Advice From the Trenches

Advice from the Trenches: Professional Liars

Dear C and Dr. B:

I have been trying to help a friend for the last few years who’s had an addiction problem. I’ve known him for over 20 years and I’ve been friends with his family from childhood. In the past, he has helped me out when I needed help, so I felt good reciprocating – but it ultimately backfired. He is moderately functional and puts on a very convincing act, so it took a while to figure out that he was hiding a serious problem while he stayed in my basement apartment.

I finally caught him in the act of smoking crack and after hearing from his PCP that he also has out-of-control diabetes and weakened veins, and the next time he smokes crack, it could kill him. I am trying to get him into rehab as I write.

If I am honest, I just don’t want to let him back in when he gets out. So why the hell can’t I just write him off and walk away? I know that is what I should do, but just the thought of abandoning him makes me sick, even though this is his problem, not mine. I guess my question is – how do I deal with how shitty doing the right thing makes me feel? 

I watch people all around me live selfishly, putting their own personal comfort ahead of people who need help. I feel like if no one cares, then why are we even here for each other? I really do know I should give up on things I cannot change, but right now I feel worse than ever.

– Gwen

C says:

This guy knowingly played you and took advantage. I would not waste any time feeling guilty about wishing him out of your life for good.  Crackheads are notorious for being nasty, flying off the handle, and doing stupid shit because they are frying their brains every time they get high. Let the professionals handle this. They know what they are doing and they get paid to do it. 

But let’s talk about you.

There is nothing in this world that can throw you into self doubt and deep depression quite like being lied to over and over by someone you thought you could trust. This wasn’t a stranger. This guy was your friend for over 20 years. You’re probably asking yourself how much of anything that this guy ever said to you was true and remembering the number of times he looked you right in the face and lied. You may feel like an idiot for not seeing through it all sooner.

You are not an idiot. You are someone who trusted a friend because you couldn’t imagine that anyone you cared for was capable of such deception. You are no match for a professional liar and that is what all addicts are. They are the world’s best con men and women and they can seem as innocent as little lambs. Do not blame yourself. You will probably never trust anyone again quite like you did before.

And this brings me to another important issue: the damage that addicts do to the people who try to help them. With their repeated lapses and conniving, they can make us believe that the whole world is rotten and there could be something that stinks under every apparently wholesome facade. Addicts can turn those around them into cynics about life in general.

My suggestion to you is to get your own support group right now. I am not talking about sympathetic friends, I am talking about people like yourself who have faced similar nightmares of their own. Al-Anon is beneficial for family and friends of all types of addiction.

Dr. B says:

If other people were observing you, they would probably say you were handling this very well.  

Everyone is suffering in their own way; suffering is a normal part of being alive. Many of us can feel that we are handling it worse than everyone else, but it’s usually not true.

Personally, I would throw out my own mother if she was smoking crack in my house. Illegal drugs are a package that comes with danger from suppliers and the unpredictability, impulsivity, inconsistency and lack of responsibility of the user.

There is no moral system that expects you to endanger your own life in the service of someone else’s. Those that appear to do so are usually grossly misinterpreted. The Giving Tree is a popular children’s book that perpetuates the myth that the total sacrifice of self for others is noble and good. This is not doctrine; it’s just bad advice. 

It is OK to feel bad, but it is not OK to base your decisions and actions on guilt. 

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