I had a friend that I met when I was 14. We were friends - best friends - through high school and college; he lived with me and my parents for a few months during high school when his family was in a rough spot, and I was his rock when he decided to come out of the closet our freshman year of college. Throughout the history of our friendship, I was always there to support him.
After our freshman year, he ended up on academic probation (despite being a smart guy) because life got in the way and he couldn't deal with coming out/family issues and school at the same time. He transferred to another school on the other side of the state, moved back in with his mom (who he's always been close with), and got a job waiting tables. After another 6 months he dropped out of that school too, and moved into the city where there was a larger gay community (instead of being in a rural area with a bunch of rednecks) and got a job at a male strip club. Eventually, he got very involved in the local gay scene and in hanging out with the guys at the club, many of whom were very much into all manner of drugs.
I should point out here that I had no qualms about his job - he took me to his strip club on my birthday (even got me a lap dance!) and then we went to his favorite gay club to dance all night and had a blast, just like old times - but I was concerned about his drug use, and told him on a couple of occasions that I was worried about him. He brushed off my concern in both cases.
Over my last 2 years of college, he called me less and less frequently (whereas we used to talk all the time), and when we did talk, he always had a completely different set of friends. Eventually we stopped talking on the phone at all. I emailed him on occasion, usually on his birthday, and said that I missed him and that we should talk, and his responses were always enthusiastic, but there was never any follow-through.
He did come to my college graduation, however, but that was the last time I saw him in person.
After I graduated from college, I took a job for a few years, and then decided to go back to school. I got into a school on the other side of the country, and before I moved, I made sure to visit my family and all of my friends because I wasn't sure how often I would get to come home to visit. I emailed him several times, telling him that I was moving away and that I wanted to see him - again, I got enthusiastic emails back ("Let's get together! I'll call you this weekend!"), but no follow through.
I finally decided that I should stop trying to be in his life if he couldn't even make the effort to get together before I moved away. I was very hurt by this incident.
Fast-forward to now - I'm 28, in school, it's been 6 years since I've seen him. I occasionally have dreams about him where I'm really happy to see him, and then I'm really sad when I wake up. I finally get tired of not having any closure on the situation and, in a selfish moment, send him an email that basically said "I never got over not being in your life anymore, and I really wish I could stop thinking about you because all it does is make me sad - I don't need a response; I just wanted to say this." Not the kind of thing I would normally do, but I was at an emotional dead-end over it all, and didn't know what to do. 6 months later, he does respond, saying that he's had this awful 'hitting bottom' experience that involved dealing with the death of one of his friends and that he was so sorry for all that he's done to me and would I please call him. After much deliberation, I decide that I can't call him - I can't put myself out there again - and that if he truly wanted to talk to me, then he needed to call *me*. A few weeks go by and he does call (at 7:30am on a Saturday) - a weird experience - he's half crying and apologizing for hurting me, saying he couldn't let another minute go by without talking to me and telling me how sorry he is and how much he loves me, and half stream-of-consciousness telling me about his friend who died. He is clearly grief-stricken and not dealing with it well, even though his friend passed away 6 months prior. He says he wants to talk more tomorrow and to please call him.
I call him the next day, and the day after, and we have good conversations, still crying sometimes. he admits that he didn't see me before I moved away because he was so ashamed of himself for being f***ed up on drugs.
He didn't call again after that.
A few months later, while in the middle of contemplating whether I should call him one last time, I get a forward from his mother (not uncommon) that uncannily talked about 'if someone walks away from you, then you should let them walk away - you don't need to try to talk someone into caring about you.' I thought, Wow, that's just what I needed to read. (She had forwarded it to him, me, and 20 other people as well) So I wrote him an email with the forward attached and said "This is all true. I should stop trying to hang onto you. I love you and I wish you all the best."
His response? "You don't get it! I've been f***ed up on drugs and I didn't mean to hurt you! I'm moving home to detox and get back in therapy to heal my heart and my body. I love you so much! Please call me, I really don't want to talk about this through email."
I waited several weeks and wrote back that I supported his efforts, but that there was nothing I could do *for* him and that his addiction was preventing him from being capable of being a friend to me. I told him to put his energy into fighting his personal demons, and that maybe when he had dealt with everything that is going on, then we could start our friendship over again.
So, the take home points:
- I am not averse to being friends with him again
- I feel like I should stand up for myself and protect my own interests and feelings
- I tend to automatically step up to nurture or be supportive, so stopping to think about whether I *should* do it feels unnatural
- In my head I recognize that friendship is a two-way street and that I deserve better
- In my heart I just want to see him and give him a big hug and have a good cry
I am going home to visit my family and friends in 2 weeks, and I would have time to visit him. However, I have not told him that I will be in town, so there is no external pressure to follow through on that. I'm tempted to email his mom, ask how he is, and ask if she thinks seeing him would be a good idea (since they are close, and she would be honest with me).
The problem is that I don't know if seeing him is a good idea, or if it would even be consistent with the stance I have taken in the last few months. There's just this irrational "because I want to" behind it.
Advice? Any thoughts at all are welcomed. Don't hold back.
Thanks to anyone who bothered to read all this. It's such a complicated mess. :)