DEAR HARRIETTE: I am worried about my mother’s newfound habits. She used to drink, and I was the one who pleaded with her to quit, but now she has turned to other unhealthy behaviors instead.
I don’t want to nag her and seem like I’m always trying to control her decisions, so how can I be supportive while encouraging healthy choices? Is there a way to do this without coming off as judgmental or intrusive?
DEAR CONCERNED: Quitting drinking is not the same thing as getting sober, though it is an excellent first step.
Your mother needs counseling. She needs to work through her issues to figure out healthy choices to improve her quality of life. It is a process that takes time and focused attention. Otherwise, exactly what happened will continue: namely, that she replaces one vice with another.
In the early days of sobriety, people often start chain-smoking or overdrinking coffee. Some get involved in a string of sexual encounters, while others overspend. Addictive behavior doesn’t just evaporate because you put down the alcohol.
Without nagging, encourage your mother to keep up the good work and get a therapist to talk about what’s going on in her life. A neutral outside expert can likely help your mother far more effectively than you can. Focus on finding her the help she needs.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have always strived to be a consistent friend. Whenever anyone needs my help or support, I’m there for them.
But unfortunately, not all of my friends have been as consistent with me in return. It can be difficult to keep putting so much effort into a relationship when I don’t get anything back.
Despite any inconsistencies from others, I have always been a reliable and understanding friend to everyone who needs it.
In 2023, I am dedicated to being less available to the inconsistent people in my life because it just isn’t fair to me to keep carrying on this way.
How can I navigate this?
— Consistent Friend
DEAR CONSISTENT FRIEND: Turn your attention to yourself. What do you need? How can you be your own friend and put yourself first?
That doesn’t mean becoming selfish. Instead, it means tending to yourself before tending to others. Do inventory of your friendships. Which relationships seem to be reciprocal? Who are the takers?
You can eliminate the takers, or at least reduce your interaction with them. You probably don’t need to say anything; just be less available. Use that extra time to focus on you.
One of the gifts of maturity is that you are more willing to take stock of your life and accept that only the deserving get to be a part of it. Takers are not deserving.
If you stop giving, they will find somebody else to fill that need. They may become irritable with you at first — so what! You can say that the help desk is closed. You don’t have time or inclination to tend to them anymore.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions [email protected] or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)
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