A Friend

The pandemic has shown us, in quite dramatic fashion, how much we all value friendship, and has made us realise the central role ‘friends’ play in our day to day lives. The concept of friendship has become a much broader term with the emergence of social media and increasingly complicated to define when someone may have a thousand Facebook friends or Twitter followers. The Greek philosophers pondered its meaning (see pic below), Social Psychologists promote the merits of what they deem ‘Social Capital’ in our lives and the media is awash with ‘Friend-centric’ content with ‘Friends’ being the most notable.

It is clear to see that friendship runs at the very core of at everything we hold dear.

In our work with clients experiencing issues with substance use, we often find that young people have difficulties in defining the attributes of a positive relationship and what constitutes a ‘true friend’. Along the way they may have experienced deceit, dishonesty, and instability in their relationships with peers and this inevitably impacts on their sense of self-worth. They may feel unworthy to have positive people in their lives and equally, feel unworthy to be a friend too.

Aside from harm reduction and crisis interventions, immediacy in outcomes in DAISY is rare. Interventions are largely orientated towards change in the medium and long term, with sustained changes occurring as the young person moves forward in their life. As such, evidence of positive changes comes later and often times that evidence filters back to us indirectly.

The following client account I feel, exemplifies how these interventions cross over into the real world, from words and ideas into action and behaviour.

A young person had contacted DAISY recently, very distressed and, uncharacteristically, tearful during the telephone call. He described himself to be in crisis and was in dire need of support. This young man had previously engaged with DAISY and Targeted Life Skills. Over the past few years he had struggled with benzodiazepine dependency and other prescription drugs for quite some time. This young man had lived in care most of his life, and had recently moved into fully independent living, moving into an area that was unfamiliar to him and in his own words he had ‘fallen in with the wrong crowd’.

He had gone to a party in the area, the other party goers were older and people he wasn’t well acquainted with. Fuelled with alcohol he stated he felt coerced into smoking what he believes was heroin and explained that he was in a state of total confusion and panic, surrounded with people he didn’t know or trust.

He stumbled outside for fresh air, cajoled from the other party goers, and after a short while began to make out what he thought were raised voices and a muffled argument ensued. In his stupor he felt an arm come around his back and support him to his feet. He could hear the raised voices continue as he was ushered away from the party, with obscenities shouted at the stranger who was removing him. When he lifted his head, he heard its alright mate, I got you’ and realised it was a friend who he hadn’t seen in years, who had happened to be passing the party and seen him in distress.

The friend took him to his home, where he took care of him, phoned the young man’s mother to come and collect him the next morning, then sat with him when he made the phone call to DAISY. ‘He saved me Mick’, was how the young person described the friend.

When he mentioned the name of this ‘Good Samaritan’, I had to hide my astonishment, as the young man in person was a former client of DAISY and Futures. This young man, 17, had struggled from issues with cannabis dependency and mental health issues since the age of 15. Having issues with self confidence and self-worth, a lot of work back then was focused on building his self esteem and believing in himself – the seeds of self-belief had surely taken root.

One traumatic event had brought these two friends together, both on a journey of self-discovery, both at different points on that journey and both aware of the vulnerabilities, challenges and joys along this road. On this occasion one was the hero and one needed saving, and from my experience these roles are interchangeable throughout the journey of recovery. In life, there are times when we ourselves need rescued and at other times we are the rescuers. This interplay, really, is what friendship is all about.

The author Helen Keller wrote:

‘I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light’.

Take Care Folks and thank you.


DAISY North provides support for young people to reduce the harm caused by substance use. For more information click: #ChangeStartsHere

(permissions were obtained to share this story with anonymity prioritised)