrets and gossip and just about everything else you can think of (including used chewing gum). We abducted a puppet and sent ransom notes to its owner. We spent hours in Starbucks, drinking mochas and macchiatos and talking about guys. We tried on prom dresses at the mall and made other customers take our picture. Every year, we celebrated the anniversary of the day we met. "Our" song was "It's the End of the World as We Know It," and we listened to it together every year on New Year's Eve. Her mom referred to us as soul mates. Once, for no particular reason, she gave me a greeting card that said, "You're the glue that holds the macaroni on my shoebox." And she meant it.
When we left for college (dating guys who were also best friends), we sobbed at the thought of living 4 hours apart. Eventually, she transferred to my school, where we lived together for a year, and despite everyone's dire predictions, we didn't end up hating each other but instead grew even closer. We spent nearly every waking moment together, and spent every sleeping moment with her sleeping above me in a bunk bed. We drew on the doors of our dorm with chalk and traced each other's outlines in chalk on the carpet. We talked about everything under the sun. We got in trouble for writing our initials together in wet cement. We helped each other get over the breakups with the best friends we were dating, and moved on to dating guys who were cousins. We went to a Halloween party dressed as an angel and a devil.
The problems started when she turned 21. Before she hit 21 (six months after I did), she had played around with drinking alcohol and smoking weed, but since she wasn't old enough to go to bars or buy alcohol, her drinking options were somewhat limited. And so we still went to Starbucks and the mall and did the same things we'd been doing for the past 7 or 8 years. But as soon as she reached the legal drinking age, everything but drinking and partying ceased to be fun.
She started using various drugs - dropping weight at an alarming rate as she increased her drug use. She went to a bar almost every night of the week. She started having one-night stands with strangers she'd met in bars and began making very bad choices in her quest for drugs and alcohol: she briefly dated a cocaine dealer, whom she insisted only dealt drugs on the weekends (as if that were somehow better than dealing drugs on a Tuesday); she and a friend stole a camera from a girl in our dorm, pawned it for drug money, then called me in a panic the next morning because they needed $100 to buy it back; she dropped out of college.
But we stayed best friends. The kind of friends who can call each other at 4 in the morning and know that the other won't be mad. On my wedding day, she was my maid of honor. (I didn't find out until much later that she had gotten drunk at our alcohol-free wedding reception because she'd brought her own liquor.)
She's had plenty of potential "wake up call" moments. Her parents found out about her drinking and drug use and put her on "house arrest." She has had 3 DUI arrests and is currently awaiting her third trial - the one that could put her in prison for ten months. Her cousin - a sweet, intelligent, funny girl who, like my best friend, is an alcoholic - hit another vehicle while driving drunk and killed three people; she will spend a decade in prison. But nothing has reached her. Nothing has gotten through. She continues to spiral out of control.
For the past year or so, she's gotten worse. Her boyfriend, the "love of her life," broke up with her because he couldn't handle her drinking and drug use. She has estranged most of her friends. She lies to everyone she knows. I haven't seen her since September of last year, because every time we have made plans - literally dozens of times, twice in the past two weeks alone - she has blown me off at the last minute to get drunk or high. This past November, on my birthday, she texted me half an hour before my birthday dinner to let me know that she wouldn't make it because her "dog ran away." It was a lie, of course. She is currently in outpatient rehab and attending AA meetings, but they've hardly seemed to make a dent in her behavior. On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, she is at rehab. On Wednesdays and Fridays, she is drunk. At almost 26 years old, she still lives at home, and her parents have run out of ideas for how to help her.
Two nights ago, I got a phone call. It was her, calling from her locked bedroom in her parents' house. Her words were slurred and I could tell she'd been drinking. She told me that her parents were kicking her out of the house for getting drunk again. That she couldn't handle it. That she'd rather die. That she'd taken an entire bottle of pills and that everyone would be happier when she was dead. That she was, as we were speaking, in the process of killing herself. I told her that I was calling her mom, and she hung up on me. I called her mom's cell phone while Mr. Darling dialed 911.
I found out later that her sister had tried to call 911 but that my friend had threatened to slit her wrists if anyone called the police. She began vomiting and apparently got most of the pills out of her stomach. When the police and paramedics showed up, she was combative and angry. When she found out that I was the one who had called the police, she became furious.
I wanted to scream at her. "What did you think would happen? What did you expect me to do? Say, 'Well, it's been nice knowing you,' and hang up? Of course I called the police. You are selfish and self-absorbed. You cannot call your best friend of 13 years, tell her you're killing yourself, and then get pissed off when she doesn't let you die."
Mr. Darling and I drove to her house Wednesday night along with another friend (one of the two girls who were part of our "clique" when we were teens). By the time we'd arrived, the police and paramedics had come and gone. My friend was asleep upstairs, and her parents were sitting on the couch, looking as though the world had come crashing down around them. The police had recommended that they have my friend committed to a mental health facility against her will, and her parents couldn't decide what to do. We urged them to do it. It felt surreal. I was sitting there, in the house I'd had a hundred sleepovers in, asking my best friend's parents to have her committed for a psychiatric evaluation. When we left, her parents hugged me and thanked me for being a friend.
My friend texted me yesterday to let me know that she's not upset with me, and I wanted to reply, "I don't care if you're upset at me or not. I am furious at you." But I didn't. Instead, I told her I loved her and begged her to check into an inpatient rehab facility. I haven't heard back from her.
I am praying that this story isn't over. I am hoping that someday, it will have a happy ending.