Waiting for a Change

Neal Lemery
3 min readMar 2, 2024

(published in the Tillamook County Pioneer (3/2/24))

By Neal Lemery

I usually don’t wait well. I get impatient, antsy, frustrated, and eager for the desired outcome. If the task is on today’s to do list, I want to make some progress, accomplish something, and hopefully be able to check it off at the end of the day. Mission accomplished. Let’s move on.

Friends with drug addictions don’t play by those rules.

My good friend is an addict. He’s also many other things, but the “addict” adjective often dominates his world. My friend’s struggle with addiction is on our collective list of things that need some attention, some repair, the “work in progress” that can often have one step forward, one step back, and be sidelined as one of the “working on it” list of projects. Some days, it is a “crash and burn” day, and I end up being a firefighter, or using my emotional EMT skills, a “first responder”.

Addictions are horrific, unpredictable, and often seemingly unmanageable. Relapses and acting out are serious challenges of addictive behavior, and test the bonds of friendship. Finding effective resources in our society’s convoluted medical and emotional care system offers all of us difficult and often seemingly unsolvable challenges of access to care.

I want the best care for my friend, the best information, the most compassionate care, caregivers who will be great resources for what my friend needs.

My friend has been dealing with low self esteem, depression, anxiety, and the various addictions that come with wanting to self-medicate the pain and frustration. In that mix, he’s added a variety of criminal activities, and found himself the persistent guest at a growing number of penal institutions that are euphemistically called “correctional institutions”.

The underlying “monster under the bed” is a childhood riddled with a wide range of abuse, neglect, violence, and traumas. He’s been afraid to look into those various cans of worms, fearing what he might discover, fearing that he will blame himself for all of the resulting scars and agonies. I’ve tried to encourage him to courageously delve into all of that, but what do I know? I’m only the friend, and I don’t have to take all of that emotional baggage and turmoil home with me at the end of the day.

While my friend’s hesitancy and fear of getting to the root of his addictive behaviors can often be laid at his own emotional doorstep, the defects in our society’s systems for dealing with addiction offer their own challenges. This work often requires persistence, even stubbornness, which can be in short supply for someone in emotional crisis and beset by the horrors and emotional turmoils of addictive behavior.

Today, he’s waiting for others “in authority” to make some assessments and decisions. He likely feels impotent in making his own decisions and plans, fearing that the “authorities” will override him, and give him no choices in his life. Yet, the real decision-maker, the real authority for meaningful change lies with him.

My role in all of this is limited. I don’t have the professional skills to help him work through his angst and the years of trauma and abuse, and ease the pain, giving him tools to move ahead with his life and find some peace. But, I can and do play the role of friend and confidante, offering emotional support, and, most importantly, suspended judgment and unconditional love, friendship in its purest form.

The hand of friendship is a treasured asset, both in the giving and the receiving. The world can be a lonely place, often without trust and support. Each of us can be a friend, offering love and suspending our culture’s propensity to be snarky and judgmental. The bonds with my friend are rich and often fruitful. He’s a good man, and he’s a good friend to me.

I want to see the miracle of recovery with him, and I know the seeds for that are planted and have likely sprouted. He’s a good gardener and I suspect his garden will grow, even flourish, given time, and patience, seasoned with forgiveness and compassion. I’m stubborn that way, and I think he is, too. A good stubborn.

Today, I need to be patient with myself, and with my friend. I can wait for sobriety, for recovery, for the lessons of a good Twelve Step program to take root and grow in his heart. I can wait for him to find his own comfort and peace. I have my own lessons to learn in this journey of my friend, and I will learn more about compassion, understanding, and love.

3/1/24

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Neal Lemery

Author of Be the Change: One Random Act of Kindness at a Time; Building Community, Rural Voices for Hope and Change; and others. On Amazon.