Stories of Guilt

A story in which names are changed.

I was 20 when I first ate at California Pizza Kitchen.
It was a delightful time,
My two new friends and I –
Exhilarated by the thrill of being together
Even though the rules of rehab
strictly discouraged friendships.

I didn’t understand why..
How that could interfere with my treatment,
And yet that day you think I would understand.

As I sat at the table
in the middle of March,
my phone buzzed..
Stepping away to answer,
I notice the area code, and panic slightly.

Earlier that day,
I had gone to breakfast with a friend from the hospital
from which I was recently discharged.
My “pal” had brought me to breakfast,
but it was clear that he was nodding off.
And as he swerved out of the parking lot as we left,
I knew I made the wrong choice.

And to my relief
when I answered the phone,
It was not a car accident;
However that same man
Stabbed himself seven times in the chest –
After heading my advice to leave an abusive relationship.
I lost my appetite.
I cried.
I was angry.
I knew this was my fault.

I called a friend who had also been a patient
with us, and told her what happened.
I was so angry that he put me down as a contact.
I was so grateful too.
I left dinner and went on to Lisa’s
Where she dropped her kids off with her parents
and we lied saying we were going bowling.

We sped down the parkway.
An hour drive shortened to thirty minutes.
We arrived at the hospital to find him okay.
With relief and anger and exhaustion we left.

Despite all this,
I continued to reach out for friendships
from people I met in hospitals and programs
Because those are the only people I know..
The two friends from the beginning of this story and I grew closer,
We spent many days and nights together –
joking, talking about things only we could understand.
One of us fell out of contact and she eventually moved to Chicago.
Only the two of us here stayed in contact.

And just over a year later,
In a night of bad judgment and fun
A newer friend from program and I decided to go out.
I thought a few drinks wouldn’t hurt.
I shouldn’t have encouraged it.
And yet I did.
While I maintained my integrity and awareness,
Sherry soon became so shitfaced,
she knocked over a motorcycle by falling on it.
I decided it was time to go home.
She decided I was wrong.
But somehow I managed to bring her back.
bring her inside.
And when I thought she had fallen asleep,
I positioned her in recovery,
and I went out for a smoke.

In the 7 minutes I was outside,
she managed to steal my meds and take them.
I came back in to find her unconscious, but turning blue.
My heart began to beat fast.
I tried getting her water,
she vomited on my bed.
I called an ambulance.
I gathered her belonglngs
and as we loaded her into the ambulance
(after a hard fight)
I went in to take my meds to discover they were gone.
I fearfully ran out to the EMT’s
and told them.
My stomach dropped.
I was at fault again.

I stayed with her in the hospital until 7am,
and then I left,
went home.
put my sheets in the wash.
I cleaned my apartment.
And I went to program.
And I cried,
And I was scared
And I called her dad.
And I apologized.
And I did the best I could,
And she lived.
And I still feel guilty.

After that, I thought I would have learned.
Other than the one friend from the original story
I maintained fewer connections from program.
But it’s hard to not stay in contact.

Today, I received a call from a friend.
Asking to hang out.
She wanted to use me as a reason to go elsewhere.
She wants me to supervise her while she uses
My stomach drops,
I have been out of program for almost a year,
out of the hospital for over a year,
And I can see her slipping.
And I don’t want to be at fault.
And I don’t want to be a snitch.
And I can feel the pressure of my morals
versus the friendship.
And I don’t know what to do.
I don’t want to be at fault.

I have fallen out of contact with the friend from the beginning of the story.
It breaks my heart because I want to know she is well.
And in spite of that,
I am grateful we don’t talk
Because after everything that has happened:
All the friends I have lost to suicide or OD’s.
All the friends I have almost lost.
All the people I have cut out of my life.
All the guilt I have collected.
I have learned that these people are my people in the moment,
But long term, I need stability and wellness.
And if they can’t encourage that,
Then I can’t ask for it.

I can’t collect guilt,
I don’t want to collect ghosts.



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