June 2, 2020 at 8:36 am #357419BananaramaParticipant
Hello there. I could really use some advice.
I met my friend, S, around two years ago. It was one of those friendships that just click instantly and we have become very close. We speak every day, have had lots of fun times together, and also been through quite a lot of external drama in a short space of time.
S is in his 30s. He has had a difficult life; he is a survivor of brutal childhood abuse, he has Bipolar Disorder and a drug addiction. I have given a huge amount of emotional and practical support to S over the last year or so. At one point I staged an intervention and brought him to live with my family for a number of weeks, where he remained clean. He is estranged from his own family, who disowned him because he is gay. My teenage children love him. He is a truly lovely person.
Following the intervention, he was accepted into a drug rehab program. Unfortunately, he has relapsed and last week was removed from the program, losing his accommodation. He is now in a temporary homeless hostel, awaiting a more permanent solution. I don’t know the location.
My question is this: how do I support my friend, while maintaining my own well being?
Since S lost his accommodation, he hasn’t accepted any of my calls, and is ignoring most of my messages. I occasionally receive a very limited response. I’m trying to offer support without being overbearing but I don’t really know what to do. As I sit at the computer typing this post I have a tension headache, I feel queasy with anxiety, I haven’t slept properly for 5 nights due to worry. I feel really stressed. I have become so involved in S’s life that I now feel a sense of responsibility for his welfare. I am really worried about his current situation and state of mind.
Our friendship is not a one-way-street. S has supported me in a number of ways, and we also have such a laugh and lots of fun times together when he is well. Given the events of the last couple of years, our friendship has become quite intense. We have often described ourselves as platonic soul mates.
I know you can’t ‘save’ another person. I can’t walk away from him either. My heart breaks for him when I think of everything he has had to endure throughout his life. I need to try to find a balance between offering support, and maintaining my own sanity. I’m finding the fact that he won’t communicate with me at the moment really difficult to deal with. My greatest fear is that he will end his life, either intentionally or accidentally.
That said, I do have other responsibilities – my children, my wider family, my job. The strain I am feeling over the situation with S is consuming all of my energy and mind space. How do I learn to take a step back?June 2, 2020 at 9:52 am #357450anitaParticipant
You are and have been a very good friend to S.
“Since S lost his accommodation, he hasn’t accepted any of my calls, and is ignoring most of my messages. I occasionally receive a very limited response”- reads like it is his choice and preference to have very little if any contact with you at this time. I suggest that you accommodate his preference because this is just what he prefers.
I have become so involved in S’s life that I now feel a sense of responsibility for his welfare”- you feel like you are responsible for his welfare, but you are not responsible for his welfare. One of the categories of distorted thinking referenced in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is called emotional reasoning, meaning we feel that something is true–> we believe it is true.
It will be helpful to state to yourself reality vs the feeling, saying to yourself something like: I am not responsible for his welfare. It is not my fault that he relapsed. It is not my job to take care of him. Etc. Best if you state these things while you are relaxed, letting the words sink in slowly.
“My heart breaks for him when I think of everything he has had to endure throughout his life”- you have much empathy for him. Balance this empathy with some empathy for your own suffering: for your heart breaking, your head aching, your anxiety and poor sleep.
Balance your empathy for him with understanding that many millions of people have suffered and are suffering throughout the world every single day, from pain similar to S’s. So much pain in the world and you can’t carry it all on your shoulders without being crushed underneath.
It is okay to feel empathy for S, just not so much that it crushes you.
“My greatest fear is that he will end his life, either intentionally or accidentally”- this is a heavy burden to live with, this fear. Repeat to yourself that if this happens, it will not be your responsibility- this may lighten the burden.
The serenity prayer can help: “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.” You can list the things you cannot change and aim at accepting the fact that indeed there is nothing you can do to change those things. Then list the things you can change and go about changing those things.
Do post again anytime.