What Would You Do?

I have a friend that drifts in and out of my life at times.  She called me two weeks ago.  She was in trouble of course.  I have known this woman for over 30 years, and we were close at one time.  She has a knack of finding men that are just bad news.  Druggies, alcoholics, deadbeats you name it she will find one.  Over the years I have watched her destroy her life with drugs and bad choices.  She often ends up in the hospital for the drugs, food and most importantly a place to sleep.  Fortunately for her she does have some health problems so she can get a two or three day vacation at the local hospital.  She is also a great actress. 

Her latest tradgedy involves a man she had been “dating” on and off for years.  Heoften breaks it off with her, but then comes back after a while to party.When he dumps her for awhile she somehow always finds a friend that will take her in for a time.  Recently, the boyfriend dropped her off at a motel, paid for a weeks stay and left her there.  She has no job, no car, no money, and very few people she can call friends. 

After the stay at the motel and she was forced to move out, with nowhere to go, she of course went to the emergency room.  She is diabetic and because her blood sugar was high they admitted her for a four-day stay.  While there she somehow got the doctor to give her Xanax and Lunesta (two of her favorite drugs).  Tonight she was released, so she says.  I think she was released earlier in the day and just hung around in the lobby making phone calls looking for a place to go.

She called me again crying because the hospital social worker made arrangements for her to go to a shelter nearby.  The hours are seven pm until seven am.  You must wait in line most of the day to secure a bed for that night.  In the morning…you leave.  You are on your own the rest of the day.  No money = No food. 

She has taken advantage of everybody she knows, gotten fired from jobs for being stoned and stealing.  She was once a beautiful woman, and she now looks terrible…she is 51 and looks 65.  Anyone that has helped her in the past and been burned will have nothing to do with her.  She knows better than to ask me for money or a place to stay. I know her far too well.

I have been and still am friends with her some of her estranged family, and I think of her daughter as my own.  (Thankfully she has turned out to be a responsible, lovely grown woman.  She won’t help her Mother either…I don’t blame her)

She needs her medication and she is afraid to go to the shelter.  I told her it could be no worse than the seven days she spent in County Jail  last summer after she broke into a deceased family member’s home to look for drugs and money.

This woman will do nothing for herself.  She will not look for a job.  I gave her several phone numbers of shelters that would help her out and I found some charities and organization that will help her get her medication for free.  She called no one.  She has nothing else to do but stand in line and wait for a bed in the homeless shelter the hospital directed her to.

So, here I am in my warm jammies, in my warm house, with my meds, and food in my fridge.  And I feel guilty.    

Am I wrong?  Should I help her?  If I give her money, she will buy cigarettes and score some drugs.  She cannot stay in my home.  I have a family, and truthfully I would be afraid she would steal from me.

Guilt is a powerful thing.


21 responses

  1. Dearest, sweetest Mo,

    Oh honey….you are so like me. And after reading the wonderful and caring comments from your readers, I think that we all must have ‘that’ type of person in our lives.

    The consensus seems to be that your guilt is simply your beautiful heart crying out to help a friend. I understand so so well how you feel. And it is amazing that this post hit me, as you told me my posts have ‘hit’ you lately!

    Mo, your caring for this person is awesome. Caring like this shows who you are inside. And these types of people seem to see that we are loving, giving humans, who desire nothing but the best for everyone we keep close to us. Up until about 3 months ago, I was also plagued by a friend who kept on using me, using me and then using me a bit more. However, I didn’t see it like that at the time. Like so many other issues in our lives, it is tough to see when we are IN the situation. Stepping back for a moment, we are able to truly look at what is happening in a different light.

    Only because of an event that allowed me to have to step back, was I able to realize just how much I was being used by this ‘friend’. I no longer even label this person a friend. My true friends have earned that name…as I have earned mine with them. No true, caring friend, who has a two-way relationship with us, would ever continue to abuse our kindnesses. There has to be a point that we come to, and changes must be made.

    Whether those changes include removing them from our lives, by not talking to them, not responding to phone calls, emails, or other means of communication; it becomes our duty to show them just what they, (repeat, THEY, not US,) have done to the relationship. When this ex friend of mine pulled her final ‘boner move’, (lack of better word there), I decided that my heart had stopped caring. I was done with being hurt and used by this person. There was outright lying, even this friend went so far as to use my bank account to pay one of their bills, and when confronted, actually had the gall to lie to me, and not just come clean, when it was known what was done by many….not just me, but the bank, the company that was paid using my money, etc, etc. It just would have gone on and on. There is no excuse for this type of behavior, and it would only lie on my shoulders if I allowed them to stay in my life. I am done. D-O-N-E!!!

    It was my very best friend of over 40 years that pointed out to me that I should be surrounding myself with those that share my basic value system. WOW. So simple, one may think….until you are IN the middle of it all. I wasn’t going to allow myself to be used and abused any longer. I walked away and want nothing to do with this person any longer. And my life is so much easier…in the way that I do not feel that guilt that you write of…that nagging feeling that somehow we OWE these users something.

    Mo, I know that you love this person and want to help. I love this person I speak of, but no longer want to help. We are helping by not helping. It is like us being good mothers when we allow our children to make some mistakes, so that they can learn from those behaviors. These adults that are acting like we owe them something…well, it is time for them to grow up. I continue to get communication from this person, and I do not return anything. Previous to a few weeks ago, I probably would have fallen back into it all. But my life has changed, and I have chosen to delete this person from my life.

    You are doing this person a favor Mo. Hard to believe, but we both are doing the best thing for US!!

    Gentle Hugs honey—–<3

    • Shauna, Thank you for the beautiful comment you wrote. I know most people have a person like this in their life, and it is hard to just give up on them. This girl is the type that if I called her and told her I needed her she would be here even if she had to walk. When my Mother was in the hospital deathly ill SHE was the one who came and sat by her bed for a while. But I can’t trust her, and that’s sad. And another thing she is a thief and a liar (like your friend) so I have to stand my ground, even though it makes me sad.

      You are a Sweetheart for caring enough to write me.


  2. WOW.. didn’t take me long to figure that one out… would be interesting if she knew “that” person is now single, done and on his own!! There will always be cancer in all of our lives… not the destroy the body kind, but cancerous friends, that keep proliferating into your life, or the kind like my son that just won’t ever get into remission. You have been one of the most stable people she has ever known in her life. She will continue to reach out to you for that reason. Be there when YOU want to, not cuz you have to. Otherwise: speaking words of wisdom, “Let it Be, Let it Be” She can only fix herself.

  3. No, and don’t feel guilty about it…my Irish dander gets up because I have a brother-in-law that must be her twin. I’ve done all I can and will do no more. He made the choice…so did she and there are other choices they can make, but won’t. Again – No and no guilt. Enuff said or I could go on all night. (((gentle hugz))) Irish

  4. Speaking professionally – you did the right thing. As a matter of fact you went out of your way to research and provide her with resources.
    Lots of people spend thousands of hours and thousands of dollars to acquire the insight and get the guts to do exactly what you did.

    You are not responsible for her choices. Bravo! High Five!

    • Thanks Judy. I do have to admit that I stressed about this situation all day! Mu Hubby talked to me about it and he told me I did the right thing too. He’s been along on the rides I’ve taken with this woman and he knows that I must stop now. I am trying to put it out of my mind.

      • Stressing doesn’t help her or your fibro! You don’t have to put it out of your mind. Put in your mind: “I did the right thing”.

        P.S. People who are in the midst of their addictions cannot process things logically and their judgement is impaired. It’s like explaining why it’s best to be potty trained to a 4 month old.

  5. “Am I wrong?”

    Absolutely not?

    “Should I help her?”

    That’s a tough question and I’ll try and give you my short answer. To me it doesn’t matter if the guy standing on the corner with the “Homeless” sign is scamming for money. To me he’s homeless and I feel it’s my obligation to help the homeless a little when I can. If he’s scamming then it’s his karma, but I did what I feel is right. To me it doesn’t matter if that same guy is going to use the money I give him to buy drugs or alcohol because the dollar I give him isn’t going to change his life. Tomorrow his life is still going to be a f*<}ed up mess so my thought is whatever helps him get through the night is his business and God love him.

    Your situation is different because this is a close friend and while you're not obligated to help her, yeah, it would be nice to give her some money and what will a pack of cigarettes do in the long run? But if you enable her this time she's just going to come back for more and more and you're going to feel worse and worse.

    I'm not sure that reasoning with her and trying to find her help is going to do anything because she's not coming from a place of logic and she doesn't want that type of help yet. Sadly, she may never want that type of help but that's not your fault or your responsibility.

    It might be that the best thing you can do for her is to not talk to her at all. And again, (and I know my opinion doesn't amount to a hill of beans) you have no reason to believe that you're wrong and you have nothing to feel guilty about. I'm sorry she's put you in this place and that you're going through this type of emotional turmoil over the situation says a lot about you as a person.

    • Mr. Fishman, Your opinion is worth MORE than a hill of beans my dear. Your response has helped me realize I did the right thing. She is always looking for someone to rescue her, and it’s never going to be me again. Thanks for the reassurance.

  6. guilt doesnt even cover it. she has worked every system, including charities. you would have thought a week in county would have done something, which says a lot. she doesnt want to do anything for herself, and when she was almost there, my stupid ass allowed her back into my life only to be burned again in less than 6 months. there is no rock bottom for her because when you get there its supposed to be your “ah ha” moment, and youre supposed to want to change, but shes been given every opportunity to do that and she hasnt done it. she has no desire to change. people are shocked when they find out, look at me like im a criminal for not helping(actually handing out)just because someone is your family doesnt mean they are good for you. it not my job to care for a grown woman. i cant have any part in this mess anymore, i was dragged through it when i had no choice and now i have a choice and i choose freedom.

  7. Oh Mo. This is such a challengins situation. I so understand where you are. I had a friend who got into drugs and would clean up and then go back. The cycle just kept repeating itself and I finally had to set a boundary. Unfortunately, she did it again and that was that.

    I love her with every fiber of my being but until she changes and proves that change, I have found I must love her from a distance.

    I often have to remind myself that people get to choose what they do in life and sometimes the kindest thing we can do is allow them to make their mistakes and suffer the consequences. As hard as that is, they are an adult and thus are responsible for thier own choices.

    Guilt. That is a hard one.

    There is always that tension line of trying to determine if this is the time to step in and help or if this is the time to pull back and let them work it out on their own.

    I’m glad to see you placed a boundary. I think that is definitely one of the most healthy things we can do. Perhaps if you look at this situation from the perspective of what you can or are willing to do within certain boundaries, it will help with the guilt.

    Just a thought.

    • Thanks Dominique. You know what I’m dealing with it seems, since you have the same type of situation with a “Friend”.
      As I’ve said, I haven’t heard from her today. Maybe that means someone rescued her. Someone that doesn’t know the situation all that well. Again, thanks for your thoughts on this.

  8. Hi Mo,
    This is a very tough situation. I hope you remember to take care of yourself first. I feel odd saying that since I’m usually the person who hears that advice.
    I used to live in a town that has the largest population of homeless people in our state. The reason for that is they have the most resources for homeless people. Every day you’d see the bus dropping off people, all homeless who came from other cities. Social Services would literally buy a bus ticket for the people who they couldn’t serve, sending them to the town where I lived. If the people didn’t want to sleep in the shelters, (ones who couldn’t stay off drugs or alcohol or make it by 7pm) the shelters would supply the person with a sleeping bag, a small tent, a lantern and a few meal tickets so they could come for meals. The people would find places to put their tents in the mountains.
    I mention this because I met many of these people through my writing projects. I knew many of them. It was hard walking away, leaving them to be homeless, esp., when I had a spare room. I let one very nice man stay in a tent in my yard and he painted me beautiful pictures while he lived there, along with helping with some chores. I liked him. He liked my yard too much & I finally had to ask him to leave. I didn’t have my private space and couldn’t function without it. I felt very guilty but he hadn’t tried to change his situation while he was staying in my lovely yard. He finally did get help for his depression, which turned out to be what was ailing him most. I will say that if I had thought he would steal from me, I wouldn’t have allowed him in my home or my yard. We can’t just open up our homes and say –hey, it’s all for the taking. That wouldn’t be right.
    A person can apply for Social Security Supplemental Income, SSI. When a person is down and out, unemployed, homeless and has health problems, there are programs through the social services to assist with housing, which may be the most important resource. All humans, no matter what their “problems,” need shelter.
    That doesn’t mean it is up to you to provide that. You have your health to take care of and that’s a huge responsibility, one that requires so much from you. I imagine your home is your safe and healing haven and you need that.
    If you feel like you really want to do something, perhaps you could make a list of phone numbers, along with a crisis line number for your friend. Whatever Social Security office is the one closest to her is where she needs to apply for SSI. She would likely have to go in person, in the morning, and wait. I’m not sure if you must have a pending application for Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) to qualify for SSI. You can call the 800 number for Social Security in your state to find out about qualifying for SSI. A representative can give you accurate and helpful information as to what your friend may qualify for and where she should start.
    I would get the number for the local housing authority too. Sometimes it’s called HUD or Section-8. Social Services can give you many of these numbers. You can also get a list of all the AA meetings in the area. These are easy to get online. Just search for AA in your area. Maybe there is a women’s shelter nearby that offers AA meetings too.
    You are very kind Mo and in my experience, whether or not some people realize what they are doing, they will take advantage of someone like you.
    Giving your friend a list of numbers, and maybe a little card telling her that you care would mean a lot to her. Maybe mention that you would love to see her go to an AA meeting because it isn’t too late for her to have a better life.
    You can also buy a ten dollar gift certificate to Subway or from a place like Dollar General, where they sell food and supplies she might need, (toothbrush, paste and those hand-wipes), but not alcohol.
    Well, I gave my two-cents worth. Sorry it took so many words.

    With well wishes for you, and your friend,

    • Everything you said is right. This woman wants everything done the easiest way possible. Actually having to apply for SSI or even a job is just too much trouble for her. In the past I have given her some of my old clothes and fed her, but I don’t even know if I can do that anymore. Thanks for your advice!

      • Hi Mo,
        I’m sorry, I didn’t see where you said you gave her that list of numbers.
        You have gone beyond your duty, I think.
        Anyone who is homeless who thinks they are too good to apply for help, or just don’t feel like it, well, I guess they must live with the consequences of doing nothing.
        I have two family members (older than I am) who live off their parents. They think they are too good to ask for help outside of their family. If the families were rich that would be different, but they aren’t and the mothers are both stressed. My mother tells them about me, she says, and how I made it. I wish she wouldn’t because she says, “They could never do what you’ve done, making it on your own like you have.”
        She sort of brags about me “making it,” and I doubt if these relatives appreciate that. I guess in a way she is right, but I feel like I didn’t make it on my own. I asked for help and thank goodness, I got some. In my mother’s eyes though, I made it and she says quite well.

        I apologize for having missed a very important part of what you wrote.

        With that said, I hope you are feeling better and taking care of Mo :).

        With well wishes,

  9. There are some folks you can’t help; you have given her opportunies to change/turn her life around. She is an energy vampire who returns none of the favo(u)rs you have done for her i.e. even simply contacting the place that could help with her health issues and addictions. As hard as it is, maybe its time for “tough love,” giving her ultimates about her condition. She is obviously still in denial. Until she recognizes her problems and issues she will be lining up in shelters.
    I can see why you would feel guilty about not helping. But your friend isn’t going to change without an intervention or a revelation about what she has done to her family and friends.
    Folks who abuse drugs and alcohol continue to do so unless they recognize their problems, and truly want to stop the drug and alcohol abuse. Getting clean is a painful, emotional, physical journey which is a very tough road to follow. Unless you can be sure that your friend is ready to change, you are enabling her addictions through your kindness
    I realize it’s tough to turn your back on a needy friend and that if you chose not to help, she will be lining up for shelter, and food from a soup kitchen — I image there is one in the town for meal. And, yes, guilt is a powerful thing. Thoughts of “how can I not help” are probably going through your head.
    Ulitmately, the decision is up to you; it’s easy for me to say “don’t enable” because it’s not my friend, or a situation I’m currently in.
    But knowing folks like your friend, they will continue to take every advantage until they truly (if ever) come to the relazation that they need help with more than a bed for the night or food the next day; they need help with their additions to “bad” men, alcohol, and drugs (both legal and illegal)
    Sending you (((((hugs))))) while you deal with this dilemna. I’m sure other folks have some concise advice to offer.
    Hang in there

    • Oh Phylor you are another wise friend. The funny thing about this whole thing is she thinks she is too good for a shelter, people like her don’t belong in one of those places. After her stint in jail I really thought she would change. I think she just got smarter while she was there.

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