I was a new transfer student sophomore year when our paths first crossed. She was sunny and smiley and hilarious. She had a way with words and a charming Louisiana timbre. She had a huge, yellow plush duck named Harold. We hit it off immediately. She wrote a column for our university newspaper and I clipped her pieces because I knew she would be famous one day and I wanted proof that I was her first true fan. (I still have them, even after two Marie Kondo purges several years ago.) I had heard some quiet murmurs from mutual friends about something bad that had happened to her the year before, but whether out of selfish naivety or fear of invading her privacy, I did not ask her about it and so did not know until well into our friendship that, just months before we met, she was physically and mentally assaulted in her dorm room by girls who she thought she knew and her life course was forever changed.

We have been good friends, the best of friends, for almost 20 years. We have husbands and families and very different lives in different states and hardly ever actually get to see each other. But in the last calendar year, we have each hopped on planes and come to each other’s rescue in times of need. Exactly two years ago today, I learned that she was an alcoholic, and today she is two years sober.

I am not very good with confrontation. Healthy disagreement is a life skill that I simply did not learn. Sometimes I blame our physical separation on my de facto status as one of her long-time enablers, but the truth is that I had worried for awhile, but didn’t know what to say. She was a wonderful and fully functioning mom and writer. Who am I to judge? I could write a decently long list of legitimate reasons why she would want to relax with wine every evening. But still, when she asked me outright, “Do you think I am an alcoholic?” I hemmed and hawed. I have a lot of guilt about that but thankfully she has a tribe of best friends and someone else stepped up and did the hard work of intervening when all I could do was try to calm that boat she was rocking. I will forever respect and be grateful for the friend who probably saved Harmony’s life.

I have been immensely proud and inspired as Harmony owned her addiction and not only quit, cold turkey, on her own, but for two full years has put in the painstaking and gut-wrenching work to figure out how she got to where she was and what to do now. Attempting to make sense of a young adult trauma and the havoc that it wreaked on the foundations of her personhood. And all this, even as some of us in her innermost circles could not immediately attest to the severity of her problem. THAT is strength and courage and determination.

And amidst this personal cataclysm she has continued to be my rock — whether staging a video chat intervention about getting my depression appropriately treated or physically dragging my old, broken TV to the curb during her recent visit because I couldn’t decide what to do with it in my cancer-diagnosis fog.

True story.

Harmony, I hope I can be half as good a friend to you as you have been to me. I hope you know how amazing you are. I hope I can do you the credit of learning from my mistakes and figuring out how to communicate with those I love about things that are important, even when it’s HARD. I can’t wait to read your best seller. You are freaking rocking sobriety and I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!

One of our many farewells, circa 2000. I’m not sure who to credit for this panoramic awesomeness, but I’m glad he/she took these pics and I’m glad I scrapbooked them!

Read her story in her own words on her blog modernmommymadness.com (not an ad, just a genuine recommendation).

This was written and shared with her knowledge and permission.

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