A few years ago, a long and treasured friendship was lost.
Not to death. Not then, at least.
It was snatched away in a stealthy way that began with a car accident and a broken leg. The enemy, who stole from me a dear friend, looked remarkably innocent.
Small, round, white. A pill that resembled aspirin but was embedded with an addiction that would pull the rug out from under all of us.
Quite simply, it took years for me to accept that there was any addiction and most probably, I never would have if my friend had not, with shame covering the face I had loved for so long, admitted it to me.
Then, it took another three or four years for me to walk away. It took many consoling hugs from Tink and repeatedly hearing him say, “I know you’re trying to help but you’re enabling.”
Finally. Finally. Finally. I took a deep breath and crawled away. I did not walk away, for I had not the strength to stand. Even now, as I write these words, my heart is painfully sorrowed and tears fill my eyes.
The last call — the one I dreaded — finally came. I don’t know which hurts worse: trying to convince myself I did what was right or wondering if I could have changed the story’s ending if I had stayed.
Mama always said, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh.”
To me, He also gave an introduction to a recovering addict.
He was a man who had spiraled through over 25 years of addiction and used every drug possible. At times, he shot himself up with hopes of dying. In the years that dripped by, he lost everything — his job, his dignity and every member of his family.
“I stole whatever it took to keep me goin,’” he says now. Later, I would learn he had stolen from me — we were strangers then so it mattered not to him — when he came to look me in the eye and apologize.
The confession solved a longstanding mystery then called on me to do what the Good Book says — forgive those who have wronged you.
The Lord saved him and, there, in the little church, we heard his testimony of the terrible life he lived. Then, weeks later, we watched from the bank of a beautiful river as he was baptized. There was no doubt, to all who gathered, that he came up out of the water a new creature in Christ.
Among the many lessons I’ve learned is to be careful to vouch for someone you don’t know well. But, against earthly wisdom and despite my past failures, I did that. He was due in court on charges that were made two years before he had changed his ways.
“I’ve done a lot of bad things but I didn’t do that,” he said to us. “My lawyer said there’s no doubt that I’m going to jail, with my record and all.”
The judge in the case is a casual friend who I know to be a good, Christian man. I wrote a letter and told him about the baptizing and all he was doing to stay clean. “I don’t know him well,” I admitted, “but if he goes to jail, his recovery will be jeopardized.”
A few weeks later, I received an excited phone call. “The judge let me go!” he squealed into the phone. “Because of your letter. He said, ‘Don’t let her down. If you come back, this court will have no mercy.’”
It’s been several years now and he has stayed sober and close to the Lord. He fights valiantly.
We got an invitation to celebrate his years of sobriety. “If Ronda hadn’t stood up for me,” he said to Tink, “I don’t know what would’a happened.”
Win some, lose some.
May this one victory never collapse into defeat.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column publishes weekly.