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You Can't Save Your Friends From Themselves

Dear Harlan: I have a friend who is self-destructive. She dates the wrong men. She can’t hold on to a job. She is an emotional mess. We have been dear friends for years. I love her and feel like I’m a better person because of having her as a friend. She introduced me to my husband. But she is in constant turmoil. I try to help her, but she refuses to get herself help. I’ve suggested seeing a therapist. I’ve even offered to keep her company. I have bought her books, introduced her to new activities and gone on trips with her. She says she is not good at therapy and won’t do anything to help herself. What can I do to help someone who doesn’t want to get help?

— Helpless Friend

Dear Helpless Friend:  You can’t save her. She needs to save herself. There are some people in life who like being miserable and uncomfortable. Being a victim is a security blanket. It’s safer to complain and blame than it is to make changes. It’s easier to continue with old habits than to create new ones. She might not even realize why she makes the choices she makes. Subconscious self-limiting beliefs, childhood trauma or other issues may inform her actions. She needs to get help from a medical professional to create lasting change. If she doesn’t want to get help, point out that doing the same things and expecting different results isn’t going to work. If she refuses to help herself, the best thing you can do is enjoy the best parts of her and distance yourself from the rest. When she brings up drama, you can encourage her to get help, disengage and politely change the subject. You can love her friendship, but you don’t want to enable her. Engaging in her cycle of self-loathing isn’t helping.

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