Friend in Need

11 Apr

Dear LetterBalm: My friend Jerry is in trouble, and I don’t know what to do about it. He always got good grades and played sports until this year. He began to hang out with a new older kid at school who’s got a lot of problems. Now, Jerry is cutting classes and getting into fights. He was kicked off the football team for drinking. The school found pot in his locker and suspended him. His parents have been called to school several times and have grounded him, but Jerry just gets angry and goes off and does what he wants. I don’t think I can get through to him, but I want to try. Any ideas?


Ms. L.B. hates to break it to you, but all the friendship in the world won’t motivate your friend to change. Jerry is in a serious downward spiral, and, while it’s admirable that you’re a concerned friend who wants to help, there’s little you can do. This is a matter for his parents, school officials, doctors, therapists and, let’s hope not, law enforcement.  Only in movies can friends stage a successful intervention for a guy who’s seriously off the rails. Real life is more complex. Continue to stay in contact with Jerry from time to time – don’t press. Briefly text and e-mail him, keeping it simple, without judgment. You want to be there if Jerry comes back to life, but you don’t expect anything. You might ask him to participate in activities you and he used to enjoy or extend an occasional invitation to get together. You know best how to say it. 


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