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My Lower Companion

WARNING: X-rated material

I edited this story out of "Down the Rabbit Hole: A Memoir of Abuse, Addiction & Recovery," but it's pretty interesting...

Chapter 73: My Lower Companion

I met Courtney in August of 1999 when she was hired as a server at O'Malley's. On her first day at the diner, she revealed that she also liked to get high, so after work the two of us bonded over a joint by Gumma's pool, and an instant best friendship was formed.

Two days later, after our nine hour shifts, we went hiking at Black Pond in Meriden. As soon as we hit the trail we sparked a doobie, then silently strolled through the forest like a couple of naive teenagers in the beginning of a horror movie. The pot hit us hard, and soon we stopped to rest while we waited for our second wind. Courtney sat on a tree stump, and I stood on a path a few feet away. My mouth was dry and I was getting a headache from being overtired and high. I looked at my new friend, slumped comfortably on the stump. She also looked ready for a nap. Then I saw movement in the leaves at her feet. My eyes zeroed in on the thing that validated my fears. I let out a bloodcurdling scream and broke into a run. Courtney automatically followed suit and the two of us ran, screaming our heads off, through the woods as if we were being chased by an axe murderer. The sudden rush of adrenaline kicked in and I started to laugh. As if it were contagious, Courtney's screams gave way to laughter as well and we continued to crazily run while laughing hysterically. As soon as she could form words, Courtney huffed and puffed:

“Why… are we… running?"

I stopped dead in my tracks and doubled over with laughter.

"There was a snake!" I emphatically hyperventilated, amazed that she hadn't seen it, but it had almost touched her.

"Ahhhh!" she screamed and took off running again. I followed her this time, both of us laughing uncontrollably.

The two of us continued to hang out on a near daily basis, forming a connection through getting high and drinking. In September, she came to see me in a community theatre play. She brought me roses and gave the cast a standing ovation, her wide smile lighting up the dark house. Afterward, she came next door to Cornerstones, the bar where the cast and crew hung out after every rehearsal and performance. I introduced her to my fellow theatre mates, and she immediately made friends with everyone. Her outgoing personality drew people to her. I was proud to call her my best friend. Hanging out with her was exciting.

There were two particularly attractive men in the cast of my show, one of whom had been trying to get in my pants since the first rehearsal. With Courtney by my side, I grew balls and, with alcohol coursing through my veins, I grew horny.

"Tonight might be the night I take you up on your offer," I sluttily slurred to Ross, my suitor.

Courtney read my body language and joined in. "Is there an after after party at your place?" She had been eyeing hot guy #2, Peter, since Act One. I looked at her and we smiled at each other. My excitement grew. Ross and Peter exchanged glances, and the four of us prepared to make our strategically-timed exits. The boys left first, and Courtney and I went to the ladies room to freshen up.

"Oh my God, I want to fuck Peter so bad!" Courtney confided.

"Oh, I'm sure you’ll get to!" I replied.

Attempting to appear more sober than we were, we emerged from the restroom and said a quick round of goodbyes to everyone. Once in my car we squealed, "Ahhhh! We're gonna have so much fun tonight!” I carefully drove the eight miles to Ross's condo. When we arrived, before we’d even gotten out of the car, Ross opened the door to reveal himself and Peter standing in his dimly lit apartment, candles lit and soft music playing on the stereo like right out of a softcore porn. We sauntered in.

"Can I get you girls a drink?" Ross, ever the gentleman, offered.

“Yes!” said Courtney.

"I'll take a beer," I replied.

Peter lit a joint and offered it to Courtney, who sat beside him on the couch, purposefully touching her leg to his. She was so smooth. Such a natural! I followed Courtney's lead and joined them, sandwiching Peter between the two of us, and offered Peter a shotgun. I blew the smoke into his mouth and he turned and blew it into Courtney's. Ross appeared and joined the circle.

Before the joint was gone Peter summoned enough courage to kiss Courtney, which prompted Ross to do the same to me. Ross was experienced in these things, so he stood and walked me to the bedroom without ever removing his lips from mine. Peter and Courtney followed. Once near the edge of the bed, he took me by the shoulders, pushed his face away from mine and looked me in the eyes. Very purposefully he sat me on the bed.

"Kiss her," he instructed Courtney, who obeyed with no hesitation. Nervous and excited, the blood rushed to my face. I loved that my new friend was so open sexually!

I wanted to give the boys a show. I rolled on top of Courtney and began to kiss down her chest as Ross and Peter stood watching. The combination of pot and alcohol made me dizzy so I focused intently on kissing my friend's body while removing her clothes. She did the same to me and when I finally looked up I noticed another man standing with Peter and Ross watching us as well. Who's this guy? I thought. I'm so drunk I didn't even hear him come in. Completely naked now and more determined than ever to entertain these horny men, I dove into Courtney's pussy and started to eat her out. I heard the boys start to moan, heard them undo their pants, heard clothes hit the floor. Then someone grabbed me by the ass, dropped to their knees and started licking my pussy from behind. I laughed and shot upright and Courtney moved me up on top of her and started to kiss me again. Ross stood up and shoved his dick into me from behind. I balanced on all fours, moaning as my tits slapped Courtney in the face. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Peter come around to the side of the bed and Courtney grabbed his cock and rolled over to blow him. He let out a huge sigh of relief, as if he'd been waiting to stick that huge boner somewhere all night. Ross continued to fuck me and I wondered where guy #3 was. I turned over and saw him slowly stroking his cock, his pants unzipped but still on. I beckoned for him to come over, which he shyly did. Once within my reach I grabbed his dick and put it in my mouth, and Ross started to fuck me missionary style. Not wanting to cum, Ross got off of me after a few thrusts, prompting our pretzel to change shape once again. Courtney took her mouth off Peter's dick and moved it to my pussy, as I lay on my back in the middle of the bed. Taking that as his cue, Peter shoved his cock into Courtney and she moaned loudly as he fucked her hard from behind. Soon he took himself out of her and slapped her ass with his still rock hard dick. As if choreographed, our fivesome changed positions again. Courtney rolled over and took my place, I positioned myself on all fours horizontally over her. Peter started to fuck her missionary, as I took guy #3's cock in my mouth again and Ross started to fuck me doggy style. It was a beautiful arrangement. My huge tits slapping against Courtney's stomach as Peter fucked her. Me sucking off a guy I'd never met while getting fucked from behind by another. Guy #3 couldn't take it very long and soon he exclaimed, "Cum!" which I guess was supposed to be his way of warning me. Drunk or not, I was not gonna swallow a random load, so I held it in my mouth until he finished, then promptly spit it onto the bed… Luckily, my menage-faux-pas didn’t spoil the mood… After a few more pumps Peter pulled out and shot his load on my back, trying not to make too much noise, which I found very hot. Then Ross pulled me off the bed and ripped off his condom.

"Get on your knees," he instructed, and I obeyed without thinking. Beating his hard cock quickly I saw what I thought he was going to do.

"No way, man!" I said, moving my face away perhaps just in time. He came on my tits. Oh, ok, I thought you were gonna try to cum on my face, I thought. What a gentleman.

The following month Courtney came to visit me in Boston. I was attending Emerson and living in "the G2," an apartment off the Fenway T stop, with five other college students. Courtney drove up on Thursday and hung out with my roommates while I went to rehearsal for a short play.

When I came home around ten we proceeded to get our smoke and drink on, and by midnight she was fucking my roommate Spencer. Should I attempt to join them? I thought drunkenly. Maybe this could be our next sexcapade. I wanted to, but I was scared… What if Spencer didn’t want me? What if Courtney didn’t want me again? What if it got awkward between me and Spencer after Courtney left? What if Courtney thinks I’m gay for her? My fears won out over my drunken desires and I went to bed alone, while Courtney spent the night in Spencer’s room.

The following morning, or rather afternoon, Courtney still hadn’t made her way back to me. Spencer’s door was ajar, so I knocked.

“Come in,” Spencer said, so I did. My best friend was embarrassingly snuggled on my roommate’s chest, and he gave me a look that said, ‘I wish she’d leave.’ I felt embarrassed for her and grateful I’d decided not to try and have a threesome with them. This girl was crazy!

A few weeks later Courtney surprised me by just showing up one Friday night. I came home around ten PM after my first night working as a hostess at Pignoli, a five star restaurant. It had been stressful, so I was decompressing with my roommates in the living room when Courtney just walked into our apartment! I hadn’t invited her, but I was glad to see her. She was impulsive, but fuck it! This was college! I had my whole life to plan things! She stayed the whole weekend, hanging out around Boston or with my roommates while I went to work, and on Sunday I made her a key to the apartment so she could come and go as she pleased. I loved having my best friend with me, but at the same time I hoped she wasn’t wearing on my roommate's nerves. I ignored my fear. As I said before: Fuck it! This was college.

In October Courtney came to the opening night of the play I was in. She stayed for three days, as usual, and came to both performances. I still appreciated her support, but was beginning to see a pattern. Each night we'd get hammered; each morning we'd sleep in. She was my lower companion: my friend who used like I did. Each party we threw, she was there. On her weekends from work, she was there. I recognized that I felt guilty a lot. Why? Maybe I knew that I was wasting a lot of time being high and drunk. That I was not living up to my full potential because I was stalling. And that I was using her friendship as validation for my behavior.

In November, I went home to Connecticut to be her plus-one at her sister's wedding. I'd never met any of her siblings before, but by the middle of the reception I was dancing like crazy and making out with her brother. My turn to act inappropriate in her space! It felt liberating, in an odd way. Now she had to behave, while I got to act the fool. I guess I resented that she repeatedly came into my space and acted out. I didn’t like feeling embarrassed for her.

Back home to Connecticut for Christmas break, one night Courtney and I randomly met five guys at the Athenian diner.

"You're an actress?" one of them asked me.

"She's the best actress!" Courtney replied.

"We're filming a mockumentary of The Blair Witch Project tonight. Wanna be in it?" they asked.

"Let's do it!" Courtney encouraged, so we followed them out into the cold rainy back woods of West Lake Village.

Courtney's compliment had given me confidence and I improvised the hell out of that impromptu film!

"MICHAEL!" I screamed, as if my boyfriend had been taken by an invisible witch. I ran through ankle deep puddles of muddy water, crying out in fear.

"Damn! You are a good actress!" one of our sketchy new friends exclaimed after yelling, “Cut!"

"I told you so!" Courtney boasted. I loved having her as a fan.

Sometimes we'd go months without talking, but we'd pick up right where we left off when we'd reconnect again.

Two months later, on my twenty-first birthday, I tried cocaine for the first time. My boyfriend Jon bought me an eight ball as my birthday present and we’d planned to do it together, periodically sneaking away from the small party to do lines. Like a drug-sniffing dog, Courtney caught wind of what was going on and followed us into our bedroom to ask for some. After a few times Jon said, "We shouldn't give her any more. We won't have enough for us." I listened to his advice and shook my head the next time she beckoned to the bedroom. I felt the seeds of resentment planted as her face fell. I was denying her drugs. She was mad.

I came home to Connecticut that summer and Courtney moved in with Tara Carlo in an apartment in Portland. Until that point she had been living with her mother, who was five years sober, and the two of them were not getting along. Courtney was very hotheaded and wanted her independence, and Tara, as a single mom, needed help paying the rent. I noticed that Courtney was angry a lot now. I felt scared of her, unsure of how she was going to react to any given situation. Sometimes she’d flip out over nothing. We used pot and alcohol to hold our friendship together.

One night my sister Sibby, Courtney, and a few of my sister's delinquent friends were at my father's house shooting a short film I had written. Halfway through, one of Sibby's male compatriots decided to up and leave for no reason other than that he was an asshole, leaving us with no way to finish. The other two shrugged.

"Want to get some E?" one of the hoodlums proposed. Of course we said yes, and my friend, sister, her ill-behaved friends and I rolled into the following day. I never did finish that film.

A few weeks later, Courtney and I sang karaoke at the Eagles Club. Martin Leviwitz, one of the weekend line cooks at the diner and also my weed dealer, bartended at this seedy dive bar in the bad part of town. Promoting his own event, he'd told me and Courtney about it at work and, like the good alcoholics we were, we showed up "to support." Courtney was still underage so she was happy to frequent any establishment that would turn a blind eye to that fact and serve her. We belted out classic rock hits and drank well vodka/tonics. When Rich Norberg and Raskall Johnson invited us out into someone's van to go get high, we did so eagerly. It was claustrophobic in the van, with so many of us packed in tight with no ventilation. When I emerged, I looked in a mirror and saw how bloodshot my eyes were. My blue eyeshadow accentuated the redness, and I silently resolved to only wear black eye makeup when I was high and drunk from then on.

My senior year at Emerson began and I went back to Boston. Courtney decided to move to Montana, because Connecticut was causing her problems, so a month and a half later our friendship was separated by two thousand miles. We did not speak again for a year and a half.

I graduated Emerson and moved home to Connecticut. I waitressed at Trumbull Kitchen, Elbow Room, then ended up back at O'Malley's, my "home." One day, out of the blue, Courtney walked in.

"Oh my God! How the hell are you?" I exclaimed, high on ephedrine and overcome with excitement.

"My fiancée died two weeks ago," she replied.

She had obviously been crying. She looked rough - overtired and dark. She had gained weight - or was it bloat? She had massive circles under her eyes, and a darkness about her skin. My heart sank.

"Oh my God, what!?"

I resolved to be there for my friend. I would lift her out of this depression. Friendship back where we left off, I decided.

"It was a drunk driving accident," she revealed. "He hit a tree coming back from a bar after we'd had a fight."

Tentatively, I wondered where she was in her own relationship with drinking. Had she stopped? I'd be jealous if she got sober before me. I was the pioneer in my relationships, damnit! But I was eager to reclaim our friendship.

"Dude! You've gotta come over! We'll smoke some weed and catch up! I just did a play - we can watch it! It's really good!"

To my dismay, my selfish energy did not instantly lift my friend out of her depression.

A month later she resumed working at O'Malley's. She stayed in her depression unless she was drunk and high; then she'd smile and laugh. I frenetically attempted to make her happy, but never succeeded, which annoyed me. I was being the funniest, most amusing version of myself, and she stubbornly refused to give in. Still, we hung out and got fucked up for the next two years. Occasionally it worked.

I moved to LA in December 2003 and it was the scariest thing I'd ever done. Now it was me who needed the support of a solid friendship. Courtney had moved to New Mexico to be near one of her sisters and was building relationships there. But I was determined to not let the distance interrupt our bond. I kept in touch, calling every few days, and she did the same. Then the trueness of our friendship was tested.

It was about seven months into my new life in LA. I had abruptly moved out of my apartment that I'd shared with Landon and Antonio - my two LA using buddies - thus severing those relationships. I was living on my own for the first time ever. I hadn’t made any real friends except for Charlie, the guy I’d been dating for four months, and he'd just broken up with me. I'd never felt more alone. I needed a friend. I called Courtney.

"He-ello," she hiccuped. She was loaded.

"I really need to talk. Is this a bad time?"

"No-o," she cooed, momentarily genuinely interested, as drunks are.

"Charlie broke up with me. I'm so scared, Courtney. I'm totally alone. I don't have any friends, I'm terrified that I'm gonna run out of money and not be able to support myself. I'm scared I'm not gonna make any friends and I'm never gonna like it here. I don't know what to do!" I cried.

I waited for her reply and heard rustling on the other end of the line, as if she had put the phone down.

"Hello?" I said.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm here," she lied. "Awww, I’m sorry Bren," she began to phone it in, but something - or rather someONE - pulled her focus away again. I heard a man's muffled voice and a rustling revealed the phone was no longer at my friend's loyal ear. She laughed and I felt my face turn red with anger.

"Are you fucking kidding me!?" I yelled, which pulled her attention back to me.

"Bren, we're drunk," she replied. I glanced at the clock. It was four o'clock in New Mexico.

"Perfect. I need you and you can't be there for me because you're drunk," I stated matter-of-factly.

"It's happy hour," she said defensively.

"I was there for you for years after your fiancé died - every time you needed to cry I listened! And now, when I need you, you can't pull yourself away from your drunk boyfriend for five minutes to be there for me!?"

"Sorry," she said in a defensive way that meant, 'You're over-reacting.'

"Whatever. Can you talk to me now or not?" I gave her one last chance. Her distant giggling answered my query, so I hung up. She did not try to call me back, which hurt even more. We did not speak again for five years. I learned that my friendship was not important to her and I admitted to myself that she was only a using friend - someone I liked because she used like I did. We weren't really true friends.

I got a Facebook friend request from my ex BFF in 2009 and I accepted it, but I wasn't ready to let bygones be bygones without letting her know how much she'd hurt me. I'd look at her pictures and occasionally "like" her status updates, but I wouldn't write to her first. That burden was on her, I reasoned. She owed me an apology.

On New Years Eve 2009, I scrolled down the Facebook statuses, and hers caught my eye:

On this New Year’s Eve, surrounded by my family of friends, I am so grateful that the last place I wish to be is at a local bar.

Was she sober? I wondered. That sure sounded like an admission of recovery. I almost wrote to her. I had been toying with the idea of getting sober myself. I would love to know how - and why - she did it. But I did not write.

She finally broke the ice a few weeks later with a short Facebook mail:

Hey you! It's been ages! How are you? I see you're still in Cali :) We should catch up sometime!

I wrote back.

Yes, I'm still in LA, living with my soon to be ex-boyfriend Austin. I'd love to catch up and rebuild our friendship, but I must address the elephant in the room first. You hurt me a lot, Courtney. I don't know if you remember our last conversation (I said giving her an out while also criticizing her) because you were so drunk, but you weren't there for me when I really needed you. I called you crying and you couldn't be there for me like I'd been there for you countless times before because you were too busy yucking it up with some dude. You never even tried to call me back! You owe me a big apology, and if you don't agree then I'm not interested in being your friend again.

There. If she was sober then she should be interested in making this amends to me. We agreed on a phone date. She apologized as sincerely as she was capable of at the time. It's hard to admit wrongdoing when you're still engaged in the very same acts that contributed to your doing wrong in the first place. Turns out she was not sober. Anymore. That post had been written minutes before she said, "I do want a glass of wine," to the host who offered it to her. And so it goes. But I accepted her apology for leaving me in tears on the phone years before. And our friendship resumed. Five years further down the hole of self-destruction.

Austin and I broke up, and Courtney attempted to use this as a chance to make an amends to me and be there for me like I'd wanted her to be before. I didn't need the support in the same way now, but I appreciated her effort so we planned for her to visit me in Cali for a nine day trip.

We talked on the phone a handful of times before her visit and I learned that she had been a stripper in New Mexico and had gone to rehab for cocaine. Now she was living in Montana with her fiancé Saul and, though they smoked pot daily and had wine with dinner, she was totally fine - in no way in the grips of addiction like she used to be with cocaine. I knew better. I really did. I knew that's not how it works; that once an addict always an addict; that it progresses; that 'wine with dinner' is what addicts say when they can't admit they 'drink every day.’ But who was I to judge? I was just as deep in my disease as she was in hers, even if I could see right through her bullshit. I just wanted my using buddy back.

"Well, I'll go to the pot store and get us some good weed, but we won't do coke or anything while you're here," I said.

There was a pause.

“… Well, we can have a little fun," she replied. And we both laughed knowingly.

I pulled into the Southwest arrival area of LAX and spotted my tall, dark best friend immediately. Illegally I put my car in park and jumped out to greet her. She swooped me up in a big bear hug, lifted me off the ground, and swung me around.

"Ahhh!" I screamed, "Put me down!"

"No!" she replied, as she obeyed.

We started the drive back to my apartment. "I've got a coke dealer who can be at my house in ten minutes," I bragged.

“Ye-ah!" Courtney sang. She opened her purse and handed me a hundred dollar bill. "For the coke and weed and whatever else we do this week," she offered.

Not gonna equal half, but whatever! I thought. We called the dealer, an Asian butch lesbian named "Sandy" who I'd never met, before we'd even shut the door to my apartment. Ten minutes later Sandy was there. Five minutes after that Courtney was breaking up the cocaine into fine, thin lines. We did some.

"So, what do you want to do while you're here?" I asked her, as she pulled out a legal pad from my desk.

"Yes, let's plan our itinerary," she instructed like a functional high person does.

She wrote the days on top of separate pages. Monday on one page, Tuesday on the next… We started planning. We did more coke. Why isn’t it working? I wondered. I felt elated one minute, depressed the next. I tried to reason with my emotions. Nothing’s changed, I said in my head. You're up and down for no reason. But no amount of common sense would make the swings stop. So, after a day and a half, I finally stopped trying.

"I don't like this coke," I revealed to Courtney.

"Yeah, it's not great," she agreed. I was so relieved.

"We can flush the rest if you want," she offered, as if to say ‘I don’t care. I’m not addicted anymore,’ and I concurred.

Standing over the toilet we had a short discussion about whether this was the right thing to do or not, before ultimately deciding to go through with it.

When she returned home to Montana we kept our friendship alive with frequent phone conversations and Facebook messages. I was the first to send in my one hundred and fifty dollar deposit for her wedding in Mexico. We remained close despite the physical distance.

The following year it was my turn to visit Courtney in Montana. I planned to come for five days in August, since we both agreed that her nine day stay had been too long. But my life started to change course as my departure date neared. Twelve days before I was set to visit I called my friend.

"I'm in recovery," I revealed.

"O-K," she singsonged. "What does that mean for your trip?"

I sighed. "It just means that I'll have to go to a meeting every day and I won't be using. I don't expect you or Saul to stop using just because I can't, but I will definitely need to go to a meeting every day," I reiterated.

A few days later we spoke again. "OK, I found a meeting every day while you're here. I'll go with you."

"Thank you so much!" I said genuinely. Maybe this trip would turn out alright.

I arrived in Bozeman and my supportive best friend picked me up from the airport and drove me to her quaint, rustic country home. She had put fresh flowers in every room and had made up her guest room with pillows, blankets… and her vibrator for me to borrow. What a thoughtful gal. On the bed was a copy of Daily Reflections.

"This is for you," she said. "My mother gave it to me, but I want you to have it. I'm proud of you."

"Really?" I asked.

I wanted to talk about this. I wanted to hear the true version of her story - why she had relapsed and if she was happy with that decision. I wanted to tell her why I had decided to stop using when I did. But she didn't seem to want to get into it, so I didn't press.

"I'll go to a meeting with you every day," she started.

"You don't have to go with me," I offered.

"I don't think I'll be able to not use unless I go to a meeting," she revealed. It was the most honest thing I'd ever heard her say.

"Well, you don't have to not use," I began.

"I'm not gonna use in front of you while you're in recovery!” she cut me off curtly.

"Ok," I said, "but I don't mind at all if you do." I meant it.

It poured that night. I'd forgotten what a lightning storm looked like, living in LA for so long. We drove to a meeting in a quaint, little church.

"Is there anyone here in their first thirty days of sobriety?" The leader asked. I raised my hand.

"I'm Brenda, and I'm an alcoholic," I said.

“Hi, Brenda," Courtney repeated with the group. She did not identify.

We began reading the Big Book out loud, going around the room, each person reading a page, when I noticed Courtney start to cry. I put my hand on her back and rubbed it. She had told me this may happen, because AA meetings reminded her of her mom. She cried for the rest of the meeting, pulling it together enough to read her page.

After the meeting I said, "were you thinking about your mom?”

"Yes," she replied, "but that's not why I was crying."

I knew that, but I asked anyway. "Oh? Why were you crying, then?"

"Do you know what it's like to be a using addict sitting in an AA meeting?" she asked condescendingly. I did not.

The following day we had a spat. We were out shopping and she had thrown a keychain on a pair of jean shorts that I was about to buy.

"You can buy this for me. For your half of the tobacco."

The day before we had stopped at a tobacco shop and had decided to buy a pouch to "have something to smoke." She had paid for it. I had thought, Good. We can start to chip away at the hundreds of dollars you owe me for your last few days in LA. The year before Courtney had blown all of her money in the first half of her trip to LA, so I had bought her dinners and drinks and weed for her last weekend. She'd said she'd send me a check when she got home, but of course didn't, and I never brought it up. But now that I was on her turf I thought she could start to even out that debt. To bring up two dollars and fifty cents was so petty I couldn't stand it. But as a newly sober person I knew I had to begin from a calm place.

I bought the keychain and when we got back to her place I said, "can we talk?" We laid down on the guest room bed. "You know, you never paid me back for all the dinners and drinks and weed I floated for you your last few days in LA. So, for you to ask me to buy you a keychain to cover my half of the tobacco… I feel that's really cheap."

She attempted to handle herself soberly in her reply. "Ok... You're right. I forgot about the money I owed you."

I smiled. I knew that wasn’t true, but maybe this would be a productive fight, with a resolution.

"Ok..." I was still scared to ask directly for what I was owed, but I knew I had to. "So, do you want to pay me?" She paused and thought and my heart skipped a beat out of fear of this confrontation.

"I can't pay you right now, but I'll send you a check next week," she said sincerely.

I smiled bigger. "Ok."

"Now can I be honest with you?" she asked conditionally. I nodded. "I feel like you're judging me."

"I'm not,” I said. I meant it.

"I feel like you're looking down on me for still using."

"I think you only feel that way because this is all new," I said after a moment of contemplation. "We've never hung out together and not used." She looked like I'd slapped her. It was apparently the first time that had dawned on her, and the hefty weight of the truth stung.

That night I slept well for the first time in days and the next day I woke up at one fifty in the afternoon. I began my day with a reading out of the Daily Reflections that my friend had given me, a prayer and a five minute meditation. Then I made my way downstairs. Courtney was mad.

"What's wrong?" I asked her, as she angrily applied her eye makeup.

"Do you know what time it is?" she spat.

"So? I'm on vacation."

"The whole day is gone!" she yelled.

Then why are you putting on makeup? I thought to myself, but I yelled back, "No it's not!" She remained silent. "What did you want to do that we can't do now?" I tried to reason. She had trouble finding a reply.

"Just - if we wanted to go hiking or drive up the mountain - it'll be dark now."

"We already went hiking and drove up the mountain," I said. But I saw what was really going on. She was coming down and needed a fix. I'd arrived Wednesday, so she'd last used Tuesday night. Yup. Annoyed mood manufactured by marijuana withdrawal right on schedule.

"Just forget it," she brushed me away.

I got ready around her. Brushed my teeth, got dressed in silence. Finally I spoke, "do you wanna eat?"

"Fine," she said, and we set off to the local co op. We ate in virtual silence, though I tried to remain in good spirits. Then we rode bikes to the AA meeting. Courtney’s friend stopped by with her newborn briefly that evening and when they left Courtney asked, "Could you tell she was high?"

"No," I answered truthfully.

"I could…” she replied. She wanted to smoke so bad.

I awoke bright and early the next morning, determined to repair our damaged friendship with the positive energy of a new day. But after our 8:30 AM AA meeting it became clear that Courtney was not interested in the same. I retreated to my room and called the airline.

"Are there any flights to LA today? How much would it cost to change my ticket?" I asked the person on the other end. I was covering my ass, because I feared I would not make it these final three days. Anything would become an excuse for Courtney to explode. The friendly girl on the other end told me it'd be fifty dollars to change my flight, and that three flights went to LAX that day. I thanked her and hung up as Courtney gruffly entered the guest room.

"Do you want to go kayaking?" she asked me, conditionally.

"Oh, no, I got seasick the one time I went kayaking," I replied.

“WELL, I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL TO DO WITH YOU, THEN!" she unleashed the beast.

"What do you mean, do with me?" I laughed out of discomfort and fear.

"You don't want to do anything!" she continued to yell.

"I just want to visit! You don't have to entertain me every second!" I shot back.

She looked away, changing course. "What about all the food I bought for your trip?" Boy, she was on a mission to stay angry. "You say I owe you money, but I spent three hundred dollars at the grocery store so I could cook for you while you're here!"

"I didn't ask you to do that," I tried to remain calm.


"DON'T MAKE THAT YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM!" I matched her. She went back to her original point of contention.

"You're in the country, you don't want to hike, you don't want to kayak!"

"Jesus Christ, Courtney, these are all things you want to do! This is my vacation and it's all about you!"

"IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU!" she shouted, as if she'd been wanting to say that forever. She started to pace like she was looking for something to throw and I got scared. "Pack your shit, and I'll get Saul to take you to the airport."

"Fine," I said, relieved. I couldn't wait to go home. She stormed down the stairs and I packed my stuff. Ten minutes later I was in the car with Saul, her quiet fiancé, the Beta to her Alpha, on the way to the Bozeman airport. Erstwhile, I imagined, Courtney was smoking a joint and bitching while laughing to her friend with the kid.

Nine months later I got an email from her.

I want you to know I'm no longer mad at you. I'm still angry, but I'm dealing with my anger and I wanted you to know I'm no longer angry at you. I have given up substances to deal with my anger issues. This is not the result of any step (she wrote, belittling my 12 step process) but because I genuinely want to get rid of my anger issues.

I was with a fellow AA-er when I received this email.

"Just tell her good luck," she instructed me.

So I did. I have not spoken to her since.

But I have Facebook spied, and I caught a window once where she'd "unblocked" me (likely to spy on me as well), and I saw a picture of her holding a beer, with a sad smile on her face.


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