DEAR KELLY: My best friend is struggling and I don’t know what to do. Her dad cheated on her mom. When her mom found out, she kicked her dad out. Then her older brother got caught drinking and driving one night (he’s only 17) and got arrested. When her dad found out, he blamed her mom for letting the brother go out when he was supposed to be on restriction, and her mom just left out of the blue one night and checked herself into a hotel for like two nights because she felt like she was having a nervous breakdown.
My friend and her younger sister basically took care of themselves for those two days because her mom had kicked her brother out when he got the DUI and he went to live with her dad. My friend seemed to be holding everything together until this last weekend, then she lost it.
I was hanging out at my boyfriend’s house and got a text to come pick up my best friend from a party. She’s not usually a big party kind of person, more a mellow person who just likes to chill with friends. I know she’s been drunk before but I don’t know if she’s ever been totally wasted like that. When I got to the house, she was passed out. When I got her back to my house, she totally lost it and was bawling and yelling how much she hated her family and everything that has happened to them. She was saying some stuff I know isn’t true about her parents, but she was just so drunk and so angry.
The next morning she told me that she had sex with two different guys that night but could only remember who the first one was. Kelly, she couldn’t even remember who the second guy was. I told her I’d find out but she begged me not to because that meant I would have to ask around, and she doesn’t want people to know she had sex with two guys even though I think people do know.
I’m worried about her and think she’s out of control. I said she needs to get help because clearly something is wrong. She swears that her mom can’t take anything else bad happening, and that she can’t tell her parents what happened because they would freak out. What should I to do? Everyone knows we have been tight since elementary school, so people keep texting me and asking me what I’m going to do about her drinking since she was so whacked out that night.
What do I do? Please help me because if I tell on her, I don’t know if she will hate me and I know she needs my friendship because her whole family is falling apart. I don’t know where to turn or what the right thing to do is.
DEAR CAITLIN: Oy vey. What a sad situation your friend is in. My heart hurts for her and it’s obvious she is in a great deal of internal pain. Her bad choices are a direct reflection of all the chaos she is experiencing within her family. Your concerns for your friend are very justified, and you can’t share what you know without speaking up. The last thing you would ever want would be for something bad to happen to her and you feel responsible for not speaking up sooner. This is not a case of telling but rather of speaking up and getting help for someone you care about.
What adult do you trust? Your mom or dad? A school nurse, teacher, coach or counselor? A mutual friend’s mom? A youth pastor? Pick one adult you trust and reach out to them. Know that what you are doing is not to get her in trouble but to help her stay out of trouble or troubling situations.
Speak up about what you know has happened. My concerns aren’t just about her choices, but about her parents’ choices as well. I get her mom got overwhelmed, but up and leaving isn’t OK. Her parents need to develop a plan on how to take care of their kids when one parent needs a break. Leaving them to handle the family mess alone should not be an option.
My guess is this wasn’t the first time your friend got drunk, based on people’s reactions. People don’t ask you what you’re going to do unless they think it’s a problem. Share that when she drinks, it’s excessive and dangerous. She makes scary decisions that compromise her personal safety. She risks things like alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, rape, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Even if your friend claims that was the first time she drank like that (highly unlikely), her actions still require concern about this happening again in the future.
If you are worried about her being angry with you, perhaps your name can be left out of the story and just say a teenager who was at the party came forward and expressed concern. You weren’t the only person who saw her in that state, so why would you be the only person who would speak up? If you talk with a counselor or teacher, they can just say that another student expressed concern from what they witnessed at the party.
The adult needs to help your friend find a professional counselor to talk to about her situation, her feelings and her actions. The drinking and the sex are unhealthy coping tools for all the pain she is in. Once you reach out and an adult intervenes, your role then flips back to friend. That means you support her and offer a shoulder or an ear when she needs it, but you aren’t responsible for her choices or her consequences. Your friend needs a professional to step in and guide her and her family to better, safer and smarter choices. Loving your friend means speaking up and letting the adults take over to get her the help she needs to process all the changes happening in her family.