Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Don't know how to deal with a friendship anymore(20 Posts)
First post here. I'm posting because I'm unsure what to do about a friendship I have.
Backstory: my friend (DF) and I have been friends since we are 11 years old, we're 27 now. In those years we've done so much together, went through a lot of difficult moments, etc. Not that it's really relevant, but he's a gay man.
Anyway, since we were 14 or so he's had a lot of mental health troubles. I'm also prone to depression and lots of sudden mood swings (I had a horrific puberty as well) so we always kind of understood each other. He has always been MUCH more extreme. It's always all or nothing. He can get a sudden idea in his head and have to act on it RIGHT. NOW. This has lead to him pUtting himself in danger, impulse buying pets, breaking bridges with others, etc... Not always easy to be around, but I've always loved him no matter what.
However, when he was around 16 he also started drinking very heavily. Again, this also came and went in phases, sometimes he'd quit drinking for months on end but once he starts again he always seems to try to fit all the "missed alcohol" in a couple of days. As the years went on his drinking became more and more worrisome to me, I'm not exactly an angel either but I have calmed down the past 2 years, it was more of a phase to me. I'm convinced he's a serious alcoholic, of course he wouldn't agree, but I suppose that's the nature of the disease.
Things came to a head at the beginning of this year when he was admitted to the psych ward after a suicide attempt. After this he spent 5 months in a "mental health hospital" (sorry, English isn't my first language and can't think of the word I'm looking for right now). During this time he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and everything just clicked into place for me. It certainly explained a lot of his erratic behaviour.
During this time he also had to stop drinking and do a lot of hard work, I was honestly super proud of how well he was doing.
He came home two months ago and since then it's like he never went there at all, he started drinking again and it's probably even worse than before. I think he does a lot of secret drinking as well. Not to mention that he can become super mean and nasty and sometimes says very hurtful things when he's drunk, I've always just glanced over this, but tbh I can't take it any more.
I've been actively avoiding him for the last two months. I feel so horrendously guilty about this. I've always stood by him through thick and thin but I'm so disappointed that we're here again. At the same time I feel that this is also due to him being bipolar AND an alcoholic, and that it's not all his fault... But I can't look at this car crash anymore. He just came by my place and we hadn't seen each other for 3 weeks, which is VERY long for us (we live nearby and I've been out of work for a while, in a different era we would probably have seen each other every day) and it was like making stilted conversation with.a stranger. He also drank a litre of wine by himself in the 2 hours he was here. I was so glad and relieved when he left.
I'm not exactly sure what I'm asking. Just wanted somewhere to vent as well. I honestly always thought we would be friends till the end of time. It really breaks my heart that I feel this way. I don't even know what I want him to do, I never thought he would suddenly become the poster child for having your shit together, but it's like he's not even vaguely trying.
Am I being a bitch? Has the friendship run its course or do we perhaps just need some space for a while? Anyone who can give me any tips?
Thanks for reading and sorry it turned out so long.
It is not being a bitch to decide you can't cope with someone else's bad behaviour. That it's a MH condition doesn't change that. I've had to deal with various friends and relatives with serious problems ranging from alcoholism to paranoid schizophrenia and a few points in between. It is an exhausting and often thankless task. If his problems are damaging your life, you're entitled to step back.
He needs professional medical help and you can't provide that personally. If you think he's at risk and you want to help, you may be able to get a message to his GP
Thank you for taking the time to reply.
I know this is true. I'm a very loyal person and this really feels like turning my back on him when he needs it most. Sigh.
His GP knows all about his problems, I don't think I could add anything else there... Have thought about it though.
We just made plans to spend NYE together, really not looking forward to this as I know he'll be shitfaced at 6PM and I don't want to look at it anymore.
I guess the best thing to do is to sit him down and honestly tell him how I feel? This isn't going to change anything though and will just leave him feeling hurt. Usually I'm not one to beat around the bush but I don't even really want to make this effort to be perfectly honest.
He doesn't sound like he's in a place to listen, sadly. I suggested contacting his GP because, if he's being treated for bipolar disorder and they don't know he's drinking excessively, they can't intervene. He may need to be hospitalised and stabilised.
I had similar in the past. My oldest school friend got involved in drugs.
I never took that path. I tried to help, make her see the error in her ways but it wasn't enough.
I withdrew from the friendship. She never worked, ended up in prison for armed robbery to fund her habit and I visited her there.
When she came out things weren't as bad but she's always used something and that's not who I am so we are no longer in contact.
I have deep regrets she isn't different, we were so close, had the same upbringing and patents going through marital issues at the same time etc, that could have been me.
Only your friend can make the decision to change and get help for his alcohol problem. Supporting others with mental health and addiction problems is really tough, and you have to look after yourself too. Don't feel guilty about limiting the amount of time and energy you spend on your friend - it sounds as though he could be very needy and take up all your time if you let him. He needs professional help and it's not your responsibility to make that happen. It's very sad when a friendship ends in this way, but it's OK for you to let him go. You can't fix this, and shouldn't feel guilty about it.
It's ok to let a friend go or for a friendship to fizzle out. Don't feel bad. The place he is in is beyond anything you could help with. This is not your problem. You have been there for him but that didn't change the course of his life. Mental illness and alcoholism are all consuming.
You must keep your own welbeing a priority.
Please don't spend NYE with him. You will have a dreadful time and it will just remind you that the friendship you thought you had has gone. He has chosen his addiction and you are secondary to that.
You can't help him. You might benefit from visiting Al Anon and focusing on you and how you protect yourself from the damage an active alcoholic can cause.
Perhaps he will eventually hit rock bottom and turn his life around. But that may be a long time coming.
Thank you for the replies. It really helps to hear some calm and level-headed opinions.
Re: NYE, I was toying with the idea but there will also be a lot of other mutual friends, so I think it might be ok. And I don't want to be the heartless bastard who doesn't want to make an effort anymore (I guess I care too much about what others think, but we've also had a close-knit social circle for years...). And I want to give him one more chance to see how it goes?
If it all just turns out shit I do think its best to remove myself from the situation. Do you think it would be good to write him a letter? Just not hearing from me anymore is awful too.
This is all making me so horribly sad. :-(
I wouldn't write a letter or give more chances. I'd just back off. You can't help him and you need to protect yourself.
As you get older you will see that friends come in and out of our lives. Very few friendships last forever.
Well if you are giving him one more chance to see how it goes then NYE is not the best of nights to do it as the behaviour of so many people goes out of control on that night due to excessive alcohol consumption.
You don't have to totally cut off, just be unavailable for a while when he wants to meet up. Then take the space to have a breather from the disaster he is heading for.
You can't save him. The professions hopefully have care plans in place for him but nobody can make him stop drinking, only he can make that choice.
I have had to let friendships/relationships go over the years because they have become too destructive. You have to put yourself and your welfare first. You don't have to totally bale out on him but put him into a position in your life whereby he can't keep dragging you down. You are his friend but you are not responsible for him.
'One more chance' is the mantra of those who won't detach from an addict. There is literally no possibility of him not being drunk and horrible yet you delude yourself, just as he deludes himself that he can get his drinking under control.
If there will be enough people there that you aren't likely to have your night spoilt by his behaviour, fine, but I suspect you are just going to end up hurt.
Don't write him a letter until you've spent some time focusing on yourself and how you detach. At the moment you would write the letter in the same spirit of one more chance.
The addiction is separate to the MH really. In that an addict has everything they [think] they need, will serve it to the very end. Addicts don't care about the effect on others, even don't care about friends. So you're wasting your time thinking you can get through to him. He's not interested, he has what he wants and doesn't want anything else.
So don't feel guilty! He is in the grip of his addiction and he's happy there tbh. You'll just be seen as a tiresome pain if you 'put your feelings on him' (that's how he sees it), he's simply not interested in how you feel.
The general wisdom is that you abandon an addict (generally, certainly socially) until/unless he hits bottom and wants to do something about it; recognises the addiction isn't actually a dear beloved friend but is actually killing him. Until then there's nothing you can do until/unless he comes back from the foreign country of addiction. It's hard to do but it's the best thing you can do for him.
double post, sorry, posted the first on my mobile while I was out.
Your replies really helped a lot, so thank you so much for that.
Tribpot, I've read some of your other replies on similar questions and they also provided me with some insight.
I think I've got some reading to do as well!
One more question! I'm definitely cancelling the NYE plans and spending it with a friend of mine whose dad died 2 weeks ago. I still have to cancel my original plans though. Should I tell him the complete truth about why I don't want to meet him? Will it have any effect whatsoever if I tell him I can't deal with his drinking anymore?
Other friends of mine definitely understand it, that's a relief at least.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Have any effect? No, but you can still say it. As a statement, mind, not a discussion opener. He'll probably emotionally blackmail or insult you, get aggressive, cry, whatever - he'll probably pull out the whole bag, motoring through various tactics. If you can stand that then by all means tell him; if not, don't.
Merry Christmas to you too
After a lot of thinking over the past few months, combined with your replies and some reading I've decided to emotionally detach from my friend. I called him tonight (after having a knot in my stomach for the past week) and told him that I can't be an eyewitness / accomplice to his drinking anymore, that I think he's alchohol dependent and it also has an effect on others, even though he might not realise this. I ended with saying that I still love him a lot and I wished it didn't have to be this way, and that he could always count on me to help him if he decides to make different choices in life.
I was prepared for a total outburst of anger, instead I got someone who said that he knows it's been bad the past couple of months (more years though tbh), that he didn't know what to say to keep me in his life, and was just completely shocked and incredibly sad. Even a little understanding, tbh I might have preferred some insults or something.
I'll still see him, don't want to cut him out of my life like he was a stranger to me, besides, he lives across from the place where I work. (A restaurant, so open for everyone.) I think the most difficult thing for me will be interacting with him from time to time but resisting the urge to spend some real time with him or supporting him / listening to his problems etc. not sure how things will go from here, I'm thinking about attending some al-anon meetings.
After his reaction I'm a bit scared I'm overreacting, although I cannot be if so many other people understand my motives. I just hope I did the right thing.
I would like to also advise Al-Anon for yourself. Very strongly. Its a great step that you have decided to detach. But as you have found from your most recent conversation, it is not an easy thing to do
You've done the right thing.
It's also made him think, which is far from usual. All-in-all you've not only done the right thing you've done a good thing, for you both. Whether he utilises it is another thing of course.
Well done, it's not easy.
Join the discussion
Already registered? Log in with:
Please login first.