She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to…Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I’m currently looking at my best friend’s dog sleeping by me. (I’m taking care of the dog.)
He is still using Tina and keeps calling me for help which I cannot give anymore. I am not a doctor or counselor or psychotherapist.
I had hoped my friend would stick to his appointments to get help, but no. Drugs win. He is now suffering from psychosis and facing eviction.
How does one help someone at 50? I cannot cope with trying to help him anymore. What do I do?
*A note for those who may not know — “Tina” is slang for crystal meth.
First, let me say that I know how horrible it can be watching someone you love quickly, or slowly, blow their life apart with drugs. Anyone who has read my column for some time knows that I have been both you and your friend in this situation. And, it’s not pretty on either side. I get the feelings of helplessness, as both the addict, and as the loved one of an addict. It’s so painful.
What you and your friend have in common is that neither of you have any control over his addiction.
There’s a reason, in the rooms of 12-step support groups, that the disease of alcoholism and addiction is referred to as “cunning and baffling.” It can take loving, smart, and sane people deep into the throes of psychosis, criminal activity, and a level of hell that those who have not lived it find impossible to comprehend.
The ramifications of long-term addiction become sharper and often more devastating as people get older. I have had friends who were using when I was in my 20s, who continued to use long after I got clean. The thought of being in that purgatory of addiction now, over 40, sends a shiver up my spine.
If someone came to me today and said I had the choice of either living the rest of my days addicted to heroin or shooting myself in the head, it would take but a nanosecond for me to put that gun to my temple. That may sound overly dramatic, but that’s how bad it was for me in the final days of my drug use.
I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
This is all my very long-winded way of saying that your friend is in the most awful of places — being in utter misery at one’s own hand, with no conscious way to stop it.
I say this not to absolve him of responsibility, but to shed light on the truth, that as gut-wrenching as it it to watch someone self-destruct (and perhaps harm others in the process), what they’re feeling is likely far worse.
So, what can you do?
Keep his dog, if you can. That is a true act of kindness.
In terms of your friend, you must set a firm boundary, guided by tough love. You can be there for him, for moral and emotional support, if and when he is willing to receive help.
It sounds like he has had opportunities to do so. You mentioned appointments. You can’t force him to get there. And, I know how painful that is. If, at any point, you believe he is a danger to himself or others, you can call the police.
That may sound harsh, but I know people who have gotten help once their hand was forced. Sometimes, a few days in a psych ward can allow time for the drugs to leave their system and for their cognitive reasoning to return.
Luke Williams: A journalist who became gripped by crystal meth. Post continues...
Let go, with love.
For some, it can take losing everything before they are willing/able to get sober. I have seen miracles occur, when someone nobody believed would ever get clean finally got clean and turned their life around.
In the meantime, don’t forget to take care of you. I highly suggest accessing 12-step meetings such as Al-Anon and CoDA when dealing with being on the sidelines of someone else’s addiction. Don’t hesitate to reach out again if you need any further resources for support in your area.