How to help a friend in need?
July 27, 2008 3:21 PM   Subscribe

How to assist a friend in need? A very smart, kind-hearted person whose life has deteriorated due to alcohol, and I think, depression. Living alone out in the countryside where there is no access to any type of mass transit, and just had their car re-possessed.

The part-time job that she has managed to retain so far (after being fired from several good jobs due to absences), seems to be just sufficient to keep her head above water, but she obviously can't get to it without driving.

The few friends who haven't yet skedaddled have already "loaned" her all the money we can spare and can't really come up with very much more.

She has no insurance anymore.

She has admitted she needs help, and has even gone to a county hospital to seek it, but was told she wasn't indigent enough!

She knows she needs help, so do her friends, but how to get it, short of becoming homeless and compeletely destitute? I wanted to give her a bank card with some money on it to help her get by, but my wife says she will just use it for alcohol and then we will eventually be right back where we are today. I have to admit that is probably true.

I know if there was a simple answer to this kind of question, there would be a lot less tragedy in the world, but is there something that we can do that wll not entangle us too deeply in her life - or more than we already are - to help this person?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total)
Is there an AA group in her area? One of their sponsors will at the very least probably be glad to find her a ride to meetings.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 3:39 PM on July 27, 2008

Forget the county hospital. Check into your county's drug/alcohol treatment program, which is probably run through the department of social services. The intensity of the programs vary according to county resources, but they will at least be able to provide resources (if not treatment).

Take your friend to the office and wait. She might need a ride every day. Social workers can probably help arrange this, but you can also check among your mutual friends to set up a ride schedule for her.

Helping her find out about alcohol treatment and then actually getting her there is way more valuable than any financial assistance you could provide.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:42 PM on July 27, 2008

Arrange for a local person to drive her around. Pay for that. Don't give her money upfront. And what mudpuppie said.
posted by zia at 3:45 PM on July 27, 2008

Also, on the off-chance that you're in CA, I might be able to provide you with a bit more information on county programs, or at least help you track it down. Send me a mefimail if interested.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:45 PM on July 27, 2008

How far is the commute? A bike is well within reason here unless we're talking past 10 or 15 miles.
posted by tinkertown at 4:00 PM on July 27, 2008

living alone out in the countryside without access to mass transit might be the very best thing for her. i know i used to wish that since no one would brand a scarlet 'a' on my forehead (warning merchants not to sell to me), then being stranded on a desert isle somewhere might be enough to keep me from finding a way to continue ruining my life.

i'm not trying to be a smartass. i honestly did wish for the scarlet a & being stranded. i know one guy who heads for his cabin in the mountains to dry out, and another who used to travel overseas to a muslim country where alcohol is technically forbidden & most drugs are very difficult to get.

the worse off she is now the better off she stands to be in the future. (hitting the bottom is an ugly reality for 98% of the recovering people i know.) quite frankly, if she loses the job it might be the impetus she needs to excuse me while i trot out a.a.go to any length to get clean. the fact that you want to help, and that you're one of the few who've stuck around, is huge.

unfortunately there's nothing you can do but be there for her. and being there is more precious than you'll know. seconding mudpuppie, and adding that you might want to check out the availability of a.a. meetings and give her the info. but don't nag her about it. guilt heaped on top of her dismal situation can only prove to be counterproductive. if she asks you for a ride to get to a meeting, though, it could be the greatest kindness you ever extend to another human being.

i don't go to a.a. any more, but i have nothing but respect for the meetings & the practice. it saved my life not once, but twice. having the social network the meetings provided--even though our major social activity was going to meetings--proved to be invaluable.

i'm so sorry for you in your position; it's terribly difficult to stand by and watch another human being shrink into the bottle. i'm so happy to hear, though, that you do want to help. if she ever gets it together, she's going to need a friend.

mefimail me if you have any questions or just want someone to give you an attaboy/girl. if you decide to stick it out, you might need it.
posted by msconduct at 5:51 PM on July 27, 2008

If you really want to help her, you have to do something really difficult to do. You have to let her hit bottom -- that is, face so many negative consequences of her drinking that even she can undeniably say that her life as a drinking alcoholic is unmanageable. If she's not to that point yet, bailing her out of her immediate situation is enabling her -- it lets her carry on with her drinking and continue to not see what's really happening to her. You've probably been surprised to see how far she's allowed it to go right now... you'll be surprised to see how much further down she may be willing to go.

She can go to an AA meeting without quitting yet. She can go without speaking. This might help, because she will hear others talk about how low they went before they stopped. You can go with her, as long as the meeting is marked as an "open meeting". This might give her courage to walk into the room, and might help you to understand about enabling, and people hitting bottom.

AA is free, is in almost every town and around the world, and is full of people who have been right where she is and know how to turn it around.
posted by Houstonian at 7:31 PM on July 27, 2008

Nobody, including AA, can make her stop drinking. AA may be useful for recovery, but she has to make the decision to stop herself. If addicted, it may not be easy, withdrawal isn't fun. She may not have insurance, but I doubt you want her to have seizures either.

She needs to see a doctor, and be honest, admit she has a problem, and ideally get some medication to help her. Ativan, Valium, whatever, they're all in the same class.

However, personally, I've found doctors to be reluctant to prescribe them, since they also can be addictive. But, as said, if she's honest with the doctor, and truly does want to quit, they are more likely to prescribe something. It's not expensive medication, but it's also unlikely to have a refill or last longer than a week. The intent is to get though the withdrawal, but not replace the alcohol with the pills.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:28 PM on July 27, 2008

Oh, and do keep in mind that alcohol is a depressant, and likely the source of that issue. If she deals with the alcohol, the depression will likely go away.

/standard disclaimer, I'm not a doctor, and don't play one on TV.

Just, to be honest, dealing with the same issue, alcohol.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:38 PM on July 27, 2008

Another one saying that you have to let her "hit bottom." It's sad and it's very hard to do. I've watched several people go through things like this, and every person has a different threshold for when they hit the bottom. For a parent it was a marital separation of a few months - and she actually was the better half in the equation. She finally gave up drinking during that time. For a sibling, it was waking up in a hospital facing surgery for a shattered bone during a drunken incident the night before. He had only a VW Bus to his name at that point and nowhere to go. Some people have to lose everything. For others just a simple embarrassment may do the trick. Others won't stop until they are dead. But you never know until you see it. (An aside - A person has to compel themselves to kick an addiction. Outside compulsion (i.e. from family members who are threatening to kick them out of the house, or judges ordering treatment) is almost always only a temporary solution.)

As mentioned above, point her to an AA open meeting. No obligation. No pushiness. Maybe she won't continue. But maybe she'll hear the stories and realize she isn't alone. And if she does stick around, people are going to know the resources available to someone in her financial condition.
posted by azpenguin at 12:02 AM on July 28, 2008

« Older Hole in my soul   |   2 power sources? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.