When your friends hit rock bottom….

bad coffee bad friends~Yesterday at coffee I ran into a coffee-house acquaintance I hadn’t seen in years….she looked awful. Apparently she was back with her old crowd, the friends from her high school days, and this young 30ish woman is now drinking heavy, doing a bit of drugs, and her thinking is pretty messed up.

When “Shelly” was a teenager she did a lot of drugs and made a ton of stupid decisions. The friends she had in high school were all bad news. Have you ever heard the colloquialism “An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind“, well that is true of Shelly. She wanted to be loved and accepted by her friends so she was a pushover when it came to them influencing her.

After she graduated high school things were actually going good for her. She found a new set of friends in college, was doing well in her studies, and had sobered up almost 100%. But then she graduated and didn’t find a job right away, and then one thing led-to-another….Shelly found herself hanging out with that bad crowd from high school again. Only this time they are all college graduates going nowhere in life; wasting their life away by getting drunk, strumming chords, and contributing nothing positive to the world.

Shelly and I talked for a few minutes yesterday but she was too zoned out to have an intelligent conversation. She got her coffee and took off.

Many of us find it difficult to break loose from the bad influences in our lives, too many of us find ourselves back where we started…..is there any hope? Isn’t it weird how many of us are connected to ‘bad people’ and how difficult it is to break away from them?

—) unhealthy relationships

—) intrusive parents

—) friends who are bad news

Why do we keep going back to unhealthy situations? I suspect it’s because at the core of our nature is a hunger for community; we are social creatures and we don’t want to be alone. We don’t want to feel isolated; we don’t want to be by ourselves. And so, when we feel as though things in life aren’t going our way, we run back to the only community we feel at home in….even if it is an unhealthy relationship or unhealthy group of friends.

Let’s be honest, it can be really tough to make new friends. You can’t snap your finger and create an entirely new social group comprised of emotionally healthy men and women. Life just isn’t that easy. Making good friends takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of self-sacrifice on our part. And I suspect that is why so many of us put off making new friends; it’s tough work.

Yet what is the alternative? If we don’t commit ourselves to building a positive social community does that mean some of us are stuck in bad situations for life? If we aren’t willing to take the time necessary to building a positive relationship with someone, does that mean we are doomed to be in an abusive one?

When I was a teenager a good friend of mine kept getting beat up by her boyfriend. Her parents, family and friends all begged her to leave the abusive boyfriend….but nothing that was said was able to get her to leave. It wasn’t until many years of looking at her bloodied face in the mirror that she finally left the a** h***. And so, when I saw Shelly at coffee yesterday I thought of that friend from my youth; until Shelly comes to a point where she wants to give up the drugs, the bad friends, and unhealthy life she is in….there’s nothing I can say that can change the situation.

All I can do is to be there for people….right?

—) When someone needs to talk we need to be there to listen

—) When someone needs to cry we need to offer them a shoulder to cry on

—) When someone is hungry we need to offer them something to eat

We can’t force our opinions onto people who are stuck in a bad situation. They have to come to the conclusions on their own. Until they are ready to truly deal with the issue, there is nothing we can say or do that will expedite the process.

I’ve often thought that the worst thing we can do to people in bad situations is to try and force our opinions on them…because the last thing they want to hear is someone ‘preaching’ at them. The last thing they want to hear is someone telling them “what the hell are you doing with yourself?”

Sometimes we have to let people drink bad coffee……

But bad coffee for me? I’ll pass….give me the good stuff


Categories: Culture & Society

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14 replies

  1. Great post. I agree a lot of people would rather be around bad influences then be alone. And usually it’s a case of taking the easier option. It’s easier keeping the status quo than going out of your way to make an effort and find new friends. As you said, finding new friends can be difficult, especially if you aren’t working, or doing hobbies that encourage relationships with new people.

    I also agree that preaching to people isn’t the way – they’re just as likely to flee back to the like-minded bad crowd that aren’t “judging”. However I think there is some middle-ground, such as showing Shelly a glimpse into your life without actually “telling” her about it. I’ve done this with a friend before. They were in a terrible relationship but they couldn’t see it. They complained a lot about their partner, who was doing some pretty crappy things, but they just figured that was just part of being in a relationship. So wherever I could naturally slip it into conversation, I’d casually mention all the positives about my own relationship to show this person that their relationship wasn’t necessarily the norm & that it didn’t have to be that way.

    Months later, they started to question me about whether certain negative things happened in my relationship that they experienced. So after planting the initial seed, they started to assess their own situation and eventually got out after about a year.

  2. …..And you have to like yourself first before you can begin to do what is right for you.

  3. nice piece but i totally disagree ever heard of the term tough love.Plus telling someone the truth (real talk) is what you should do,I would never want to have a friend who just lets me spiral into an abyss of darkness because they are afraid of hurting my feelings.I’d rather destroy your feelings now and save your life ,like you said what’s the alternative?
    When did people become so delicate that they can not even be corrected and what are these feelings anyway in comparison to your life because more often than not that is what is at stake.For sure you cannot ever force someone to change but a truly caring friend would never give up trying ,right?

  4. That’s a really good point about not being able to fix other people. One of the hardest things for me is that people do not know how loved they are. When you do, you simply cannot engage in self destruction or continue those negative relationships anymore. In the Western world that is even more challenging because people learn to get their identity and their sense of self worth from their work, their things, their people. That is seeking an external solution for an internal problem, because those things cannot really ever love you back.

    So many of us have a hard time letting go of negative things, because even though they are harmful, they are comfortable and familiar. There is an impermanence to life that most of us don’t like to take a look at, so change can be pretty scary, even when you know it’s going to be positive.

  5. I know that people are habitual and self-destructive natures reap bad habits. Bad habits are hard to break. I think that, like most things, approaching the situation of unhealthy habits in others needs to be handled differently depending on the parameters. Some people do need some education (tough love) to wake them up, others need to come to the conclusion on their own. Sometimes the danger they are in impacts children and thus would need to be handled differently than if it was just a single adult being left to their own shitty bed. I personally let people know where I stand on certain issues regarding the questionable choices they make but follow up by telling them that it’s their life and I’ll support their decisions (to a point) with the exception of drug addiction.

  6. Understand. Though my friend is going through problem, I lend a listening ear and shares that “Though I may not agree with your doings, you are still my friend”. This I hope to convey my care for them as a friend yet disagree with their doings. No matter what happens, I still care them as a friend.

  7. I agree with the intrusive parents. They intrude out of care and concern for our well being.

  8. If we are in this life to learn (and I believe that we are). . . then experience is a higher priority than tip toeing through the tulips. . . . It’s all relative to our needs as a spiritual being on a mission . . .

  9. If a friend wants to talk, I’ll offer my listening ear. If a friend wants to cry, I’ll offer my shoulder. If a friend just wants me, I’ll be there. It’s important to be non-judgmental. Offer advise only when it is asked for unless the situation is life-threatening. Knowing someone cares means a lot. Prayers help too.

  10. Another great blog. Thanks!

  11. Good topic. I find that what I say and do in those situations will depend on many factors such as how close I am to them and how serious the bad habits are. There are others of course but I have often said my piece and then left the door open if they choose to seek help I am there. I have had to learn to set proper boundaries and even quit associating (on extreme cases) I do not like that but at times there comes a point where things can get so egregious that it is not healthy to keep contact. I spent years working inner city with gangs, prostitutes, single parents and children. Even with all that the case to leave folks alone are rare. Keep up the good work

  12. The last couple of years I have been breaking away from a group that is completely unhealthy…Like I said though “a couple of years”…I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to do, it’s not like the ones I am breaking away from seem to even notice. When I look back I can see how little they were there for me to even start with! I don’t know how I got myself entangled with them in the first place.
    The funny thing is since I let go of them, I have noticed how much happier I am. I’ll do things because I want too, I dress better, I’m more relaxed and yet a lot of them seem to be friendly towards me now.

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