Happy Bubbles! My Best Friend - a Story of Loyalty, Adventures and Hard Lessons
Hi Steemians, @mazzle here.
This is not an easy story to tell. It's a story that is deeply personal and one that I think about every day.
I grew up in a small country town in South Australia. My town only had a population of a few hundred people which meant that every single person in the town knew each other, and we had a really strong community to socialise with.
Our local primary school only had a tiny number of students and there was only one kindergarten. This meant that the friends you made at kindergarten were probably going to be your friends at primary school and for life.
I had a very close group of friends by the time I reached primary school, and my best friend was Craig.
Craig and I were pretty different people. He was tall, I am short, he was amazing at sports and working with computers, I wasn't good at either of those things. Craig was a hit with the ladies, I just attracted the psychos that wanted to murder me while I slept.
I spent much of my youth looking up to Craig. He taught me a lot while we grew up together. He taught me about computers, and helped me build my first gaming PC. He taught me how to service my car and how to repair my mountain bike after I did my best to destroy both of them. At a time when I barely saw my parents, Craig was the best person I had in my life. My parents were business owners which often meant that I had to fend for myself. My parents simply had no time to rest, let alone spend time with their kids.
Being country town kids meant that we created our own fun, and always got up to some kind of mischief. We used to walk to school together. And on the way home, being kids and starving hungry all the time, we often ran into the local fruit orchards and stole as much fruit as we could carry. It wasn't rare to have the orchard manager running out of his house, shot gun firing into the air, in a terrible attempt to scare us off.
We used to love shooting my air rifles out the back of the house or having bonfires to roast marshmallows on. One time, we got over excited and built our fire so big that we lost control over it. The fire raged through the back yard and very nearly reached the house. We only managed to get it under control after we had every hose running and beat the fire back with wet blankets with the help of Craig's siblings. I'm amazed Craig's parents never noticed how much burnt ground was around their house...
Craig and I even lived together while we were kids for a few months after his parents were in a very bad car accident and had to stay in hospital for quite a long time. We were more like brothers than best friends after this. If I ever got into trouble at school, Craig was there to help me out. If he ever got in trouble, I was there to help him. We knew that we could rely on each other for whatever we needed.
Craig's family life was a little troubled at times, so on some night's he'd knock on my bedroom window and we'd hangout long after everyone else was asleep. We'd normally raid our parents liquor cabinets and have a few sneaky shots of whiskey or whatever we could steal and chat about everything going on in our lives. Nights in the country are incredible, the streets are dead silent and the darkness is almost complete.
As we got older, we got up to more and more mischief. In time, our mischief developed into something fringing on criminal. We lived in an area where growing marijuana was very common. And being as familiar with the landscape as we were, we knew where many of these plantations were located. We'd experimented with smoking weed long before this time. We simply didn't have the money to pay for it. But, knowing where the plantations were meant that we didn't need to pay for it. We simply waited until the right time of day, walked in, and took whatever we could carry.
We used to hang out at an abandoned house with a few other mates. We set the house up with lounges, coffee tables, a battery powered sound system and anything else that we could find. This house became known as the local party house. It wasn't uncommon to have entire plants hanging from the roof, drying out until we could strip the buds off the plants and pack the dried leaves into separate bags for when we ran out of bud. In this house, we had wild parties, we made new friends, we spent time with various ladies and it was our hiding spot when we had to play cat and mouse with the local policeman.
Craig and the other guys smoked weed 24/7. By this time we were in our late teens and I was working for myself, and trying to stay off the dope. Dope affected me differently to the other guys. It made me incredibly paranoid so I didn't enjoy it as much as they did. So while they continued to smoke heavily as time went on, I stopped completely and focused on my work and other hobbies. This is where things started to change.
Most people say that weed is harmless, well I think differently. In the quantities that we smoked it at, it is definitely damaging. The guys were smoking so much and so frequently that they became dependant on weed. They didn't feel right if they weren't stoned. And they didn't stop at weed. Before long they were trying LSD, and from there they moved on to ecstasy. Thankfully they didn't progress much beyond this, but it was for a terrible reason that they stopped.
You see, Craig's family history is riddled with mental health issues. Every single member of his family has been diagnosed with a mental illness. And heavy weed smoking, combined with LSD and other drugs, really amplified the severity of his mental illness. Craig was sent a psych ward for the first time when he was 20. He'd had a severe breakdown and had attacked his family. From that moment, every single one of his friends walked away and never saw him again. The positive for them was that this event scared them straight. Most of them stopped using drugs so heavily. But they also stopped spending time with my friend. I refused to leave my friend alone in this place and visited him as often as I could. After a while I was one of the only people he'd let visit. He was in and out of these psych wards for years after this. And after he got out, he lived in government housing which came with a nurse who would visit daily to deliver his medication.
Craig received an amazing range of treatments while in these mental health institutions. Some of it good, and a lot of it very damaging. The most brutal form of treatment was electric shock therapy. This is a form of treatment where an electric pulse is sent directly to the brain in an attempt to change the brains chemistry. It is a treatment that was developed around the time that people thought being a homosexual was an illness and, for some reason, is still thought to be a valid form of treatment today.
Electric shock therapy did more damage my best friend than the drugs he took as a teenager. Before the treatment we would sit and chat for hours. After the treatment, Craig could barely speak a full sentence. And if he did, it took him 5 minutes to get it out.
I miss my friend. I am literally crying as I write this. In the years that followed my life got better and better. But all Craig did was sit in his small home, and tried to get his health right. I completed a degree at university, met my wife, moved around the country and had amazing experiences. And sadly I wasn't able to see him nearly as often as I wanted to.
Craig eventually shut everyone out of his life. He refused to let his family visit, he saw no-one. And one day, a couple of years ago now. I received a call from Craig's mother: Craig had been found dead in his house. No-one knows how he died. Craig died alone and with no-one there to tell him that everything would be OK. That he was OK. I cannot tell you how guilty I feel for not being there for him.
Craig's passing changed the course of my life. I realised how pointless my work was the day that I received that terrible call. I was incredibly good at what I did for work and had spent the better part of a decade building my career and chasing the almighty dollar. It took this terrible event to realise that my work meant nothing. My work resulted in no positive outcome for anyone, it was literally pointless. And yet I was paid an absurd amount of money to do it. I've since changed careers to something more meaningful and much more rewarding. And while I earn substantially less than what I did previously, I am many times happier doing what I do now.
I also realised how incredibly important my family and friends really are. I'm someone that had never shown emotion, I had never cried in front of another human being. My wife thought I was a robot. But all of that changed the day that I received that call.
Everything I do now is with one, very simple, idea in mind. I want to be with my family as much as possible and I want them to know that I care deeply for them. I also want my life to mean something. My work has to make this world a better place and it has to make me happy.
And this should be a lesson for everyone. If you don't see your family often. Change that. Are you having arguments with them? Fix it. You only have one family and one life to live. Life is so much better with family and friends. Treasure them, make time for them. Simply be with them. I regret not spending more time with Craig while I was caught up living life in the fast lane. I regret not spending more time with my other family members who passed away around this time as well.
And last of all, your work also needs to mean something. It has to make you happy. And ideally, your work needs to have a positive impact. Don't let your employer make you do things that are against your morals. My employer did, and that was one reason why I no longer work for them. Doing things that you don't agree with is soul destroying. Your work has to make you happy.
No one has ever said on their deathbed that they wished they spent more time at work. But many have said they wished they spent more time with their family.
That was a touching peace to read. Thank you deeply for sharing it.
I can support totally what you say about friends, family and life. To let your morals be corrupted, is mostly destroying what's good inside of people. The guilt trip can grow so large that ignorance is a must to many people who have in the back of their minds that it is wrong to act against their ethics.
What are you working right now? And what did you do before, if I may ask.
Have a wonderful day.
Thanks for your reply @erh.germany. You're quite right that people will choose to remain ignorant in order to ignore the poor moral choices they are making.
I'm a business owner now in the fitness industry. I help people from all ages and walks of life to improve their health and their enjoyment of life. My oldest client is 84 and my youngest is 15. Some come to me with mental health issues in addition to physical issues. It's a truly rewarding industry to be in.
Previously I worked as a scientist in the mining sector. I was asked to manipulate data on a regular basis to make it appear that the companies were operating in accordance with legislation.
I see also shimmering through buddhist teachings, either from you catching what they say or by nature :-)
Happy to hear that you do quite well as it sounds. Helping people to gain health mentally or physically and really loving what you do, is rare. I myself am freelancing and work for different social institutions on an hourly basis. Also guiding private clients but am not in the scene where people can afford private consulting. So it is only once in a while. Acting against ethics - that is a big one.
I am giving you a great chapeaux! that you quit your former job in order to become clear and healthy within your "soul" and heart. Manipulating data is widely done in all fields, even in the social branch. Sometimes I just feel complexity fatigue from the marriage of bureaucracy and technocracy and long for a more simple life.
Good to read of you as you can be a role model and example that people do change their lives.
Thank you. Yes, sadly manipulating data is common. It’s sad to hear it is done in the social branch. That is one field that really should be honest. I cannot stand bureaucracy any longer and doubt I will ever be an employee in government or the private sector ever again.
We can only do our best to set a good example for others. I am proud to do my bit. :)
... I want to clarify that a bit. Because from what I've heard and know this only happens within the social realm (not talking about governmental agencies only others) when the social worker is exhausted and must fulfill the given requirements BY government or budget givers. The time it takes to do the data work is ridiculously risen and time consuming and people are cracking their heads about it as everything has to be documented and trust is not given in advance any more.
Yes - let us do our bit :))
P.S. you got yourself a follower. Sometimes one should just look into "postpromotion" - there I found you.
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Congrats on winning the happy bubbles competition. Thank you for sharing this story. Look at the share of this story as the end to this chapter. Try to find some closure. Make peace, you are not fair to yourself, you were the only friend that he still had and you were not the cause of his mental illness. If necessary print this post or write Craig a last letter, dig a hole and put it under the ground. Forever you can be thankful that it was a turning point in your life 2 times, first with his acting out episode that saved you from the drug use and the second time on hearing the bad news of his death. I don't know if you are a believing person but I am and that is exactly how God works. He takes the hard things in your life and makes something new. Thank you for the life lessons that you give at the end, it is for sure a reminder for each person to cherish what we have, while we still have it.
Thanks for your lovely advice @hope777. I think you’re right that I never really had real closure for Craig’s passing. I thought speaking at his funeral would be a form of closure, and while it helped, the guilt never really went away. I’ll do something like what you have suggested.
Thx for replying @mazzle. Really hope that you will do and find peace.
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