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February 11, 2014 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I just found out a good friend of mine from high school (whom I lost contact with in college) is a recovering heroin addict. Should I try to contact her? I found out in a very indirect way—details inside.

I found out in a very odd way, and I'm going to use generalities to keep her from being too easily googled. I was reading some articles online from "Metro Area Newspaper", the same metro area where we went to high school, and where I now live. In the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, they ran a piece written by a guy who lives in "Nearby Metro Area Suburb" and became addicted to heroin. The piece was about how even a white middle class kid in a nice suburb can become addicted to heroin and very nearly die.

She wrote a comment, under her real name, with some details that make it VERY clear to me that she is the same person I knew with that name in high school. She talked about knowing the author when they were both addicts, and she was happy to hear he is sober. She told her very similar story about becoming addicted, nearly dying, and sobering up. Both the author and my friend mentioned the importance of cutting ties with your previous life and all the things that led, and kept you in addiction.

I've only talked to her once since high school, about 3 years ago. She contacted me through facebook. We met up for a beer. I had recently moved back to the area, and she was getting ready to move out of the area to be with her husband in West Coast City. We talked, catched up, she was nearly ready to graduate from law school. She had a job. She seemed like herself, just like I remembered from high school. She was the president of the debate team, she had a 4.0GPA, she was very driven. We were both pretty straight laced kids in high school, not even drinking/pot.

Piecing together details from that newsarticle comment, at that meeting at a pub, she must have been very recently sober, (I can't remember if she actually drank a beer or not), and was planning on moving in part, to get away from the social circle that led/kept her using.

So, since that meeting she nuked her Facebook account. I have a few round-about ways I could attempt to contact her. I guess I'm asking the question of if this is a good idea or not, and whether or not I'm just indulging a gawkery-impolite impulse. If anyone has some experience from other side of this situation I'd like to hear your thoughts.
posted by fontophilic to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I guess I'm asking the question of if this is a good idea or not, and whether or not I'm just indulging a gawkery-impolite impulse.

You haven't at any point said WHY this makes you want to contact her. To offer support? To satisfy your intrigue about drug addiction? That's the key as to whether it is a good idea. If you don't want to contact her for a significant reason other than 'you found out she's an ex-addict' then I think move on is the best approach.
posted by Brockles at 8:50 AM on February 11, 2014 [20 favorites]

Get in touch with her only if you miss her because you two were good friends. If your only reason to contact her would be to watch the recovering addict freak show, then no, because that would be shitty of you. I mean, that's not why you want to get in touch with her, right?

She reached out to you a few years ago. I think it'd be great if you wanted to get back in touch with an old friend. But make sure it's for that. If the only reason you want to talk to her again is because she's gone and got all "interesting" now, then move along.
posted by phunniemee at 8:51 AM on February 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm unclear on why you want to contact her?

To tell her you sleuthed out that she wrote an internet comment about using heroin? To congratulate her on her sobriety?

You've gone years without seeing her or speaking to her, before you knew she was a recovering addict. She clearly doesn't want to make the social networking rounds, which implies that she probably doesn't want people coming out of the woodwork trying to "get in touch".

I think if you genuinely miss being close friends, reach out, invite her to lunch, and be friends in person. Just because you like her and want to be friends. Use her facebook nuke as an excuse, if you want. "I noticed you got rid of your Facebook account, which made me sad because I really want to stay in touch. Want to get coffee on Thursday?"

If she lives too far away for that, well, she made her choice in nuking her facebook. She clearly doesn't want tenuous internet friends from her past. You have to respect that choice.
posted by Sara C. at 8:53 AM on February 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Why would she want to hear from you now? If you've lost touch with her, let her live her life in recovery.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:55 AM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think it is a particularly bad idea, but I don't think it is a good idea either. The question I would ask myself is, what do I wish to gain from this contact?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:57 AM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes if you want to strike up your friendship again.

No if you are indulging your curiosity about her battle with addiction. Because, you know, friends have to be trustworthy.
posted by bearwife at 8:58 AM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

The fact that you are even asking the question, to me, makes me question your motives. If this was a dear friend with whom you lost contact and wanted to offer your support/friendship, there'd be no need to ask this. The last thing a recovering addict wants is more attention focused on his/her addiction.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 9:01 AM on February 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Maybe you're just excited because you read some stuff from a stranger on the internet and suddenly thought "wow I know that person!"

Every once in a while I wonder if I know some people here on the green IRL. But it would seem inappropriate to break that wall... just to say what... hey I know you! I figured it out! Which doesn't help anyone except to congratulate my cleverness.

The internet isn't anonymous but like 'overheard' information it assumes a certain amount of "ooops I didn't see that!" commonly agreed-upon ignorance.

If you want to see that she's ok, it would be hard to bring up without coughing up the entire situation. If you'd heard from a friend you could say "jane told me about X and I am concerned, can I help?" But you found out online. You don't even know it's her. You're just guessing.

If you miss her then you can strike up a relationship in that vein but otherwise leave it to what it is, a casual facebook friendship. If your relationship was strong, the next time you see her you can bring up PSH's death and see where she goes with it. I guess it just depends on how good a friend you were as to how direct you can be.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:04 AM on February 11, 2014

As I commented recently on the Blue, don't make her a character in your story. If you haven't had any contact with her in three years, it sounds a lot like you both moved on, and you're now intrigued at the idea of having an Addict Friend. That is not a recipe for friendship.
posted by Etrigan at 9:08 AM on February 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

My personal rule is that if I hadn't already had it in mind to get in touch BEFORE I'd seen the weird news, then my impulse to reach out is probably for the wrong reasons and I just shouldn't.
posted by rtha at 9:09 AM on February 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

To clarify, this was not posted under a pseudonym. She used her full legal name in the posting. Her first name is very common her last name is maybe medium common. I meant that her name plus some details of her family life mentioned in the comment make me conclude this is definitely her. I'm not doing some internet ninja sleuthing to figure out this was posted by her. I could do some minor sleuthing to find a way to contact her. Maybe looking on an old hard drive that has an archive of my old email account from high school to possibly find her old email address. I know the house her parent lived in while she was in high school, and that parent might still live there. Our 10 year reunion is this year. Etc.

I don't know exactly what I would say to her. My first impulse was to say "HOLY SHIT ARE YOU OK? YOU ALMOST DIED?!" Which was almost exactly what I immediately tried to message her on Facebook until I realized her account was inactive.

Hitting this roadblock in contacting her made me pause about the wisdom of doing so. And honestly, I'm kinda awkward about keeping friends from my past, these circumstances notwithstanding. Maybe I'm just looking for an excuse to do the easy thing, which is to sit here and not contact her, by saying it's the proper thing to do.

I guess I've never known someone who was "out" about this, and if being "out" means you're ok with people like me contacting her. We were very close for the last two years of high school, we both went to college out of state and are both not really phone people. And it just kind of fell out of touch. (see above about me being crappy at keeping in touch.) Contacting her as a "hey lets get lunch" type deal won't work. She's on the west coast, I'm on the east.

Would I have contacted her before this? Probably if I had some reason, like a trip to the west coast, if I knew she was in town. Again, I am bad at long-distance friends, basically. I'm realizing I should have framed my question more around this issue than the "holy shit!" shock I was feeling this morning.
posted by fontophilic at 10:07 AM on February 11, 2014

Her being a recovering addict doesn't make her a different or more exciting person than she used to be. Maybe you have pure motives but this definitely seems like a looky-loo type situation.
posted by something something at 10:07 AM on February 11, 2014 [11 favorites]

Would I have contacted her before this? Probably if I had some reason, like a trip to the west coast, if I knew she was in town.

That's a fine impulse. The next time she pops into your head and you haven't been thinking about heroin or addiction or Philip Seymour Hoffman, drop her a line. But doing it now, because of this, would be kinda icky.
posted by Etrigan at 10:12 AM on February 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

Maybe I'm just looking for an excuse to do the easy thing, which is to sit here and not contact her, by saying it's the proper thing to do.

Sometimes the easy thing is also the right thing. If the "hard thing" in this scenario is coming up with something else to say besides "Wow you almost died!" and a reason for actually being in closer contact beyond "I've never known an addict", then...just take the easy way.
posted by rtha at 10:13 AM on February 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

My first impulse was to say "HOLY SHIT ARE YOU OK? YOU ALMOST DIED?!" Which was almost exactly what I immediately tried to message her on Facebook until I realized her account was inactive.

this is the wrong impulse. this is new to you but not new to her. it seems like you just want her to go over all the gory details of how she went from straight laced to heroin addict to sober. she's not your lifetime movie.

if you hadn't read this, and you were visiting her city, and learned her closed her facebook account, would you go sleuthing for her info to track her down to have lunch? my guess is probably not - you'd see the deactivated account and shrug and make other plans. if this is about how you aren't good with long distance friends, reach out to someone else (who hasn't gone to lengths to not be found) just to say hi.
posted by nadawi at 11:01 AM on February 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

From reading your update, yeah, please, seriously, leave her alone.
posted by Sara C. at 12:04 PM on February 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

I disagree with the trend here. I think it would be nice to take a screen shot of the comment you saw and just send her a quick note saying "Hey, I came across this and just wanted to say, if it's you, I'm really happy for your sobriety and I hope life is going well!" Sort of like a short "thinking of you" but don't word it in a way that makes a response seem required.

It may be nice for her to know she hasn't completely alienated the good people from her past and if it actually isn't her, you can share a surprise at the mistaken identity.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:14 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm still missing the reason WHY you want to get in touch. It seems to me the reason is "OMG! I learned something about you!" That's not a reason. Well, it's a wrong reason.

Don't do it.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:24 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hearing through the grapevine that someone is a recovering addict is not in itself a reason to contact them. I doubt she wants her drug addiction to make her the focus of attention for people she's otherwise not close to who want to talk to her just because they found out that she's kicking heroin. Yes, she published her story publicly -- but that doesn't mean she wants people to come out of the woodwork and start sniffing around her over it, at least not without good reason (like something connected with helping others kick their addictions, for instance).

I can't think of a good reason on your end. You just sound as though you're (naturally) intrigued. That doesn't give you a right to bother her about it, though. You'll just have to let your curiosity go unsatisfied.
posted by Scientist at 3:38 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think this would be a very weird reason to contact someone, and I think in all likelihood, you do not plan on sticking around to help her through her recovery. In fact, I'd recommend you don't make this your problem, but it really sounds like you are prying and using her for entertainment -- i.e. "What was being a heroin addict like? That's crazy!" rather than genuine concern for her and interest in rekindling your friendship. So, no, do not contact her. This is weird and inappropriate and rude. Get a hobby instead.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:12 PM on February 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

First, I would sit on this for a couple weeks. You certainly don't need to contact her right away. Probably the impulse will pass. She's not an active friend and you don't need to say anything.

However, if you still wanted to get in touch after getting over the surprise, you could drop her a note and say you saw her story, you're sorry she went through it, but glad to hear she's doing OK now, all your best. A little odd but not bad as long as you mean it and aren't using it as a pretext to dig for lurid details.
posted by mattu at 7:25 PM on February 11, 2014

I disagree with the majority as well. It's always nice to hear a kind word from an old friend. If you have an email address, drop her a line and say something low key and friendly. Maybe, "Hey, long time no talk. Saw the comment on ---. If that was you, I just wanted to say I was very impressed by the challenges you've overcome. Best wishes, and let me know if you're ever in my area."
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 3:11 AM on February 12, 2014

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