A friend in need

Joey Garcia

A buddy of mine is in trouble, and I need to figure out whether I should say something or not. He works in a casino. He met a girl there, a temporary employee, and got her pregnant. They have been together a total of three months and are now planning to get married and move back to Poland, where she is from. He has always partied, but ever since he proposed, he has been out of control. Every night after work, he drinks a six-pack of beer or more. He also smokes a lot of pot. Last week, he gambled his entire paycheck. I think the marriage is a bad idea and that moving to Poland is stupid. Should I say something to him? If so, what? I am divorced, with kids. I know that marriage is not easy under the best circumstances.

I admire your willingness to confront your friend. Most people refuse to tell friends and family the truth, because they want to avoid conflict. It’s a selfish choice. Conflict is inevitable when confronting people who abuse themselves or others. When a person chooses to be indirect or “nice” instead of honest, they have decided to live from their neurotic, rather than authentic, self. Thankfully, that is not your path.

Begin the conversation with your friend on common ground: fatherhood. Tell him that you are concerned because he is self-destructing before your eyes. Remind him that marriage and childrearing require his full attention. By anesthetizing, he re-creates himself as an absent partner and father.

As you talk, include personal stories that illustrate how fear propelled you toward self-abuse that damaged your relationships with others. (Hey, we’ve all done it.) Explain how you crawled back to sanity. Point out that you noticed his drinking and pot use surge after he asked his girlfriend to marry him. Explain that major lifestyle changes produce major stress and that he’s in overhaul overdrive: getting married; becoming a father; and changing jobs, countries and cultures. His stress will leap exponentially when he is surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and language.

Gently encourage him to open up. Remember, he’s afraid (otherwise, he wouldn’t be trying to put himself to “sleep”). He might respond to your inquiry by shutting down, getting angry or intensifying his spiral of self-destruction. Just keep checking in. Let him know that you are available, anytime, to help him reduce the chaos in his life. Get him to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or at least to a doctor who will address the impact of his addiction. Do it now.

My daughter, who is in her 20s, becomes immobilized by envy of her friends. I have tried to talk to her about this, but I don’t seem to have the right words. Does she need a therapist?

I am a huge advocate of psychotherapy and spiritual direction by well-trained practitioners who engage in continuing education and who meet regularly with a therapist or spiritual director themselves. But first, let me help you understand that envy is the desire for another person’s life. Don Bisson, a Catholic brother and retreat leader, notes that, “[Envy] suppresses a person’s capacity to evolve, keeping them childish. There is nothing more liberating and difficult than living one’s own life.” I suggest you listen deeply to what your daughter is attracted to and then support her in developing her own gifts. For example, if she envies a friend’s singing ability but cannot hold a note herself, her unique version of being heard could be public speaking. You would then encourage her to join Toastmasters International or to take a related college course. Her envy might simply be a cry to find her own path in life.

Meditation of the week
Let’s play truth or dare: Did it take a tsunami for you to open your prayers and wallet to people in other parts of the world? Will your concerns fade when this news story is replaced by another tragedy? Can you be transformed by this intervention in the world’s self-centeredness? Commit to tithing 10 percent to 20 percent of your monthly income to a charity that operates outside of the United States. I dare you.

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