Loyalty is both a vice and a virtue. My twin used to tell me that my extreme loyalty to the people I love was one of my greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses at the same time, because I often gave it to people who really weren’t worthy of it. I’d have to agree he was right.
When looking for love and friendship—the things that make life worthwhile—we are looking for loyalty. Who can we count on? And who can count on us? These are the essential and uncomfortable questions that loyalty poses.
Loyalty is the foundation of our greatest satisfactions in life, but also proves to be the root of much misery. Loyalty and betrayal are the stuff of the great stories that move us: Odysseus, Romeo & Juliet, Moby Dick.
When does loyalty become a vice instead of a virtue? Can we escape the excruciating predicaments when loyalties are loggerheads? Can we avoid betraying and being betrayed?
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Johnny Walker Jr., was hospitalized for chronic depression, alcohol and drug addiction. His mother, Sue, asked me to speak to him about it. It turned out that his chronic depression was the underlying root cause for his alcohol and drug abuse. By treating the depression, he managed to get his drug and alcohol abuse under control.
Of all of his friends, some of whom he had known since early elementary school, one of the few that stuck by him was Tara, his girlfriend of only six weeks or so. Tara came to visit him in the hospital and brought him home-cooked meals and such as I understand it.
Well, a few months later, Johnny Walker Kelley Jr. dumped Tara. Tara contacted me and asked me if I knew why he had done it. I said I didn’t know, but that I would talk to him. After talking to Johnny Jr., I found out that he had dumped her for no real reason. I told him that when he was in the hospital, she was one of the only people that stood by him, and that loyalty like that was something very rare, and that loyalty like that should be cherished and rewarded, not discarded like trash.
I don’t know if Johnny Jr. was listening, but I do know that within a week of that conversation, they were back together again…and have been ever since. It is pretty sad that Johnny Walker Kelley Jr. can’t show that kind of loyalty to me, someone who has been his friend all of his life in return. I understand it though, because his loyalty to his father and sister, though they are telling lies, outweigh his loyalty to me.
Johnny Walker Kelley Jr. would rather believe his sister’s lies than the truths he has seen over the years. Of course, part of that is because he is likely an alcoholic, much like his father and sister. In order to believe the truth about his sister, he would have to confront his own illness and he, like his father, isn’t capable of doing that. He is Lauren Elizabeth Kelley’s older brother.
I have asked Johnny Walker Kelley Jr. to look at the documentation I put together for his mother Sue, and read it and decide if there was any merit to it. As far as I know, he hasn’t even looked at it…refuses to look at it, because he is so deeply in denial. Of course, I believe he doesn’t think he is an alcoholic because his alcoholism is under control at the moment. Of course, if he hadn’t been hospitalized two years ago and gotten treatment for his depression, which appears to be the underlying cause of his drinking, he’d probably be far worse off than Lauren Elizabeth Kelley is, since he is a more typical alcoholic than his father or sister. I believe that his sister Ellie also has an underlying cause for her drinking and drug use, and that she is currently trying to self-medicate using alcohol and drugs.
The only one in Lauren Elizabeth Kelley’s family that has shown any true signs of loyalty or courage is her little sister Bridget. This is a very sad thing. I am terrified that Bridget will fall to the illness that has claimed her two siblings and her father if she doesn’t take steps now to avoid that happening. Bridget is almost the same age as Lauren Elizabeth Kelley was when Lauren Elizabeth Kelley first started drinking. I hope that Bridget once again finds the courage to reach out to me and ask me for help as I hope her sister eventually will.
Unfortunately, the truth is the truth. they can hide from it, and they can deny it, but they can’t change it. The longer they deny it, the harder it becomes to accept it. If they live with lies long enough, they may even start to believe them. The truth is Lauren Elizabeth Kelley loves me, otherwise she wouldn’t have told me so.
The truth is I love Lauren Elizabeth Kelley. The truth is that Lauren Elizabeth Kelley has a problem with alcohol and drugs, and that is what has come between us. I doubt it is coincidence Lauren Elizabeth Kelley started telling her lies the day I confronted her about her drinking, and I think Lauren Elizabeth Kelley started telling the lies because wanted to separate me from her family so that I could not tell them the truth about her drug/alcohol problems.
I’d also point out that Lauren Elizabeth Kelley’s loyalty to me shows itself in odd little ways. For one, she has never told me the lies that she told her family. I believe that is because Lauren Elizabeth Kelley is basically too honest a person to lie to my face about me—someone she wants to spend the rest of her life with and loves. I also believe that one reason Lauren Elizabeth Kelley has pushed me away so strongly is that she does not want to lose my love for her, or see my opinion of her change based on her actions and behavior as a drug addict/alcoholic. I do not believe she wants me to know that she has been driving drunk/high because she knows that an under-aged drunk driver murdered my identical twin.
Yet, in spite of all this, Lauren Elizabeth Kelley has kept lines of communication open between us….she has made sure that she will have a way of getting a message to me in an emergency. I think that she knows how committed to her I am…if she doesn’t she would have to be an idiot, and she is not an idiot. I think she knows that I will keep an eye on that line of communication and be there if she asks for my help, knowing that I am committed to her and love her enough to do so, even in spite of how horribly she has acted and treated me. She knows what my twin considered one of my greatest virtues and weaknesses, and is counting on my extreme loyalty to her, because she is the woman I love most.
Right now, there are times I am torn…between rage and anger at the way her illness has made her act, and wanting to be able to walk away from her—wishing I didn’t love her or care about her—and wanting to hold her and help her see that she needs help. Unfortunately, until she herself realizes that she is ill and that she needs help, no one, not even me, can do anything to help her. She is beyond salvation until she realizes that she needs help and reaches out for it herself.