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Opinion & Essays - Nov, 2000 Issue #75 

Friendships of the Past
By Kristie Vollar
kristie@woodbury.com
208-267-5550

[Kristie is the daughter of Woodbury Reports publisher, Lon Woodbury and his wife Denise. Her presence at Woodbury Reports is a demonstration of the positive relationship that has evolved since she has returned from the special purpose programs she attended in 1993-1994.] 

When teens are growing up in a busy family life, they will often turn to their friends for the attention they lack at home. Friendships are an important part of life, but not all friendships are healthy. These unhealthy relationships are often referred to as negative peer groups. 

Although I am the youngest of four kids, my biggest issue was loneliness. I didn't like to be alone. Since both of my parents worked full time plus jobs, however, I often was. Begging for attention, I turned to the "stoner crowd" at school. None of these kids would have been considered to be "bad kids" individually, but when they got together in a group, trouble was just around the corner. 

I started skipping school to hang out with my friends. "What did school matter?" I thought; "at least I was having fun!" I would sneak out of the house in the middle of the night, eventually not even coming home some nights. One night, I crawled on my belly through the snow and mud on the far edge of a cow field, hiked a few miles, and slept in a moldy barn, I was so intent on spending the night with my boyfriend, and wanted to avoid being picked up by my sister. 

By the next year, I had gotten progressively worse. My "friends" had changed. There were some newcomers to the stoner crowd. One was a gang member who had moved here from a big city, and wanted to start his gang in this small town. I began hanging with them every day after school, and eventually, since I got so much attention from them, I wanted to join the gang. 

To me, being part of a gang meant plenty of attention. Since I had always asked to be treated as "one of the guys," I told them I wanted to be "beat in" and they did. Now part of the gang, another part of my initiation was to start doing things I knew were wrong to do, but I was willing to do them because I wanted to fit in. I risked being caught with people who were on probation, out after their curfew, going places I wasn't supposed to be, in my parent's car. 

At this point I just took off after having a yelling match with my parents. After running away from home I started living in a house in town with my gang. Some of the gang members started to break into places. On the night it was my turn to break in, I couldn't do it so we went home. The police began to question us and we decided we better lay low. 

They didn't break into any more places and my boyfriend was taken to jail. This upset me so much, I climbed into a truck with my ex- boyfriend and we went to the river to drink. This got me into some personal trouble because I couldn't control myself or anything that was being done to me. 

The next morning, my parents picked me up and took me to a wilderness program. It had been a couple of weeks since I had run away. Once I completed the wilderness experience, I was enrolled in an emotional growth boarding school for girls. During this time I began to change, started to like myself, and began to grow emotionally. As I worked on my issues, I began to believe that I had value, and I began to want more out of life. I realized the path where I had been heading was not where I wanted to go. 

When I returned home, I tried to get together with my old friends. It felt so awkward. I had been away for a year, working on my issues and my sense of self. They had been doing the same stuff, day after day, and hadn't changed a bit. They still wanted to just hang out and party. I realized I didn't want to be a part of that anymore, I wanted more. 

As someone who's been there, I can say that when a person goes through a program and begins to see life in a positive way, it results in growth and change. Part of the decision to choose a more positive and productive life means ending the friendships that will only hold the person back. 

Copyright 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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