*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.*
I have known my friend Liz for a very long time, around thirty years actually.
We met when we were in fifth grade, the first time we changed classrooms and teachers and mixed with other students for things like science and math.
She had recently moved to our town from one not too far away and we instantly became best friends.
As the years went on I got to know her family well. Well, as well as I could.
Her parents were only sixteen years old when Liz was born, they were very young and immature parents, and kept a messy, chaotic home that I wasn’t used to. I didn’t like going over there so Liz spent most weekends sleeping over at my house to get away from her weird parents and two little sisters.
Anyway, Liz and I grew up and had children of her own, and we stayed close friends throughout the years and often took care of each others children.
A few years ago though, after she went through a bad breakup, Liz’s house started falling apart.
It seemed she stopped doing things like putting away laundry, putting away food and other things after they were purchased, and piles began gathering around her house.
I’d say, from an outside observer, it happened slowly and then suddenly: I realized my best friend was an actual hoarder.
It was when she moved recently from her old house to a new, smaller apartment that things got really bad.
She refused to throw anything out before she moved - she didn’t see the need - so all of her junk, her entire hoard came with her to the new apartment…and it just doesn’t fit.
There is no room in the living room for the couch to lay flat so they can sit on it, bags are piled in there literally to the ceiling. There is a space less than a foot wide in the hallway to walk from the so-called living area to the tiny galley kitchen which is impossible to enter or cook in.
The stairs leading up to the bedrooms are hazardous, and weeks after they moved in her kid’s bunkbeds were still just a pile of wood in the corner while her young son and daughter shared a mattress on the floor, surrounded by garbage.
It just wasn’t safe in there anymore, I decided.
I couldn’t imagine what would happen in that house if there were a fire and they couldn’t escape - all of the garbage in the hoard would go up in flames in a matter of seconds, trapping them inside.
It kept me up at night, thinking of her sweet, innocent kids living among garbage and filth, so after talking to a lot of my other friends, family members, and therapist, I did the unthinkable:
I called CPS on my best friend.
Of course I made the call anonymously, she will never know who reported her to Child Protective Services and may always believe it was her neighbor who complained about her messy front porch, but I just had to do it.
I’m happy to say, in the end, it worked in her favor.
Yes, the kids were removed from her house for a little while, but they were placed with their grandparents, Liz’s parents, and Liz got the mental health help she needed to realize she had a hoarding problem, and the help to clean up the hoard in her house before her kids came back home.
As pissed as she will always be that someone reported her, I will always be glad I did it.
What do you think, would you have done the same thing?