As soon as I met Jake, I saw that he had issues with drug and alcohol addiction. I knew his addiction could get worse, but I had no idea how far he would fall and how badly he would affect the people around him.
How should I navigate a friend’s extreme addiction?
Once after Jake stayed at my house, I found signs that he was abusing prescription painkillers. He admitted to using them, claiming it was under control and he would never use heroin. Knowing we shouldn’t enable him, my housemates and I forced him out of the house.
Years later, I still believe that was a good decision even though it was painful for me and him.
After he left our house, I remained in touch with Jake. He kept increasing the amount he used, then switched to heroin and disappeared for a few months. One day, he called to say he was glad he’d survived a near fatal overdose. The doctor had told Jake he was minutes away from dying!
This experience should have made Jake think, but he just went right back to his addiction. He spent all his money on drugs, so he couldn’t pay rent. He rediscovered my older friend, Jeremy, and asked to live with him for free.
Jeremy was the first guy with whom Jake had made out, the one Jake believed had “messed up his sexuality.” Jake never exchanged sex for rent, but Jeremy let him live there free and Jake “showed off” for Jeremy. It was very unhealthy!
As addicts often do, Jake used my older friend Jeremy’s sexuality to manipulate him — in this case, for free rent.
I felt responsible to help Jake and Jeremy, but neither would stop going down his destructive path. I went to Jeremy’s place several times to talk to them and maintain a friendship, but I could not stop either of them!
Eventually, Jake moved 3,000 miles away to be in a place where heroin was cheaper. Things got even worse for him. His brother also had a serious addiction problem and committed suicide in his parents’ garage. Jake returned for the funeral, and I talked to him at that event.
Jake and I went to a restaurant to talk. He was out of money and cut off from his drug supply, so he wanted to drink. I probably shouldn’t have done this, but I bought him alcohol and he had too much.
Jake talked freely. He believed his brother would still be alive if he had not started him down the path of addiction, depression, and suicidality.
Jake finally admitted that his addiction had not only destroyed the good things in his life and killed his brother but also would kill him soon if he did not stop.
I believe that was the turning point for him; he decided to get help.
For the next four years, Jake went through addiction treatment programs again and again. He fought and lost, over and over, but he kept fighting for his life. Eventually, he stopped using heroin, and after more battles he went off all medication!
He has been free for years now, has a responsible job, and actively follows Jesus Christ! I have great respect for Jake now. That inner strength I saw in him years ago is now on full display. There are very few people I know with the level of courage I see in Jake!
What did I learn from Jake? I found out I can’t force change in an addict. I can only point them in the right direction when they hit the bottom and become desperate.
I also learned that I need to be careful, because an addict may try to use my own sexual temptations to manipulate me.
Have you ever had a friend with a serious addiction? Were you able to remain friends through the addiction? Has a friend ever attempted taking advantage of your sexuality?