My Good Friend Has Been Making a Good Attempt at Getting Her Life Back on Track but I Fear I've Derailed Her Successes. What can I do?
I have a very good friend who lives in a city about 3 hours away from me so I don't see her a lot, but we do talk on the phone every few weeks, often more, and I feel that she's one of my best friends.
Though I knew her throughout our 20s she always seemed like she had her head on straight. Now that we're approaching 40, in the last 5 years or so, the childhood sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather seems to have caught up with her and she's turned to drinking.
She often calls or texts at late hours, usually drunk, to talk or vent. Sometimes she cries, usually she's angry. I don't know her entire story - she's told me bits and pieces and I've put them together to form a fairly coherent picture of what her experience was like. Mostly when she calls I just listen.
Last year she attended an AA meeting, of her own volition, but felt that she wasn't as far gone as the people at the meeting. (I realize this is pretty typical denial.) I think she was also turned off by the religious aspect of the AA meeting.
She has a very supportive boyfriend who continues to be by her side no matter what. I've never met him. They've been together for about a year.
About a month ago she called one night, drunk and crying talking about killing herself. It sounded like a cry for help. I didn't know what to do, being so far away. I knew I couldn't call her mother or father (for different reasons) but I thought maybe I could contact her boyfriend. I'm not sure what good I thought it would do.
Anyway, I contacted him and we had a 2 minute conversation, both of us saying we were concerned for her and I said I thought she needed professional help and maybe if he suggested that too, she might actually go and do that. Then, and I completely regret this now, I told him to please not tell her that I spoke to him. I thought she'd be hurt and angry that I'd gone behind her back.
It turns out that night she also called her sister and her sister contacted their father (not the abuser) and things kind of got out in the open. She's been doing better recently, has had several job interviews, hasn't been calling drunk so much etc.
Yesterday I was talking to her and I'd been feeling badly that I'd spoken to her boyfriend, and so I told her what I did and what we said to each other. I expected her to be hurt and a bit angry, but I thought she'd at least be happy that I told her now.
I think it would be overstating it to say that she 'went off the deep end,' but she was very upset, angry at me, threatening to break up with her boyfriend, crying etc. (Needless to say she was also drinking at this point.) She says we both betrayed her and this has brought up her
feelings about the betrayal by her stepfather, and it went on and on.
She insists that she wants people to be honest and upfront. I've apologized for not being straight with her, I said it was pure weakness on my part. It comes from my personality of trying to avoid conflict.
I've told her I think she needs professional help. I even said that I think she needs more perspective if she thinks what I did is on par with abuse. I told her I think it's ridiculous that she's threatening to break up with her boyfriend when he's probably the best thing that ever happened to her.
At one point she said I was irritating her and I snapped a bit and told her that it irritates me when she calls here drunk. I feel awful that I raised my voice to her even though I apologized right after.
I have no idea if she'll even remember I said all those things because she was drinking at the time. I don't know if I should have said any of it. I just don't know what to do now, how to make this right. I love her and I just want her to get better.
Your intentions were good and your friend has totally blown what you did out of proportion, which tends to happen when you talk to someone when they're drunk. So you'll hopefully find that when you speak to her again she'll either have forgotten, or will have calmed down and come to realise that her reaction was over the top.
Talking to someone when they're drunk really isn't a great idea, because all you do is become an emotional dumping ground, which helps neither them nor you. So while you want to be there for your friend, the drunken phone calls aren't something you want to be encouraging too much.
You've absolutely done the right thing by suggesting your friend gets professional help ... and keep encouraging her to do that. And even though she may not have enjoyed the AA meeting she went to, encourage her to try others because often its a case of finding the right fit, because they're not all the same.
Being there for a friend by simply allowing them to talk and unburden is a wonderfully selfless thing to do, but ideally you want it to happen in a healthier way, not regular drunken rants. And its not unusual to see an alcoholic do well for a while, but unless they've gotten help and are working a program, spells like that often don't last, so don't feel guilty about what happened.
The person best placed to help your friend is her boyfriend. But even the best intentions don't guarantee success, because until your friend really wants to overcome her alcoholism, and is prepared to put in the work to make it happen, she's unlikely to change.
So never stop believing or hoping, but you need to also manage your expectations around how thing pan out with her, and realise that you have no control over whether she ever manages to turn her life around.