Help! A friend in trouble.
June 13, 2014 12:33 PM   Subscribe

I’m asking on behalf of a friend, who for the purposes of this question I'll call ‘Ted’. A good friend of his ‘Pete’ has taken a turn for the worse. Ted saw Pete for the first time in several months, and he’s a mess. Ted is seriously worried for Pete’s well being, he’s falling into a cycle of partying and drug use, and seems to be falling apart. Drugs, Physical and Mental Health issues abound, Ted wants to know how to help Pete before things get really bad.

Posted with Ted’s blessing. Based in Los Angeles, location specified because it might be relevant to the culture. Ted and Pete have known each other for years. Ted has been living on Los Angeles for the past 5 years. Pete moved out there about a year and a half ago. They haven’t seen each other in a few months due to conflicting schedules. They met for drinks a couple days ago in celebration of Ted’s birthday. When Ted saw Pete, his appearance immediately stood out. He looked terrible; he’d lost a ton of weight, has a nervous energy to him, and alarm bells started going off that something was not right.

As they caught up with each others lives over the past few months, Pete regales Ted with stories of how he’s been partying excessively, drinking all night, and doing Molly into the day. Pete tells Ted said he’s going out most days of the week, parting 5 or 6 days a week. He’s glorifying the partying, but many of the stories obviously not good things. As an example, one of Pete’s friend had a major nosebleed at a bar from doing too much coke. Pete characterized it as being “so funny”, describing it as an example of the exciting things going on in his life.

In addition to that, Pete is losing a significant amount of weight, which he attributes to the molly and a lack of appetite. He recognizes that he is losing the weight, but thinks it’s a good thing. Pete has always had body images issues, especially when it comes to weight. Coming out to LA has made things worse. Pete tells Ted how molly has been really great for him, because he’s lost all interest in eating food. Pete complains about the fat he still has. The “fat” Pete pointed out to Ted isn’t fat, it’s skin hanging loosely from losing weight too quickly. Meanwhile his bones are jutting out at all sorts of angles. He looked gaunt, sickly.

He seemed to have a really distorted view of himself. It’s not just the weight issue. He’s been tanning a lot, to the point where his boss told him to lay off the tanning because it didn’t look good. Ted’s concerned that is symptomatic of a bigger issue with body image.

Pete has struggled with depression, and it’s been worse since arriving in LA. He has only been able to find part time work. He went through a phase where he was drinking a lot, and it seemed to stem in part from his inability to find meaningful and full time work out here. On the surface, the molly is “helping” with the depression, but it’s making everything else worse and Pete is oblivious to this. Pete had a boyfriend last time he and Ted talked, but the boyfriend left Pete. Pete opined that it was likely due to how moody he was after coming down from molly, but didn’t really seem to connect the dots that this was a sign of a bigger problem.

Pete’s behavior that night seems indicative of a bigger problem too. Ted said Pete spent a lot of time fidgeting and generally being distracted. Ted told me he was worried that if Pete was acting like that that in job interviews, that would ruin his job prospects. Pete kept touching his own face, rubbing his fingers together, generally not able to sit still. He also mentioned wearing the same clothing for the past few days, being too busy partying to go home and deal with clean clothing.

I spoke at length with Ted about this. he’s very concerned for Pete. All this has happened in a few short months. Ted said he’d previously seen Pete about 4 or 5 month ago, and there was no indication anything like this was happening. The dramatic weight loss has also happened in that short window. Pete’s afraid Ted is going to hurt himself irreparably. But he’s also deeply concerned that anything he says suggesting Pete is harming himself will be taken as an affront and will just alienate himself from Pete.

Ted’s reached out to another close friend of Pete, but he’s also not seen much of Pete either since this started to happen. They are trying to decide what, if anything they should do to try and help. Ted suspects anything like an intervention would be met with hostile resistance. Ted thinks it might be a good idea to contact Pete’s parents, who are supporting his life in LA. But he’s also struggling with the fact that Pete is an adult, and fundamentally can do what he wants to himself. He’s afraid that if Pete’s parents cut him off, Pete will just couch surf and use what little money he has to continue his lifestyle.

I have met Pete, although I don’t know him well. But based on Ted’s description it sounds like a very unhealthy combination of depression, drugs and anorexia. Neither of us are prudes, this but to me this sounds like an extremely bad combination that won’t just end in a lost friend but possibly a lost life. We're looking for suggestions how best to help Pete, or even if it's appropriate.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Human Relations (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ted suspects anything like an intervention would be met with hostile resistance. Ted thinks it might be a good idea to contact Pete’s parents, who are supporting his life in LA. But he’s also struggling with the fact that Pete is an adult, and fundamentally can do what he wants to himself. He’s afraid that if Pete’s parents cut him off, Pete will just couch surf and use what little money he has to continue his lifestyle.

Most interventions are met with resistance. Friendships end and families often never talk again after them. But they have to happen because if they don't, then you miss the chance to tell someone that you love and care about that they are sick and you want to help them. Then it's up to them to decide if they want to take the life preserver or not.

If Pete's parents are paying for his lifestyle, they should absolutely be invited to take part in this intervention. They should be given the chance to fight for their son's life before it may be too late.

What Pete does is ultimately up to him. If he doesn't take the help, your friend can't be a part of his life anymore until and unless he wants to take advantage of the help he offered.
posted by inturnaround at 12:38 PM on June 13, 2014

Yes Pete needs an intervention, and if I were his parents, I'd want to be there and arrange it for him.

So call his folks, and explain to them that Pete needs help. They'll probably fly out and deal with it, and you and Pete's other friend can help with the actual intervention part of it.

This is above your pay grade, but work with his parents, don't assume that they'd abandon him outright. If it were my child, I wouldn't.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:41 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not your question, but Ted should know that Pete's symptoms sound much more like a meth addiction: Molly vs Meth addiction symptoms.
posted by carmicha at 12:46 PM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I agree. It sounds like he's on speed, not e. Your description is of someone who is high all the time, and you can't stay high that long on ecstasy. It just stops working after a while.

I had a lot of friends from the party scene go through phases like this. Believe it or not, people can burn out and bounce back pretty quickly if they have some place to go that's away from the scene for a while. Most people that get into speed get bored with it in a few months to a year. It's the people that don't that get all the attention, though.

There's really nothing you can do to make him stop though. Just don't give him money or a place to stay or anything, and don't hang out with him while he's high. And really, if he's not your friend, it's kind of none of your business anyway.
posted by empath at 1:04 PM on June 13, 2014

Nthing contacting Pete's parents.
posted by jbenben at 1:24 PM on June 13, 2014

Another vote for meth. It's quite likely that the Molly Pete is using is very methy, so whether he's aware he's taking lots of meth is a question as well (though, I'm pretty sure that he knows exactly what he's doing unless he's in extreme denial or really, really naive). Calling it "partying and doing lots of Molly" is far less stigmatized than calling it "being addicted to meth".

A lot of whether Pete's parents should be contacted depends on what Pete's parents are like. I've seen interventions have great results and also terrible, extremely destructive results. A lot of that hinges on the nature of the interveners and their preexisting relationships with the addict. It's not necessarily a magic bullet.
posted by quince at 1:31 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd leave it alone. I've seen a lot of people get really out there with meth, molly, crank whatever it's called these days including myself. The problem generally (but not always) clears up on its own and one thing you don't want to do is spark resistance and sever connections. At the most I'd try to invite Pete to gatherings that don't involve stimulant use and let Pete remind himself that it's not all that. Beyond that, you just have to let it run its course. Eventually I got tired of my heart hammering in my chest all the time. Maybe one way to think about it is that he's already amped up enough, displaying alarm will simply make things worse.
posted by telstar at 5:27 PM on June 13, 2014

Doing lots of 'molly' (ecstasy; MDMA to be precise) tends to work itself out within a couple of months; law of diminishing returns and all that, and it's truly not addictive.

This sounds, as others have said, much more like meth--or maybe coke--addiction/abuse.

Try suggesting to Ted that he have Pete over for quiet, substance-free evenings. (Maybe a little wine at first to settle the jiggles? IANAD) See how that goes. If there's resistance or whatnot, Ted should contact the parents and have a heart to heart. Not you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:31 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

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