Can I stop my newly-single friend from self-destructing?
February 12, 2011 4:20 AM   Subscribe

Can I stop my newly-single friend from self-destructing?

A close friend of mine has recently split up with her boyfriend of two years. When I asked her how she was feeling, her response was along the lines of, oh you know, not so great but a few good nights out will fix things.

I've known her for many years, we lived together for a spell, and both of the times that she's been in a similar situation (and, in fact, in other times of great sadness) her "good night out" technique of dealing has been to go out, get completely wasted on alcohol/class A drugs, sleep with someone she didn't mean to sleep with, and end up being ill, horribly embarrassed or hating herself afterward.

I'm going to see her tomorrow and I want to try and curve her trajectory away from the crusade of self-destruction she would normally embark on, but I want to do so without sounding patronising, or like I'm trying to run her life for her. I'm also afraid that she will turn around and say, well, you've been in a secure relationship for years, what would you know about how it feels?

She'd be completely right - I don't, not fresh like she does, I can't possibly empathise fully with that need to lose yourself in any way possible. But please MeFi, help me to help her move on without hurting herself too much.
posted by greenish to Human Relations (19 answers total)
I'm not sure that you can. She's tried self meditating like this before, has bad experiences and not learnt from that so I doubt anything you can say will sink in. The most you can do is maybe keep an eye on her, attempt to limit the amount she drinks so she is somewhat clearheaded and try to vet the guy a bit beforehand. Sadly, she's a grown up and maybe for a night this is what she needs to forget it all for a few hours. Just be there if she needs to talk more than anything.
posted by Jubey at 4:40 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could say "Well, at least we're past the age where we feel like we have to get wasted and sleep with someone we regret.". In the right tone of voice it could come across as more "remember when..." than "don't be a fool". Using we vs. you will help too, I think.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:52 AM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

short answer: no. Just be there for her. Without judging.
posted by lemniskate at 5:12 AM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

you've been in a secure relationship for years, what would you know about how it feels?

"I don't. But what I do know is how it feels after a night partying like that, and how sick and unhappy you've seemed after nights like that before. I care about you. This plan seems, to me, like it's only going to make you even more unhappy in the long run, and it hurts me to see you unhappy. If this is REALLY what you want to do, and you are totally okay with how you'll feel about it tomorrow, alright. I'll be there with pancakes and eggs in the morning. But, just so you know, I'm totally on-board to spend a night doing X, Y, and Z instead."

If she needs something to completely occupy her mind to get her to stop thinking about things, why not provide an alternative? In the end, as has been said, you can't force her to do what you want, but you can remind her of how terribly her "good nights" have gone in the past. Do it out of love and compassion, do it while providing an alternative, and do it while maintaining that, no matter what, you'll be there for her whenever she needs it. That's the best any friend can do.
posted by meese at 5:33 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

One thing you can do to help your friend, other than just saying that you hope she's careful because you care a lot about her, is to offer to be there for her if she needs. If it's 4am, and she's unsure what she's doing and needs out, you could be the friend who shows up and helps her avoid a mistake she might make because she doesn't know what else to do.

You can't stop someone from making a mistake, but you can offer them an alternative path before they do.
posted by dflemingecon at 6:05 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can offer her your place as a safe alternative place to get wasted, or you can offer her a sober buddy to watch her drunk ass.

You can help her keep her resolve once the drinks start flowing. Decide before you go out what of her behavior warrants an immediate ride home. It's really not your place to stop her from deciding to go on a trampage, even if she's going to complain later.
posted by Blisterlips at 6:15 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tell her that binge drinking/drugging is just as much of a form of substance abuse as daily use.

Tell her that silencing the pain for one night just delays it and makes it worse. The longer we try to deny our feelings, the worse and weirder they get. And getting trashed and feeling sick just adds more pain.
posted by gjc at 6:44 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

What's the problem? Getting trashed is a time honored way of hitting the reset button after a really bad thing happens. With the possible exception of the bad sex part (though hilariously bad sex can be healing in its own right) the only problem with her conduct is feeling embarrassed afterwards - and your moralistic disapproval wont help fix that! So either go out and help her have some cathartic fun, while keeping a friendly eye out for her safety, or get out of the way.
posted by yarly at 7:12 AM on February 12, 2011 [20 favorites]

Applaud her hookups when they're attractive or nice. Laugh and recall the better choices otherwise.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:24 AM on February 12, 2011

I also vote for getting smashed as excellent therapy. The hookup part can also be excellent therapy for some people, but not for those incapable of hooking up safely when wasted and/or incapable of hooking up and having the hookup stay at an entirely physical level. No idea which one of those your friend is.

I think the job of a good friend in this situation is to simultaneously get smashed along with your depressed friend and still watch over/guide them. The other alternative (possibly but not necessarily combine-able with chemical enhancement) is to do something incredibly entertaining and absorbing with them. Movie/tv marathons, bad movie/tv marathons, d&d/video-games, zoos, going to some "local attractions" that you never go to (museums, parks, what have you)... Be creative and don't ask your friend what she wants to do, just grab her hand and drag her ice skating!
posted by tempythethird at 7:41 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm inspired by the terrible advice given above to suggest a course of full-on reverse psychology: support your friend in dealing with her emotional hurt by getting herpes from a stranger and waking up in the suburbs covered in somebody's puke! Works like a charm!

Seriously, it's cool that you care about your friend. Maybe you could just tell her you're there for her, and invite her along to something really fun to help get her mind off it. Be there to listen. I don't think there's a magic bullet. If she's really got it in her mind to do something self-destructive, she's gonna do it, unfortunately.
posted by facetious at 7:56 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't see anything wrong with her going out and drinking too much and maybe throwing up or whatever and being embarrassed about it the next day. It's not super amazing behavior, but it's not really hurting anyone and the ritual of it might be something that helps her feel better.

About the sleeping with random people - maybe guide her away from doing that via choice of venue? Go out on a Tuesday. Go out to a gay bar. If things get dire, maybe you could make her dependent on you for transportation? Or just tell her at the time, "I can't in good conscience let you go home with that guy"?

Tramapge. Lol.
posted by Sara C. at 8:54 AM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sounds like she's figured out a way to deal with things that works for her. If the "self-destruction" doesn't result in any permanent emotional or physical injury I'd say let her go make her own mistakes.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:20 AM on February 12, 2011

There's having a couple too many and there's completely wasted on alcohol/class A drugs. There's a cathartic night and there's regret, self-loathing and all sorts of possible ugliness. The latter three aren't necessarily part of the former.

Dunno about the environment, where this is happening, but she wouldn't be the first person to end up in the hospital, jail or both in the wake of drinking and class-A drug use. As others have noted, she wouldn't be the first person to end up pregnant, assaulted, with an STD or all those things.

Suggestions/operational help/offering to join her on her cathartic night of drinking to excess sans class-A drugs, not to wretched excess (and staying sober or real close, doing what you can to keep her from having drunk sex) would be the actions of a good, caring friend.

Indeed, all you can do is take a good, thoughtful shot at keeping things from getting outta hand. As people have said, if she's determined to do it... .
posted by ambient2 at 12:51 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm agreeing with people that getting hammed isn't so bad. Just be sure to do it in a safe environment. The two major ingredients I've found to a good night of forgetting are: boooooze, and incredibly loud music. You need a house where you can crank the tunes and bunch of chicks to commiserate/get silly with, also you need to stay sober to wrangle her. Just stay away from the clubs and men. If she looks anxious to leave, tell her just one more shot. Repeat as necessary. Until she's out sleeping safely on the bathroom floor where presumably there are no herpes/needles/evil men.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 1:07 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

P.S. I disagree with: It's really not your place to stop her from deciding to go on a trampage, even if she's going to complain later.

Russell Brand (and others) related times of being in bad situations, a friend was trying hard to help and he thought the friend was "an asshole." When he got himself sorted out, he realized that the person he thought of as an asshole, as someone who was out of line, was actually being an extraordinarily good, caring friend who may well have saved him from all sorts of really bad things.

He expressed a great width and breadth of gratitude for his friend's words, actions and efforts.
posted by ambient2 at 1:10 PM on February 12, 2011

Thanks to everyone for their opinion.

And thanks Ambient2 and Facetious for actually reading the question - I'm kind of surprised people missed the level of wasted we're talking about here. I'm all for seeking solace in a bottle of wine but we are talking much more than your garden-variety squiffy here. And please - drunkenly/drugged/potentially unprotectedly sleeping with strangers is a healthy recovery technique? Are you kidding?

Also, thanks for the tips about going out with her, but I'm actually only seeing her for one night (we live in different cities) so I was hoping more for advice on what I can say to help her go forth safely.
posted by greenish at 2:50 PM on February 12, 2011

Nothing you can say to your friend is going to prevent her from going on a bender and sleeping with a stranger, if it's something she's prone to. Especially if you're in a happy relationship, don't have a history with her drug of choice, live in a different city, and are only seeing her for one day which is not the day you think she's going to act out.

If you can be physically there for your friend, guiding her through a carefully curated night of debauchery so that nobody gets hurt, then I would do that. If you're not going to be with her, the best you can do is to be supportive of her in general and to maybe offer some low-key advice like, "remember you always feel really down on yourself the morning after".
posted by Sara C. at 3:06 PM on February 12, 2011

Greenish, you can get upset at the fact that you're not getting the magical cure all answer you're looking for or you can take on board what most people are saying, which is if she's going to do it, there's nothing you can do to stop it. We are not mind readers, we're not to know you're not in a position to keep an eye on her when she's out. I think most of the answers you got were actually quite helpful for a person that it seems is intent on following this course of action anyway.

Regardless of the fact that drinking and having a one night stand isn't your thing, for many people it's a technique used to get over heartbreak. On some level it must work for your friend, she keeps doing it, doesn't she? So you can be the judgemental disapproving friend or you can shut up and support her. Your choice.
posted by Jubey at 3:41 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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