My friend keeps making the same mistakes, she may be an alcoholic …

Dear Gillian,

I have a friend of many years who just keeps making the same mistakes again and again.  I really care about her but I am so tired of getting the late night telephone calls, hearing about what has happened now in her relationship or just how bad everything is.  I quite often end up covering for her.  I think she may be an alcoholic and once she told me that she thought she was too while we were talking one night on the telephone and she admitted that she drinks every day.  I then did not hear from her for a few days and when I did she said that she had just been feeling low and was talking nonsense.  She quite often cannot remember what she did the night before.  What can I do?  I want to help her but no matter what I say or do she just keeps getting involved in a bad relationship and ending up depressed.

Dear Susan,

I always like to remember the story of the little girl passing a butterfly trying to get out of its cocoon.  She sees it struggle and decides to help by breaking open the cocoon.  The butterfly emerges but then falls straight to the ground, never achieving flight. Then her father tells her that the butterfly had to struggle to get out as this helps strengthen the wings for flight, once it emerges it needs to expand the wings and allow them to dry before it can safely fly.  If you stop the process and interfere with it far from helping, you stop them achieving the magnificence of flight and that is sad.

It is really hard when someone you love and care about is on a path of self destruction.  You have been a good friend and made yourself available when she needs to talk.  However, this is her life not yours.  You did not cause this situation and you cannot cure it.  She has her reasons (mostly sub conscious) for behaving as she does.  Once she decides that she has had enough of that way of living and being then changes can happen.  If she is an alcoholic which sounds likely then until she acknowledges that and decides to get the appropriate help this saga will continue.

As hard as it may be for you it would be better to step back and not be so involved.  Whenever the opportunity arises gently remind her that if she does feel that alcohol is a problem there is an organisation “Alcoholics anonymous” with local groups everywhere that can help.  With any addiction it is important to get help and support from those who have a knowledge and understanding of the condition.  Addictive substances change peoples perspectives and so it is very difficult to help them while they are so out of balance and they can feel very hopeless unless there is some practical help and support given.

All you need do is let her know you care, that won’t change.  You have a life too.  Taking on someone else’s’ burdens when they do not take responsibility for themselves or their own actions is not helping and starts to create a problem in your life.

Love and respect yourself, be honest and maintain your own boundaries and your friend will do the same.