You cannot, and I mean cannot in every sense of the word, make a friend care about anything that they don’t want to care about: either in your life or their own. If you’ve ever had a friend or a family member who was addicted to something – like drugs or alcohol (or anything else for that matter) – then you may know what I mean.
At the same time, it’s only natural to want to “fix” whatever is wrong. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to accept when they reject your offer to help. It’s a hard wall to run into.
My very dear friend was the life of the party. She was quick with a joke, easy on the eyes, and always eager to listen. We were friends through college and through many firsts: first marriages, first children, first divorces; so many firsts that I was sure that our friendship would last.
After my divorce, I just moved on and expected she would do the same. But she couldn’t. She stressed out and withdrew socially. It wasn’t how I dealt with mine, but we each deal with “death” differently, (in this case death of a marriage). I thought she would move eventually through it as I had. Apparently not.
She made her re-debut at my restaurant in Beverly Hills. It was a place that I had owned for almost 20 years; where I learned a lot about how people related to one another over meals with friends and family around the table. She had a new boyfriend, and it was evident that the two of them were totally stoned.
My gut told me that something was very wrong; this was definitely not normal behavior for her. She could see that I was concerned but just joked that she was “letting off steam.” I went along with it. I sat them in an area in the back where their behavior wouldn’t disturb other guests. I watched as they made frequent trips to the restrooms and I knew they were getting high. They were so stoned that I was worried about them driving so I insisted on calling a cab for them.
As time went on, I could see that my friend’s condition was worsening. Eventually, she became a physical wreck. When I say she looked bad, I mean ‘drug addict’ bad. When I told her how worried I was and questioned her again, she just ignored me.
I saw her less often but frequently heard stories that were increasingly frightening about what was going on. One story came from a very close friend of both of ours. They said that she was surrounded by strangers and her house was a horrible wreck.
I stepped in again to question and help my friend. She accused me of meddling in her life and told me to go away. I appealed to her family members for help. They said that she was an adult and refused to intervene.
I was so frustrated that I couldn’t get through to her and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to turn my back on the whole situation. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.
I didn’t hear anything about my friend for a while.
But then a year later, she called me to tell me she was doing well and that she missed our friendship. I did too. What turned her around was that one of her little nephews had asked her if she was going to the hospital – that she looked so bad. The sincere worry of a child woke her up. To this day, she is sober, and we continue to be great friends.
I think many of us can relate to the mental tug of war; the emotional and spiritual battle between one person trying to ‘help’ a friend or family member over questionable decisions. We may feel like we are enabling the person if we don’t speak up; like we’re culpable if we don’t try to get them to stop what they’re doing. But there are limits on what we can do.
Cutting her out of my life wasn’t easy, and it sure didn’t mean I didn’t love her any less. I had to give up not because I didn’t care about her, but because she didn’t care about herself. That was probably the hardest part to accept – that she didn’t care. I also had to accept the temporary loss of our friendship as the collateral damage caused by her choices.
It only confirmed what I’d known all along – the only way that I was going to feel better was to stop hitting my head against that wall. Thankfully she decided to stop hitting her head against the wall too.