Glum friend won’t help him­self

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

I’m at my wits’ end deal­ing with my friend’s glum, woe-isme at­ti­tude. I’ve known “Max” since we worked to­gether at a restau­rant when I was in col­lege. He was in his early 20s and had grown up in the town. He said he re­gret­ted not get­ting a bach­e­lor’s de­gree. As we be­came bet­ter friends and he saw the projects I was do­ing for my classes (I was an art ma­jor), he be­came in­spired and started mak­ing plans to go to community col­lege and then trans­fer. A year passed; then two. That never hap­pened. (Not a big deal in it­self, but I men­tion it as part of a pat­tern.)

Six years ago, I grad­u­ated and got a job in New York. Max and I have stayed in touch, and he vis­its about once a year. He’s still in the same town, work­ing at a dif­fer­ent restau­rant. I don’t say that judg­men­tally. I don’t think there’s any­thing wrong with it. The prob­lem is that Max does. He’s been talk­ing about want­ing to change his life for years now, but he takes no steps to do so. I’ve tried ev­ery ap­proach I can think of. I did the sup­port­ive thing at first — build­ing up his self-es­teem, en­cour­ag­ing him to try therapy, help­ing him re­search schools, of­fer­ing to help get him a restau­rant job in New York, etc.

After a cou­ple of years, I re­al­ized he wouldn’t act on any of this, so I stopped of­fer­ing so­lu­tions and have just shown tough love. For ex­am­ple, when he com­plains about how none of his friends calls to hang out, I tell him that he can’t ex­pect peo­ple to al­ways be think­ing of him. But noth­ing seems to get through to him.

Max never asks about what’s up in my life, and when I try to tell him, some­how he finds a way of bring­ing the con­ver­sa­tion back to him. I’m start­ing to feel used and a lit­tle re­sent­ful, if you couldn’t tell. I care about Max and think he’s a good guy. But how can you help some­one who doesn’t re­ally want to help him­self?

You can’t. At this point, the kind­est thing you can do for Max is to refuse to be his dump­ing ground any longer. Only after he’s got nowhere to un­load will he be forced to con­front the weight of his prob­lem. A ther­a­pist could most likely help him a great deal, and you can en­cour­age him to seek coun­sel­ing one more time — but dis­en­gage and take space after that. Your friend­ship with Max can only be healthy after he’s purged that toxic mind­set.

I en­joy your col­umn, and you have great ad­vice. In the case of the “bad” milk, though, not so much. Spoiled milk tastes bad but doesn’t make you sick. Sour cream, yo­gurt, cheese and other dairy prod­ucts are made from spoiled milk.

I have never thrown away milk. “Bad” milk makes the best pan­cakes, bis­cuits, ba­nana bread, cof­fee cake, muffins and more. If I’m not able to use the spoiled milk right away, I freeze it in small con­tain­ers for later use. I use it when­ever a bak­ing recipe calls for but­ter­milk. I couldn’t bake with­out it!

You make a great point that I failed to bring up. Milk can be used in baked goods after it’s no longer good to drink. Waste not, want not.

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