What’s Left To Do

Growing up I remember my Dad as being silent, passive and disconnected. Those were the later years and unfortunately, my pre/teen years are the sharpest in my memory so I remember more bad than good. I know he was not always that man and when we were young, he was an active father who read us The Jungle Book using different voices for the characters, who tucked us in, who took us to his office on the weekend so he could get some work done while my mom cleaned the house and rearranged the furniture while blaring Neil Diamond or Barry Manilow. (Seriously, my mom loves doing that. It’s how she unwinds.) I loved going to my Dad’s office. I would play secretary, typing on the typewriters, pushing the buttons on the multi-line phone and at the end of our excursion, we’d go to the cafeteria and pick out a treat from the vending machines. Those afternoons were really the only times I remember being with my dad when my mom wasn’t there.

I distinctly remember my father sitting out by the pool one evening- sullen, staring off into space, drinking a beer. It was probably not his first beer of the night nor would it be his last. As a child (and as an adult), I have always been overly sensitive to others pain. Particularly when it comes to my dearest loved ones, I over-empathize and have a very difficult time separating myself from what they are going through.  That night I came outside to check on my dad. I think I was around 11 but my mom would probably argue differently. It was before the seriousness of alcoholism took over our house. We were just teetering in the place where we all felt like something was wrong but no one could name it. We just existed there for years until it all blew up.

I don’t recall the entirety of my conversation with my dad but I do remember that he was depressed and was telling me that we (my mom, sis and I) would be better off without him around. I tried to convince him otherwise because of course I didn’t believe that to be true. I left that talk feeling like my dad wanted to die. Of course internally I was panicked. I had always been a daddy’s girl. As distant as he had felt from me, I longed to have whatever was wrong be fixed. In my childlike logic, I thought I could be good enough, perfect enough, and love him enough to change his mind.

When a person doesn’t feel worthy of your love there is really no amount of any trying that can convince them that they are. You can love yourself into exhaustion. You can lather yourself up in a love frenzy, giving, giving, giving and STILL that will not be enough. There’s a well inside of them that needs patching and you don’t have access to mending the tear. That’s their work. It’s extremely difficult though to love someone and feel like that love is not enough. Worse still, to watch them not fix the tear but instead, wallow in their own self-loathing.

It’s hard to not feel some semblance of rejection by that.

There was a time when I didn’t let people love me. I have never been an alcoholic but my depression when I was 30 years old mimicked my father’s. I felt like I was no good, unworthy of people’s affection, and I locked myself away from people who wanted to help. Friends would call, come to my door, send me cards and I would not answer. I know how it feels to wallow. I’ve been on both sides.

I heard from my MIA friend the other day. She texted to invite me out for a walk. It’d been close to a month since we’d last had any exchange. For months she’s been impossible to get a hold of- sporadic working phone, no home internet access, no car- so often my emails, calls or texts went unanswered for weeks. It got to a point where her sister, her other best friend and I had to call each other to see if anyone had heard from her. Of course I was worried. I had no idea how she was or what she was doing. I was at a loss for how to help. And on top of being worried, I started to get really pissed off.

I sat there with my phone in my hand thinking and worrying and wondering what to say in response to her invitation and how to say everything that I was feeling. I finally texted that: I had reached the end of my rope with making plans that she doesn’t follow through on. I feel like my time and friendship are disrespected. I am very sad by all this. I want to see her but only if she can ensure that she is going to show up.

I hit send and started to cry.

She said she is sorry and acknowledges her flakiness. She told me that she tried. She also said that I couldn’t show up for her in the way she needed. All this, mind you, was via text. (Fucking text! This is not a conversation to have via text!) That response came a day later and was a mix of apology, excuse and blaming. I felt punched in my gut when I read it. I cried again and called my mom. Who else would understand this fucked up dance you do with alcoholics but the woman who lived through it with my dad? We talked for a long time and she helped me see that I did the right thing even though it hurt. It’s difficult for me to swallow the fact that I can’t show up for my friend the way she needs. Actually, it isn’t that I can’t but more that I won’t. Because it seems to me that showing up for her means not showing up for me and I can not abide by that.

I have this long history dating back from my childhood of giving too much to people. I give them multiple chances to redeem themselves while sacrificing my own heart every time. I give them opportunities to change and with those squandered chances, my hopes are dashed. I am not stingy with forgiveness but sometimes it can take me a while to get there. I think right now the thing I am most stuck on is the fact that someone who has been one of my best friends off and on for twenty years can think of me and say “you can’t show up for me.” Who? Me?! The truth is, I don’t know how to show up for a person when they won’t let me in. If you keep me at arms length, there is no way I will ever be able to reach you.

It’s not a new realization but lately I am reminded that sometimes the only way left to love someone is to let them go.

66 thoughts on “What’s Left To Do

  1. It’s so hard to do I know. But you’re right, sometimes all you can do is walk away. If you both feel like the other one can’t be there for you in the right way, then maybe this is just a season of your friendship that will have to be spent apart. Hopefully it will be repaired one day.

    I know all too well how hard it is to finally “press send” and say how you really feel. I always want people to see the happy side of me. The side that isn’t hurt or pained by their actions. The side that forgives and never brings it up. It kind of sucks being that person sometimes.

  2. Oh, Sizz. I just want to give you the biggest hug. I’m sure this hurts so much, but yes, you absolutely did the right thing. Let her go. And maybe one day, she’ll come back.

  3. As T.D. Jakes says…

    “People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you,
    you can’ t make them stay. Let them go.

    And it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person,
    it just means that their part in the story is over.

    And you’ve got to know when people’s
    part in your story is over so that you
    don’t keep trying to raise the dead.”

  4. I hate that your MIA friend turned, or attempted to turn, this around on you. It sounds to me like you’ve made plenty of effort to maintain the relationship and that she is unable, or unwilling, to contribute on an adult level. That’s not your fault. Don’t let her do this to you.

    I’m proud of you for hitting ‘send.’ We should all do that more often.

  5. yes. i’m glad you did this. i felt it coming.
    release. relief. healing.
    i love you my friend.

  6. I’ve told you before of my experiences with my own alcoholic father, and how it’s shaped my relationships with other people. I, too, tend to give way more than I should, and give people way more chances than they deserve. It’s as I’ve gotten older that I’ve learned to put myself first, and make decisions that will ultimately benefit me. Jess and I were talking yesterday about how I’m something of a people pleaser – which is another trait I picked up along my alcoholic family journey. And you’re absolutely right – sometimes the only way to love someone is to let them go.

  7. I was married to an alcoholic many moons ago and I totally GET your frustrations. You’re right … sometimes you do have to just let them go.

    Years ago my son (when he was about 3) said something that will forever stick with me. It was in a little different context, but I can still hear his little voice in my head. I was dropping him off at the day care to go to work and another lady was doing the same with her daughter. The other lady was faced with her daughter pitching a crying fit that she was leaving. My son went over to this girl that was about his age/size, put his arm around her and told her not to cry because, “they always come back”.

    Life is funny that way … people come and go in our lives all the time and eventually, it seems like the ones that are dearest to us, always come back when they are ready.

  8. Wonderful writing today, Sizzle. Thank you. I think it’s really hard to help someone, be there for them, get them to a better place when they don’t want the help and might not be ready for the change. Even though it’s so terribly obvious to the world (and maybe them, too), there is a problem. You absolutely did the right thing, because at the end of the day, there is always give and take with friendships, but when that balance becomes too skewed in the giving direction, sometimes it’s time to just let go. At least you know you tried.

  9. You are so right sometimes when you love somebody you have to let them go.

    It, however, is not an easy thing to do.

    I admire your courage to let go and I hope that she finds the help she needs and finds out that you were holding on to her all the while.

  10. Oh wow. You are a strong woman, Sizzle. You’ve done the right thing for you, and most probably for your friend.

    I’m so so sorry you’re hurting.

  11. Oh my dear. I’m sorry you’re going through this. You are right, sometimes you have to let go. So hard, but true. Your friend may be blaming others for her problems/mistakes because it’s difficult for her to come to terms with them. I hope she finds a way to get better and I hope you can both reconnect. But always remember that you are a wonderful, caring, beautiful human being.

  12. This is incredibly powerful. If you change a bunch of names/relationships, this could be something I would write if only I had the guts to make a move and stand up for myself. I am loyal, so loyal that often I don’t walk away when I should. It is so hard to admit there is nothing left that I could possibly do, that I have already done all I can do without giving up the last little part of my self that I have and to realize that someone else needs to make an effort too…I can’t possibly save the world alone.

    I am really proud of you for doing what is best for YOU. I KNOW how hard that must have been. I feel like we are very much the same in the way we feel things, the way we overextend ourselves to make things better for other people. I appreciate you posting this. It might be something I need to look back on when I need courage.

  13. Sniff! I whole heartly wish I could help ease your pain. Reading this has made me teary. I never like to see people hurt. You made the right choice in letting MIA friend go. I’d like to believe that she meant that you are not able to be there for her. She has to help herself. You are a wonderful person Sizzle and…


  14. I can relate to the situation of giving people too many opportunities to redeem themselves. When I was married, I watched my ex carelessly overspend money we didn’t have. After a while, all I could do is stand there with my mouth gaping open while digging deeper in debt.

    Ultimately, I blamed myself for not being firm enough with her an our money. In the back of my mind, I harbored much resentment for her even though I was also burdened with the blame.

    I think you made the right choice to let her go. You can only hope that she makes the right decision and does something about it before it’s too late.

  15. I love ya, sizz… you are strong and still so soft and sensitive. I think the word is… human. You are very, very, human.

  16. The thing about pretending to be a secretary at your dad’s office made me laugh because I used to do the same thing at my mom’s, and pretend to type on the typewriter.

    This friend of yours.. I agree with what others have said. It’s hard, but you can’t jump down a dark hole after someone.

  17. “When a person doesn’t feel worthy of your love there is really no amount of any trying that can convince them that they are. You can love yourself into exhaustion. You can lather yourself up in a love frenzy, giving, giving, giving and STILL that will not be enough. There’s a well inside of them that needs patching and you don’t have access to mending the tear. That’s their work. It’s extremely difficult though to love someone and feel like that love is not enough. Worse still, to watch them not fix the tear but instead, wallow in their own self-loathing.”

    I feel like I could have written this. I think it was really brave to text your friend and tell her what you did. It hurts and it sucks, but it is for the best. I’m sending you good vibes.

  18. If ever I wished I could give an e-hug, it’s right now. I feel like a huge jackass for the email response I sent you yesterday. You are right, some people – no matter how much you try to give – are beyond help. Beyond the ability to receive. And it does feel like rejection when they shun your efforts. I’m so sorry about your exchange with your friend. You are very brave and strong to think about letter her go, and I hope that after she works through her stuff, she will return to you.

  19. Oh this must be so tough for you. I can’t begin to comprehend. Though I have to say sometimes it appears you don’t give yourself enough credit – for how strong you are. You have been through so much and seem so together and so in tune to what you need to do. Honestly take credit for it – you’ve done a good job.

  20. You are truly my internet soul sister.

    I love this part “When a person doesn’t feel worthy of your love there is really no amount of any trying that can convince them that they are. You can love yourself into exhaustion. You can lather yourself up in a love frenzy, giving, giving, giving and STILL that will not be enough. There’s a well inside of them that needs patching and you don’t have access to mending the tear. That’s their work. It’s extremely difficult though to love someone and feel like that love is not enough. Worse still, to watch them not fix the tear but instead, wallow in their own self-loathing.”

    I’m so so so so proud of you.

  21. Wow. Very deep and good read. My father was an alcoholic as are many of my family members so I feel your pain. Hopefully she will see the error of her way sometime and know that while what you did was hard on you, it was the best thing for you at the time. Big ol’ hugs to you!

  22. Good for you for standing up for yourself. I hope it gets easier for you. The fact that she’s still blaming others for her actions tells me she’s far from ready to heal.

  23. The ironic thing about the, “It’s difficult for me to swallow the fact that I can’t show up for my friend the way she needs” statement? Is that you are showing up, in a way, in the way she needs — it’s just not what she wants right now (aka, a ‘yes’ man). You’re setting boundaries and loving her enough to not watch her hurt herself; you’re doing a good, good thing. And I absolutely know how hard it is. Hugs.

  24. I can relate to this very much — three of my four parents have been alcoholics and my mom is still drinking and reminds me of your friend. I just got to the point where I had to stop and say “no” because what they ask of their friends or family members is really not fair to ask of anyone. They go too far and expect others to bail them out, and what’s worse is that no matter what you do for the or how much you give, it’s never enough. Even if you showed up in the way that she needed it, there would’ve been something else that she wanted. You give an inch, they take a mile. One just has to get to the point where you draw the line because, like you said, you can’t continue to always put others before yourself (and esp. when it’s never reciprocated).

  25. fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck. You made me cry. When I have these conversations with my mom she tells me to go to Alanon. I hate feeling like I am responsible for other people’s emotions. I’m around if you ever need another shoulder…. I’d even open up the bubble and give you a hug. I am so sorry, I know how much this sucks.

  26. I completely empathize….

    My entire family nearly has drug and alcohol addictions. It hurts. A lot.

    I loved this line, though: “Because it seems to me that showing up for her means not showing up for me and I can not abide by that.”

  27. I relate to this with every single thread that keeps my body together. Ay, my heart sinks.

    Thank you for sharing, thank you for making sense of it all. This helps me

  28. Oh Sizzle, I’m sorry to hear it went down that way. I’m glad you have your mother and other friends to support you through this. It’s awful to lose a friendship.

  29. A hug to you my friend. I know we’ve talked about this before, but all the talk in the world doesn’t make those moments easier. You did the right thing, and you won’t stop loving her ever, of course. We just stop letting ourselves be hurt so deeply by someone who can’t think in a logical, open way. That was the hardest thing for me to admit to myself- that no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t matter because our priorities were not the same. I try to tell myself there can always hope without making myself a casualty in the meantime.

  30. I am so proud of you and proud of this post. I know how you are feeling firsthand, having lived with this type of sitation myself. But realizing that you can’t really save people is a great step. And that it really isn’t about you and your choices helps a little more.

  31. *Hugs* This really touches me, and certainly, I sympathize. :-/ The beauty in this post, is it’s an explanation as well as a one-two punch to show, how things are interrelated.

    The isolation is awful, and the feeling of not being able to be reached, as well as be the reach-ee and save someone else. I have been surprised in those times I tried to be a good friend how it always came lashing back on me, to hear how it was I who was the lacking/screwed up one. You start believing that sh*t, and drag it around with you everywhere. It helps make you unreachable when it is your turn for help and solace. It hurts.

    Our friend wants us to be able to be there, but instead we can’t seem to even communicate with them. Its then we have to let them slip away to find people that they CAN hear, and gain from. The being blamed tho, hurts alot. I’m sorry. I know, you wanted to be able to be there for her, and make a difference.

  32. Man, that must be hard. I think your realization is good, though. Friendships have to be two-sided to work.

    Also…I hate texting. And…my mom cleans to Kenny G (which is the reason all of her children can’t stand Kenny G).

  33. Big hug. This is all about her stuff, you are a true friend and it is her that cannot be that for you right now. You did the right thing.

  34. I feel so bad that you’ve had way too much experience getting hurt by people you love.
    I too think you did the right thing. The problem henceforth will be trying not to second guess yourself.

  35. You did the right thing. Sometimes it’s not your job to make their pain go away, or to solve their problems. Most of the time, really. You can help them solve their own problems, but you can’t make them want that. That’s always their choice.

    Sorry for what you’re going through. Big hug.

  36. I am so sorry that you keep getting let down by the suck that can be humanity. It is hard to be a person who gives and feels so deeply, but I also know that people like that are some of the most worthwhile people on the planet.

    I admire your strength in this situation. I feel bad for you and your friend. She is going to wake up one day, look around are realize what she has damaged and lost.

    It’s just a terrible pity.

  37. I know you did the right thing and sometimes that hurts more than hanging on.
    I am very sorry you are having to go thru this but as gorillabuns said – by her not picking up the phone – she’s not at a point where you can help her.
    Take care of you first Sizzle.

  38. When a person doesn’t feel worthy of your love there is really no amount of any trying that can convince them that they are. You can love yourself into exhaustion.

    This exhaustion and frustration leads to depression and when the other person is ready, or thinks they are ready for you to help, you just can’t. I know.

    I agree with the others have said. You did the right thing and I am so sorry you are hurting. Letting go is so hard but in this case, it seems as if it was the best for both of you.

  39. Saying the tough stuff often leaves the person who did nothing wrong…feeling so empty. I’m glad that you have stable people in your life to balance things out. You are probably the best friend she will ever have. I just hope she gets the chance to realize that. Hugs Sizz.

  40. Take care of yourself, it’s been one of the hardest life lessons: you can’t change people and that sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and move on. If it’s meant to be they will come back.

  41. I agree with your Mom, you did the right thing. You can only bang your head against the wall so many times with this friend….she just doesn’t get it. It’s prob. the illness talking and not how she really feels about you.
    When my Dad was dealing with alcoholism or lack of dealing with it….he would cut me quick, or in other words, hurt me needlessly. I don’t know if it made himself feel better or what but I’m still dealing with the scars. As I occasionally go to therapy more memories come up of things he said or did…..the disease is just sick. I’m sorry you had to experience it as well.

  42. I am working at a drug/alcohol rehab for a low-income facility for pregnant or parenting women up in Everett. I teach a relationships class (and do mental health counseling) and I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to share a piece of your story with them about friendships and recovery and process how they can ask for help more. Your story was exactly what I needed to read tonight in preparing for this. Is it ok if I read a part of your blog post to them?

    If you are ever interested I would love you to come in and speak to them about being a child of an alcoholic. The women are wonderful and humble and grateful to be there and they would so appreciate hearing your story. If that would be something you would be comfortable with please email me someday.

  43. Holy, what a great post. It is SO hard for us over protective, over in-your-face-in-every-way (cell phones, internet) society to let shit go.
    Sometimes that is what NEEDS to happen.

    My new life motto is, “Let it be”, like the song Brooke sang on American Idol. Love it and love the meaning! I am really alot like you in my over giving, over caring, being a door mat kinda self. I have an AWESOME book, you should pick it up and we can read it together as we fall asleep reading. Hey, that’s what we do! Haha!
    It’s called, “When the body says no” by Gabor Mate! So good! I met him and he was life changing as to how I live life NOW!

  44. This was a very powerful and insightful post.

    And it really helped me with something similar.

    My mother is a recovering alcoholic. When I told her that hubby and I were moving back to the West coast, she freaked out. And it really bothered me a lot.

    I was feeling guilty that I was letting her down. That it was my responsibility to stay close to her in case she needed me.

    From the time I was 17 until I was 38, she let me down. So why am I beating myself up over this?

    I shouldn’t be. This move is happening because my husband’s health is fragile and he needs to be in a better climate.

    And I’ve been through enough scenarios with her when I was younger to understand how you feel about your dad.

    Sometimes you do have to let go. Even when that person is someone who was supposed to love you unconditionally since the day you were born. But, instead you barely know.

  45. For me, it is about how disappointed my parents got when I made one decision.

    It is so powerful, the way our parents attitudes and decisions effect us to this day.

    I always question my actions, even though I know that it is a good decision.

    Sizzle, I hope that you heal from all of this and that letting go will help you heal your pain. Of course this will take some time.

  46. This must be so hard. Letting go of people you love because it’s the only thing to do, is such a difficult thing. I hope you know in your heart you’re doing the right thing, I hope she knows too.

  47. Wow, this is incredibly insightful. I too wind myself up in a thousand knots for other people. The last time was for a friend whose husband had abused and cheated on her. But I slowly realized (after being immersed in the drama for months) that she had no intentions of leaving him, or even demanding a real change.

    Something snapped in me. I still try my best for friends and family, but there always seems to come a point when I say, “If you have no intentions of taking my advice, please dont ask for it.” It’s a fine line to walk.

  48. Because it seems to me that showing up for her means not showing up for me and I can not abide by that.

    Words of wisdom, dear. Very touching and you are so full of insight and honesty. It’s hard having relationships with substance abusers. My sister is in recovery and it’s been a long, difficult road. I understand where you are with this.

    BIG HUG.

  49. Perhaps your friend is not able to show up for *herself* in the way she needs to. If she is not able to hold herself accountable for her own actions, then there is very little left in her world besides judgment and blame (of others). It seems that she is in a great deal of pain, but that doesn’t make it ok to spew toxicity onto everyone around her including those that try to help. Sometimes in the interest of protecting your own well being, you HAVE to remove yourself from the situation. After all, if you give all your goodness, but there is not the return of it to fill you up inside, what will you be left with?

  50. I love how candid you are. It can’t be easy to chat about your dad or your friend in this way, but good on for sharing. At some point, you do have to cut them loose, for your own sanity. I hope she proves you wrong.

  51. All I can really say here is “word.” I’m going through the same thing… and the worst thing is knowing that you can see the forest for the trees when they can’t, and that you have to let them find their own way. All you can do is hope that they will… and in the meantime, you can decide if you want to meet them on the other side.

  52. If you love someone, set them free. If it was meant to be… you know the rest. It is hardest to have faith in the hardest times. But we have to look out for ourselves first and foremost.

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