Girl­friend’s smok­ing and su­gar habit causes worry

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - LIFE - AMY DICK­IN­SON ASK AMY Email: [email protected]­bune.com

Dear Amy: My girl­friend is very sweet and kind. She smokes and con­sumes way too much su­gar by drink­ing soda. She doesn’t like to smoke around me so she of­ten can­cels or trun­cates our time to­gether, so I only get to see her for maybe an hour or two at a time. She does have a stress­ful job, but her life­style cer­tainly doesn’t help. She is of­ten tired.

I am a healthy per­son. I have a dis­abled son who lives in a group home and needs me to man­age his care. I am re­ally his only guardian. I am the only per­son avail­able to help my el­derly mother. I lost my fa­ther at my age (57), be­cause he didn’t take care of him­self.

I have ex­plained this to her and she prom­ises to quit and be health­ier, but she doesn’t show me any im­prove­ment.

I don’t want to tell her how to run her life, but I do need some­one I can grow old with. I be­lieve that she (like a lot of smok­ers) is un­will­ing to see the heartache her habit might cause to peo­ple. She ad­mits she is an ad­dict but has not re­sponded to books or cour­ses I show her on how to stop.

I feel I must have some con­crete ac­tion or I might need to just take a break so we can con­sider what we want to do. — LOST IN IOWA

Dear Lost: You can­not run your girl­friend’s life, and you prob­a­bly can­not coach her suc­cess­fully into bet­ter health habits, un­less she en­gages as a full par­tic­i­pant. She is ad­dicted to smok­ing, and — un­til she wants to and is able to kick her ad­dic­tion — she will smoke, re­gard­less of your harsh judg­ment.

Peo­ple who love ad­dicts have tough de­ci­sions to make. You ei­ther con­tinue to en­cour­age your girl­friend to get healthy while de­tach­ing from her un­healthy habits, or you ac­knowl­edge her right to live her life the way she wants to, but without you as a wit­ness.

It’s called a non-ne­go­tiable, and it goes some­thing like this: “Your smok­ing has an in­tol­er­a­ble im­pact on me. I can no longer be your ro­man­tic part­ner as long as you’re smok­ing. I hope you will be able to stop, but that is up to you.” (I’d leave her su­gar con­sump­tion alone for now.)

And then you take your break, and let her make her own choice.

Dear Amy:

My best friend and I are both 17. Last sum­mer she broke up with her first se­ri­ous boyfriend. Ever since then she has been go­ing out with mul­ti­ple guys in their mid-20s. She lost her vir­gin­ity to a ran­dom man she met on­line, and has been hav­ing men­tal break­downs in­creas­ingly.

She doesn’t tell any of the guys she has sex with that she is un­der­age. I’m wor­ried she will get hurt with th­ese strangers, get preg­nant or catch a STD.

She re­cently dis­closed to me that she was sex­u­ally abused as a kid by her grand­fa­ther, and I think this may be af­fect­ing her now.

She has de­pres­sion, OCD and is be­ing tested for bipo­lar dis­or­der.

I’ve talked to her about her men­tal health, and ask her if she thinks th­ese flings are healthy for her. I don’t know how to help her, and I am re­ally wor­ried about her.

— CON­CERNED FRIEND

Dear Con­cerned: You are a stel­lar friend, and your con­cerns are valid. Your friend seems caught in a vi­cious cy­cle. She is us­ing sex to try to med­i­cate her own de­pres­sion, and — as she is see­ing — this only makes things worse. And, as you note, the con­se­quences of this be­hav­iour for her could be quite stark.

Please, please urge her to talk to a coun­sel­lor about this. If she al­ready has di­ag­nosed men­tal health is­sues, as well as a his­tory of abuse by a fam­ily mem­ber, she should def­i­nitely keep up with her treat­ment, in­clud­ing talk ther­apy.

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