Help a Friend

Helping a Friend

Do you have a friend who is getting involved in activities that are physically and/or morally unhealthy? If so, have you wondered how best to help that friend? Here's some good news: You are certainly not alone. You can be sure that there are others who are similarly concerned . . . and who also aren't sure what to do. So what course of action should you take in reaching out to that friend in need? First, it's always good to remember that none of us is perfect. It's always helpful to start by remembering the mote in our own eye. If nothing else, that provides a little perspective . . . as well as humility.

Second, remember the spiritual wisdom that we are called to hate the sin but love the sinner. In other words, continue to reach out to that friend even though you might disapprove of his or her activities. It is what the person is doing, not who the person is, that is at issue.

And thirdly, focus more on being the person you are called to be and less on trying to change the other. It is always good to remind ourselves that there is only one person we can change and that, of course, is ourselves.

How does this translate to practical application? Below are some specific ways to be and things to do when your friend is getting into unhealthy activities:

  • Continue to be the person you are called to be.  Do the things that you know are good to do and avoid the things that you know are not good.  In so doing, you will be providing a model of alternative activity for your friend.
  • Don't criticize.  It doesn't change the other.  All it does is alienate.  There's an old saying that any unasked for advice is criticism.  Your friend doesn't need advice or criticism.  What he or she needs is a good friend and a model of alternative behavior.
  • If asked why you don't engage in the same unhealthy activities, simply state that "it doesn't work for me."  If pressed as to why it doesn't work for you, briefly add how that activity would be physically and/or morally unhealthy for you.  Avoid explaining how it is unhealthy for your friend; state only that it would be unhealthy for you.  Don't preach; like criticism, all preaching to our peers accomplishes is alienation.
  • Don't talk about you friend to your fellow students unless your conversation is specifically directed toward helping him or her.  Don't gossip, and don't spread rumors.  Keep any such conversation focused solely on way you can help.
  • If the activity your friend is engaged in is seriously harmful, seek advice from your R.A., the campus minister, the chaplain, someone in the Student Affairs Office, or the counselor.  Again, don't gossip or spread rumors.  Keep your focus on helping the other.

Being a friend of the errant friend is one of life's continuing challenges.  Ultimately, how we be that friend when our friendship is most needed will say more about us than it does about the friend in need.

Helping a Friend with a Drinking Problem

Basic Warning Signs

  • An increase in tolerance - the need or desire for more alcohol in order to obtain the same effect
  • Frequently drinking to the point of intoxication
  • Excessive denial of alcohol problems
  • Reliance on a drink to jump start the day
  • Frequently drinking alone to escape boredom, reality, or loneliness
  • Blackouts and loss of memory after drinking
  • Doing things not normally done except under the influence of alcohol
  • Suffering from chronic hangovers
  • Drinking to relieve hangovers
  • Consistently missing classes due to alcohol binges and hangovers
  • Sneaking drinks or gulping them

How to Respond and Help

  • Don't be afraid talk to someone close to you who seems to have an alcohol related problem
  • Express your concern and support without preaching or criticizing
  • Keep you attitude positive and be sincere about your feelings and desire to help
  • Be a friend, but not a counselor
  • Offer to help find professional help and accompany him/her to visit the professional
  • Be prepared for your friend to deny the drinking problem and the need for help. It is human nature to deny or blame others for our own problems. By continuing to care, your friend will realize why you are concerned and how willing you are to help him/her.

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