Intervention Time?

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a friend of thirty years who has driven herself downhill with
persistent use of marijuana and drugs. She has a range of physical
ailments that sound like amorphous aches and pains. She self-
medicates to relieve them, though it never sounds like it works very
well. She took Social Security at 62. Because she was self-employed
much of her life and strove to pay the lowest possible taxes, her SS
monthly, which is her only income, is paltry, three digits. She lives in
an isolated area and saves gas money by staying home with her dogs
most of the time. Now she’s saying she is “done,” “has nothing to live
for,” “is ready to go,” and so on. I asked her if she was suicidal and
she said no. But I am not sure I believe her and am worried. So are
other friends, though most of us are also worn out by the long-run
litany of her complaints.

Intervention Time?

Dear Intervention Time:

Everyone should have the right to decide when they want to leave this
world. But it would be a sad waste if your friend were in a depression
over things that could be fixed and didn’t at least try to set them right
before she chose to leave. Before you assemble an intervention team
you need to be clear on what you are asking her to change, and what
you are offering as a support system. If nothing shifts she will almost
certainly die sooner rather than later. But people don’t tend to make
big changes when they are in a long-run depression, so set your sights
at an achievable level.

I’d counsel that the friends meet as a group to debrief and to get clear
on what they perceive. They should make a list of questions to ask and
also what they’re willing to do to help. These could include anything
from outright financial assistance for counseling if she will go off drugs
to making dates for a walk and a meal on a regular basis. The one who
knows her best, which sounds like you, should talk to her one on one.
She’d likely perceive a group effort as shaming. If she responds
positively you can say there are others who care about her who would
like to make her life better. But if she resists efforts to help her change
you will likely lose her as she continues to decline. I know that’s not
what you want to hear, but it’s reality, and alone in the holidays will
make it worse. Help her through the next few weeks and maybe
January will brighten her outlook.