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Requesting advice on whether or not to reach out to a former friend


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Hello everyone.  I would like to ask you guys for some advice.  I have a former friend, who was at one time a very close friend and helped me through some tough times years ago, that I have not seen in over 12 years.  Earlier this week, his ex-wife (whom I am not close to and not friends on FB) sent a facebook PM to me, stating this former friend wanted to pass along his phone number and wanted to know how I am doing.  To be honest, I am curious about how he is doing, too. 

However, there is one big catch: the reason I have not seen this friend is because he has been in prison for the last 12 years.  Partially, due to drugs, but he committed an armed robbery and was on the run from the police.  I knew he was in prison most of that time, and never reached out to this friend, because I live a law-abiding life and do not want crime or violence in my life.  

The thing that complicates this is I have a certain amount of personal guilt.  The 12 year stint was not his first time in prison.  He had gone to prison from 2005-07 (nonviolent, but drug possession), and he contacted me when he got out, by showing up at my parent's house while I was there one day, in 2007.  During that period between his first and second prison stays, I met with this former friend one time after he initially contacted me, but I sort of blew him off after that, because I had things going on in my life at the time I needed to take care of, and didn't want to be caught up in any problems he had.  So, I feel like maybe by ignoring him, I may have set things in motion for him to make bad choices, and if I had been there just a little bit, maybe he wouldn't have ended up back in prison.

Now, I am conflicted about reaching out to this former friend.  He knows where my Dad lives (and my Dad is now disabled and lives alone), which is the same house he lived in when this former friend was incarcerated, and I don't want this former friend just showing up on my Dad's doorstep looking for me like he did before.  So in a way, I want to control the situation and lay down some expectations that my Dad's house is off limits, and that my brother (who was also a friend of my former friend) wants nothing to do with him.  I also am hesitant to contact this former friend however, because while I have no reason to suspect he would do anything violent to me or my family, I just don't know if I want to open myself up to any sort of drama.

So my question is this: should I call this former friend, or should I just ignore the message from his ex-wife and hope he doesn't show up at my Dad's house looking for me?

 

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I'd ask him if he wants to get coffee - it's a public, neutral place where you an spend as little or as much time as you want, he gets his wish to reconnect, and both of you can see if there's even anything left of your friendship after 12 years of going down two completely different roads.

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I think it's worth connecting with him, even if solely to tell him that you don't want him in your life. Because it sounds like he's the type who will try to track you down. 

It is perfectly acceptable to tell him that you're not interested in continuing a friendship, and you aren't to blame for his choices. You have enough going on without trying to take care of his needs. 

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I don't think you should blame yourself for one of his incarcerations--he made his own choices. You are not controlling his life.

As to what you should do, well, I'll tell you one thing I've learned: sometimes to be a good friend--nay, a decent person--it means willingly taking on some of the baggage that comes along with that relationship. The ancient Greeks had the concept of co-suffering, which is more than simply sympathy, or even empathy: it is the idea of willingly taking on another person's burdens in addition to your own, in order to truly walk beside that person.

A little over a year ago, I reestablished a friendship with my former boss, who had gotten himself into lots of trouble due to his impulsiveness, and even had screwed me over personally by not knowing how to run a company correctly and bleeding me dry of my resources. We ended things not on good terms (even though all I did was resign and never even confronted him about it). But I knew that he needed a friend, so I decided to be exactly that to him, which even caused me to unnecessarily fall out with his ex-girlfriend (with whom I was always on good terms but was never close).

Now, that isn't to say that you need to let him drag you down. It may be worth talking about boundaries, which may be an uncomfortable but necessary conversation to have.

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Thank you all for your takes on this.  I still have to make up my mind, I suppose, but a few things happened since I posted last.

1.  I talked it over with my fiancé, and she says I should not respond.  She says with the stuff going on right now and the fact I am still under treatment for anxiety, this could give me stress I don't need. I think she has a good point.

2.  I started thinking about it further.  I have not really had meaningful contact with this former friend really since 2003.  My friend started getting caught up in drugs and poor choices from 2003 to 2005 when he was convicted and sent to prison the first time.  He was the one who cut ties with me for drugs, when I think about it further.  During both stays in prison, this former friend didn't attempt to contact me.  In fact, in both cases, I didn't know he was in prison for at least a year after he was convicted.  Even if he couldn't remember my address, he never asked his ex wife to reach out to me until now.  

3. I talked to my Dad and let him know this former friend is out of prison. I told him if this former friend shows up looking for me, to not open the door and to call me immediately, and the cops if needed.   My Dad and I live only a mile apart, so I can be at his house within 5 minutes, if needed.  

 

So, at this time, I just don't see an upside to reaching out to this friend.

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Also I just want to add that even though I am leaning to not contact this former friend, I had to go through this process of deciding, and I thank you all for each of you replying and offering the advice.

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If your family is safe, then yeah, just ignoring it makes sense. I had a childhood friend who got really into drugs in high school and ended up doing some time for assaulting a deputy while he was in jail. When he reached out to me a few years later, I let him know that I wasn’t interested, but that was him contacting me directly. Now he wouldn’t have any clue how to contact me.

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Yeah, the thing is if he was in prison for like a year or 2, I might feel a little differently. But 12 years plus the 2 before that, is a long time. Literally 1/3 of his life.  Prison changes people, and I just question why he is reaching out in the first place.  Maybe it is a sincere reconnect, but I also have to wonder if there is some other motive (EG needs money or something). I just don't even know what we would have in common anymore, either.  I hope the guy gets his life together, but I can't do it for him, and I have issues of my own.   He has to do that, not me.  And being out of prison for only a few months is not long enough to convince me he has finally turned a corner to finally do right and get his life together. My depression and anxiety has good days but also bad days, and I fear getting caught up in drama may undo some of my recent progress.  I feel bad because I am judging the guy without even talking to him via phone, but I also feel the risk to me is too much.  

 

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The only thing you can do is be true to yourself. If that means meeting him again, then do so. If that means continuing on without him in your life, then do so.

You can’t control how someone views you regardless of your actions. You could be a person that is logical, compassionate, dedicated to the service of others and yet you will still not matter to some people... some people will even view you as an enemy. So it comes back to just making the decision that is you.

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I'm going to completely change my previous stance and say that you did the right thing. The more I think about it, this is probably a case where a toxic person is only reaching out to leech off of you. While I still maintain that what I said is true in most cases, this former friend of yours needs help beyond what you can offer. You have to look out for yourself and your family first, and I think you did exactly that.

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Thank you for saying that, guys.  In all fairness, maybe this former friend has turned things around, and maybe I am being a hypocrite because I believe people deserve second chances if they are really trying to change, considering the guy did help me 20 years ago with getting me a job when I was in college, and being a friend.  But I just don't know the guy anymore.  I feel like I thought I knew him once, then he did all that stuff.  Sure, drugs were a large part of it, but I didn't know he had that kind of violence in him.  I am not scared of him, but I am scared of what could happen to people around me, and of any unwanted potential drama. Or worse, he is just trying to reach out for personal gain somehow and I am being played.  I honestly think that might be the worse of all: trusting the guy, and ending up getting screwed over somehow.  I am not sure what form that would be, just a concern. 

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12 years is a pretty hefty bit of time. I mean, at least in the UK to get slapped with a sentence like that you've need to have done something quite bad or fucked up pretty majorly.  I'm in agreement. Maybe you never saw the Facebook message cause you never check them. 

 

Alternatively if you wanted to feel the situation out you could buy a cheap old Nokia or secondary "burner" phone and a pre paid sim and give his girlfriend the number of that phone and not your real one if you wanted to speak to the guy. Get a sense of it.

Otherwise if your gut is saying it's a bad idea to meet up I say trust your gut. You don't owe him anything.

Edited by Odine
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For a second time offender in the US, 12 years isn’t that extreme for armed robbery, even if no one was injured or even in danger.

Heck, in the US we kill kids for having toy guns.

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Yeah, it is. I guess what I was trying to say is that there are different types of armed robbery, and there have been cases where there isn’t actually a real weapon involved. I used to work at a bank and someone was initially charged with arm robbery for brandishing a pen in a threatening way.

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21 hours ago, Zathras said:

considering the guy did help me 20 years ago with getting me a job when I was in college,

I know the year 2000 feels like just yesterday, but 20 years is a really long time to hold on to an "I owe you one."

I've helped plenty of people get jobs. If they don't work out, oh well. If the person moves on, oh well. It's not THAT big of a favor if you're not the one responsible for hiring, and you certainly don't owe anything to that person any more than you owe any other reference you have.

If that's the only thing making you feel an attachment here, it's time to move on.

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1 hour ago, Fozzie said:

Yeah, it is. I guess what I was trying to say is that there are different types of armed robbery, and there have been cases where there isn’t actually a real weapon involved. I used to work at a bank and someone was initially charged with arm robbery for brandishing a pen in a threatening way.

Right I get your meaning now 

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3 hours ago, Odine said:

12 years is a pretty hefty bit of time. I mean, at least in the UK to get slapped with a sentence like that you've need to have done something quite bad or fucked up pretty majorly.  I'm in agreement. Maybe you never saw the Facebook message cause you never check them. 

 

Alternatively if you wanted to feel the situation out you could buy a cheap old Nokia or secondary "burner" phone and a pre paid sim and give his girlfriend the number of that phone and not your real one if you wanted to speak to the guy. Get a sense of it.

Otherwise if your gut is saying it's a bad idea to meet up I say trust your gut. You don't owe him anything.

I don't know the entire situation, but my understanding is he stuck a gun in someone's face and robbed them, and on a later date police tried to pull him over, but he bailed out and ran, being caught a few days later.  No one died or anything, but that is pretty scary right there, and he is lucky all he got was the sentence he did.  The sentence was supposed to be longer, but he got out on good behavior and is on parole now.  

The burner phone is a good idea, but I think I won't call at all. As I see it, if I don't feel comfortable calling someone on my own phone, then I don't need to be calling them in the first place.

 

15 minutes ago, Iceheart said:

I know the year 2000 feels like just yesterday, but 20 years is a really long time to hold on to an "I owe you one."

I've helped plenty of people get jobs. If they don't work out, oh well. If the person moves on, oh well. It's not THAT big of a favor if you're not the one responsible for hiring, and you certainly don't owe anything to that person any more than you owe any other reference you have.

If that's the only thing making you feel an attachment here, it's time to move on.

It is good to hear at least a validation of what I was thinking, guys.  I am the type of person who is loyal to friends and family, but sometimes perhaps to a fault, sometimes.   Especially, if I feel like I am in someone's debt.  I always try to do my best to make sure if someone helps me in some way, I try to return the favor.  But, regarding this former friend, I now see I don't owe him anything.  I think the best thing in this situation is that I never got the message in the first place. 

This thread was very valuable to help me reach that conclusion, so again, thank you everyone.

 

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If, by chance, you do decide to call him from a different number, there are apps that'll give you a second number without having to spend money. You could do that, use it once, and then be done. But I agree with everything you've said.

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