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When I was fifteen, I met a wonderful, intense, intelligent. creative, amazing, intoxicating group of boys who made me feel so alive. They swore and smoked cigarettes and drank beer and smoked pot out of a Coke can bowl. They were nothing like me. I was a quiet, shy girl who’d never sworn or done anything else good girls aren’t supposed to.

I spent the next three years with them, going on adventures always exciting and sometimes terrifying. They introduced me to William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac and E.E. Cummings. To grunge and industrial and Irvine Welsh and surrealist art. We were so intensely alive. In love. All of us.

They also did a lot of drugs during these years. I did not. I started to swear, I’ll admit, but I wasn’t into drugs. I was the permanent designated driver for three years straight. I was into political activism and applying to college and various other positive activities they thought were a waste of time. They started out with just pot and beer. They made fun of stoners and burnouts. Kids who did heroin and crack and too much acid. But by the end of high school, they were the kids doing crack and meth and tripping on shrooms.

One didn’t graduate. Another dropped out of college the third day. Another dropped out a year or two later. They all descended into more and more drugs and alcoholism. I would see the poetry and genius in them every now and then but it became less and less common. I knew they were in there somewhere. Somewhere. Deep inside.

I wanted to help them. Wanted to save them. I tried. They knew they needed to change and they would try every now and then to quit. They would try giving up beer and just drinking liquor. Giving up pot and just drinking. Giving up alcohol and just smoking pot. Giving up cocaine and just taking pills. It never worked.

I felt bad for them. I knew there was a sadness in them so deep and so wide. They were trying to fill it with drugs. I wanted to save them from that darkness. They were capable of so much. I loved them so much. But it wasn’t enough.

I realized one day that they loved drugs more than they loved me. More than they loved each other. Maybe it was the night they let one of their friends die from an overdose rather than dump him at the ER because they were afraid of getting caught and I was the only one who seemed to care. Maybe it was no special day in particular. I looked at them and knew. Knew they loved drugs more and it was time to let them go. As much as I loved them, they didn’t really love me anymore. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved and all that. It was time to let go.

People criticized me for it. Said I should have helped them more. How could I abandon my poor lost friends like that. And I’ll admit it made me sad at the time. But I never regretted doing it. Never regretted saving myself. Never doubted the fact that they would never change.

A time like this comes to all the relationships we end in life. The day you figure out the person you love, loves something or someone else more than they love you and that’s not all right. You stop asking, do they love me or not? They do, but not enough. They do not love you more than their dysfunction, the demons they won’t fight.

When you let them go and with them your guilt, you are light. You are free. You have fought the good fight and given them your best. And now you are free. For better things.