How do you help someone who doesn’t want help?


You can’t.

I know you all were  hoping for a wrap-up rendition of my law school career now that it is officially over. Don’t worry, that post will come soon enough, but for right now I need to write about someone who is very close to me and slowly spiraling out of control. Those that are close to me will know who, but I will not mention the real name of the individual I’m talking about. For purposes of this post, this person will have the gender neutral name of “Doe,” although I will refer to Doe as “she” just so your eyes don’t bleed with excessive repetition.

My childhood was more or less normal, with divorced parents, a single mother (with child support from my dad), and the regular ups and downs of life. We never had a lot of money, but I never needed that. My family has a heavy history of depression and anxiety, and there were years when I was very much caught in a mousetrap of intense depression and anxiety. Somehow, I was able to climb out of this slump. However, this interlude of depression/anxiety allows me to at least sympathize with Doe’s feelings.

To start out, I am very close to Doe, and despite being so close through so many years, we have ended up as two completely different people.  Doe barely graduated from high school, and I think she received an Associate’s Degree, although I’ve never actually seen proof of this. Doe worked a couple odds and ends jobs until she reached complete unemployment and has remained there. After I left Florida, Doe remained. After a two year stint in a relationship that just about tore her apart after the inevitable break-up, Doe moved back home with her parents, and it is here that she has remained for the past 9 years without a job, without a plan, all while putting an immense amount of pressure on her parents–both financially and emotionally. Dan and I have just come out of law school alive, but it was not entirely without loans (although saving money for two years helped immensely) so as far as being able to help Doe’s parents financially above what little contributions we can give is impossible.

I have done everything. I’ve tried desperately to talk to Doe, to gently encourage her to find work, to seek counseling, to formulate some kind of plan, to just listen, to fly home to see her. I live in a constant state of fear that her parents will run out of patience or out of money and have no choice but to kick Doe out of the house. Where will she go? How will she live? The entire situation is overwhelming and horribly sad. I can barely speak to Doe’s parents without breaking down in tears. Where did I go wrong? Was I not a good enough role model for her as we grew up?

Let me be clear by saying we don’t have a lot of answers as far as Doe’s emotional well-being goes. As far as we know, Doe is not suicidal and has never physically hurt anyone, but I know Doe well enough to know she is not the same person she was so many years ago when we laughed and played as kids. Something is very wrong, and she refuses to seek any kind of help. I feel completely and utterly helpless. If something were to ever happen to Doe I’m sure that I would blame myself for years. Between Doe’s parents and I, we think she is suffering from some type of depression and severe social anxiety. She also has other extremes: she either stays in her room for days or leaves the house and doesn’t come home for days. Doe is in her mid-twenties, and her parents are getting too old to continue on this emotional roller coaster. We’ve also recently learned that Doe had been doing some pretty hardcore drugs in high school and who knows what else she has gotten her hands on since then. On top of that, Doe has been lying about everything. Just recently, Doe’s parents had a job lined up for Doe but she has not shown up to turn in an application and instead comes up with the most ridiculous excuses. She’s already defaulting on an old student loan, and she was summoned to jury duty recently. If she doesn’t show up for jury duty she can be thrown in jail for contempt.

So, there you have it. There is nothing left. I have absolutely no idea what to do, especially from so many miles away. Maybe Doe needs some tough love, which will result in being kicked out of her house. But, what if she suffers from a sickness? Is there something there that I have been missing all these years? The situation becomes even more impossible because she has slowly pulled away from me–there is minimal communication, and where there is communication there is a lot of anger. We have tried explaining that we are just trying to help, but I know she feels like she is being attacked. There is only so much any of us can do at this point. I try to remain positive and to just be there just in case, but we’re running out of time. I have never felt so helpless in my life.


One thought on “How do you help someone who doesn’t want help?

  1. I am really sorry to hear about this but this post really resonated with me. A good friend of mine were close during high school too and then we went out separate ways. Three years after graduating from high school, we reconnected and decided to move in together. She had come clean to me about doing some minor drugs (typical alcohol, ciggs, and sometimes pot) and I said that I was okay with it as long as we kept it out of the house and as for alcohol, always in moderation. Within 4 months of living together, she had met some guy who started her up on even more serious drugs until she ultimately tried heroin and is now a full blown addict. I worry about your friend and I would say that her parents need to fully investigate her belongings for any type of drugs because the situation you’ve described is just like the situation of my old friend. She is still in and out of rehab, lies about everything, can’t hold any job, and I pray for God to reveal to her that this is not healthy and is unsafe. I hope your friend gets the help she needs but maybe together you and her family can stage an intervention to give her one last shot for help. I hope this situation gets better for you, I empathize completely.

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