Advice from the Trenches: Professional Liars

welcome to Advice from the trenchesa monthly column on NOW.

Advice from the trenches combines the clinical experience of a double-pension psychiatrist with a dose of stark reality from an artist and writer who has drawn her wisdom from the school of hard knocks.

Do you have a burning question for the duo? Send your thoughts, ideas and woes to [email protected] Don’t forget to mention that you are a NOW reader so we can be sure to post the answer here!

Dear C and Dr B;

I’ve been trying to help a friend for a few years who has an addiction problem. I have known him for over 20 years and have been friends with his family since childhood. In the past, he helped me when I needed help, so it felt good to reciprocate – but it eventually backfired on him. It’s moderately functional and plays a very convincing role, so it took a while to figure out that it was hiding a serious problem while it stayed in my basement apartment.

I finally caught him smoking crack and after hearing from his PCP that he also had uncontrollable diabetes and weakened veins, and the next time he smokes crack it could kill him. I’m trying to get him into rehab as I write.

If I’m honest, I don’t want to let him in when he comes out. So why the hell can’t I just brush it off and walk away? I know that’s what I should do, but the thought of abandoning her makes me sick, even though that’s her problem, not mine. I guess my question is – how do I deal with how the shit of doing the right thing makes me feel?

I watch the people around me live selfishly, putting their personal comfort ahead of those who need help. I feel like if no one cares, then why are we even here for each other? I really know I should let go of the things I can’t change, but right now I feel worse than ever.


C says:

This guy knowingly played you and took advantage of it. I wouldn’t waste time feeling guilty for wishing him out of your life for good. Crackheads are notorious for being mean, getting high and doing stupid shit because they fry their brains out every time they get high. Let the professionals take care of it. They know what they are doing and they are paid to do it.

But let’s talk about you.

There is nothing in this world that can throw you into self-doubt and deep depression, quite like being lied to again and again by someone you thought you could trust. He was no stranger. This guy was your friend for over 20 years. You’re probably wondering how true what this guy told you was and remember how many times he looked you straight in the eye and lied. You may feel silly for not seeing it all sooner.

You are not stupid. You are someone who trusted a friend because you couldn’t imagine someone you cared about being capable of such deception. You are no match for a professional liar and that is what all drug addicts are. They are the best crooks in the world and they can seem as innocent as little lambs. Don’t blame yourself. You will probably never trust anyone again the way you did before.

And that brings me to another important question: the harm drug addicts do to the people who try to help them. With their repeated slips and their complicity, they can make us believe that the whole world is rotten and that there could be something that stinks under every seemingly healthy facade. Addicts can turn those around them into cynics of life in general.

My suggestion for you is to get your own support group right now. I’m not talking about nice friends, I’m talking about people like you who have faced similar nightmares. Al-Anon benefits family and friends of all types of addictions.

Dr B says:

If other people were watching you, they would probably say that you are handling this very well.

Everyone suffers in their own way; suffering is a normal part of life. Many of us may feel like we handle it worse than everyone else, but that’s usually not true.

Personally, I would kick my own mother out if she smoked crack in my house. Illegal drugs are a package that comes with the danger of suppliers and the unpredictability, impulsiveness, inconsistency and lack of accountability of the user.

No moral system expects you to endanger your own life in service of someone else’s. Those that seem to do so are usually grossly misinterpreted.The tree that gives is a popular children’s book that perpetuates the myth that total self-sacrifice for others is noble and good. It is not a doctrine; it’s just bad advice.

It’s okay to feel bad, but it’s not okay to base your decisions and actions on guilt.

As originally published in Motif Magazine.

Writer Cathren Housley is a former contributor on NRI NOW, covering the local arts and music scene.

YesYou can visit Dr. B’s blog at

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