The relationship between old friends is a bit like refusing to turn your back on that favourite jumper held together not by threads but by bits of dried Weetabix, or industrial concrete as I like to call it, and splodges of pasta sauce; its sentimental value a protective façade against the years of wear and tear that should have justified regulation from wardrobe to charity box.
It’s not an easy thing to predict which people will remain a life-time staple in the interminable buffet of potential friendships. Each major life transition – from primary to secondary school, and then onto college and university – brings new rounds of relegation. You might still like each-others posts on Instagram, but the once strong connection is now forgotten like the lipstick-turned-cactus impaled by years of capsized tobacco and Argos pens shipwrecked in the bottom of your faux-leather bag. The ones that have stuck have done so through a mess of histrionic Facebook posts, fatuous bickering, dodgy landlords and the now six-hour-train separation. And yet, the intermittent texts suffice because the strong emotional connection forged long before adulting took precedence transcends the lack of regular communication.
The value of friendship is on my mind as of late. My teens and early twenties were rough – my friends found themselves unexpectantly having to support a drug addict, hooked on a cocktail of Class A-drugs, through rehab, relapse, and recovery.
We all know what addiction looks like because it permeates every corner of society intruding on most of our lives. Many of us watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, a polemic on the dangers of social media and its malign influence on our relationships not just with friends and family, but the world: through our fingertips, we can interact with information and people on a global scale. The twenty-four-hour news cycle once the pantheon of broadsheets now reduced to a hundred-character limit on twitter, catching-up over an intimate phone call replaced by ‘snaps’ as an expedient way of tackling the onslaught of daily interactions.
The genesis of addiction to drugs, technology, gambling, and sex, is a lack of connection with others, of deep and meaningful relationships, based on trust, acceptance, and love. Lying in bed during those first weeks of lockdown in March I’d think about the people, physically isolated with only the superficiality of Zoom to remedy those lonely summer nights, who would turn into the precarious ‘comfort blanket’ of instant gratification that ostensibly a bottle of vodka provides.
The junction between the consequences of addiction and the dopamine-rich release that technology, drugs, and alcohol provides, reached its fatal final crescendo this week after harrowing news of the death of several university freshers. After taking a batch of dodgy ketamine and MDMA two female students at Newcastle University and a man at Northumbria University overdosed. I wonder if this was a product of a year of coronavirus restrictions, turning the faucet of pressure off with drugs in reaction to months devoid of physical human contact.
Tangible, face to face conversation with your best friends and family members is vital. Connection is what humans strive for, it’s a natural prophylactic to the disease of mental health and addiction, to the external pressures of the outside world. Don’t look for answers in inanimate objects that can’t love you back – look for it in each other.