Teen Talk

Teen Talk: She feels guilt for friend’s decisions, downfall

Kelly Richardson
Kelly Richardson Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

DEAR KELLY: I went out with a guy “Chris” all last year. He had a good friend, “Max,” that I met through Chris. I introduced Max to one of my good friends, “Rina.” Max and Rina started going out and got really serious really fast. In the beginning Rina asked me if Max was a good guy, and I said “yes” because I really didn’t know all about him, but he seemed nice to my face.

Chris and I broke up after I found out he was cheating on me and smoking weed all the time and lied about everything. I loved him, but I was OK after we broke up. Last week I found out Rina was admitted to a place because she had a breakdown that was all around Max. I found out he lied to her, totally got her into smoking pot and doing molly. She failed three classes because she was always with him, and when she found out he had cheated on her, she cut her wrists and ended up in the hospital.

Her parents are saying she might need drug rehab now. I feel so bad Kelly because I introduced them, and I think this is all my fault. I texted Chris and said how bad I felt, and he was like, “They were dumb. It’s not your fault; it’s theirs. Don’t be stupid about this.” Why do I feel so bad if he doesn’t? Why do things he says still hurt, too?

What do I do with all the guilt? I don’t know if I should contact Rina or her parents and say that I’m sorry. I feel so bad that Rina is in trouble, and I am part of why. Do you have any advice for me or is this something I just have to live with?


DEAR FRIEND: You are being pretty hard on yourself for something that is not your fault. You introduced them, but from there they made their own decisions and choices. You aren’t responsible for their decisions to smoke pot, do molly or stop doing their homework. This is more about them than it is about you.

I appreciate you trying to own your part and take responsibility for how things shook down. The reality is that besides you saying, “Max, this is Rina and Rina, this is Max,” the decisions they made beyond that fall to their choices. They chose the pace their relationship went and even if Max influenced Rina, she still had the choice to say no to his bad suggestions. Max might have had the ideas, but Rina went along with them. To your credit, when you found out what Chris was doing, you broke up with him. You could have gone along with what he was doing, but you didn’t. Rina had the same option you did, but she chose to continue down the road even though I’m sure she knew the dangers.

If you feel like you can’t have peace with yourself until you address Rina, then reach out. Contact Rina’s parents and ask if you can send her a letter or a text to see how she is doing. Some in-patient facilities limit who they allow the patient to have contact with, so you need to check with her parents first. If they are open to you contacting her, just send her an email that says how sorry you were to hear she wasn’t doing well and that you feel regret for being involved with the beginning of what seems to have caused her a great deal of pain. Tell her you didn’t know Max or Chris were both involved in drugs, lying and poor choices. Let her know that if you had known, you would have never introduced them. Share that you are genuinely sorry for what has happened and you hope she recovers from what has happened and knows that people care about her. Don’t expect a response or reply. She is dealing with a lot right now, and your main goal is just to let her know how sorry you are that things turned out the way they did and you hope she heals.

After writing this to her, consider writing yourself a letter as well. Write about what happened, how you feel, what you wish you could change and how you will move forward and let go. Then either tear it up, burn it or attach the piece of paper to a helium balloon or do something similar to symbolically let go of all that has happened. Perhaps in the letter tell Chris what a terrible boyfriend he was and let go of his role in your past. Tell him he is not worth your time nor your energy any more and you are better off without him. As you let go of him, let go of the guilt you feel around Rina and Max. Forgive yourself for something you did not intend or maliciously do. You introduced two people – it happens all the time. They took it from there and now they are dealing with the unfortunate consequences of their decisions.

Life is about learning lessons and not making the same mistakes. There is a lot to be learned from this situation. Choosing the right people to hang out with is a huge one. Be careful of who you choose to date in the future and make sure he is worthy of your time and your love. If your guilt continues to bother you and you can’t move on, consider talking to a professional counselor, trusted teacher or youth pastor. You don’t want to carry that emotional baggage or negative feelings around and have it affect your life in a painful and damaging way.

Take care of yourself. Be proud of yourself for cutting things off when you saw Chris’ true colors. Forgive yourself, you are not perfect. Show yourself grace, you are learning. Let go and move on.