Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dangerous habits

I have known my best friend since I was 3 years old. We've grown up together, and we know pretty much everything there is to know about each other. He has told me that I know him better than he knows himself.

But despite our close friendship, we have had very different upbringings. He was raised by his mother, who is, I suppose, what you may call a permissive parent. He wasn't very strong on discipline and never made him push himself in school. As a result, he was held back a year. In high school our paths diverged slightly, he turned semi-goth and plunged into a deep depression. We finally became closer again in sophomore year, and have remained that way since. I always knew him to be a good guy and despite his appearance and reputation of taking drugs and being a trouble maker, I knew that wasn't the case.

Only now, I have found out that he is picking up some bad habits. He has picked up smoking, which I don't suppose was too difficult to predict since his mother is a heavy smoker, but it is still not a good sign. He has gradually been smoking more often, and despite what he tells me, I am certain that he will get hooked. He even tells me that he has an addictive personality, and I tend to agree.

But I also found out that he was driving without a license, and getting drunk. Drinking is typical of a lot of teens, but I think that there will come a point that he will be in so deep over his head with the choices he is making that he can't control them anymore. What's more, he crossed a line with me that he swore he would never cross. I know it can only get worse. His mom doesn't know about any of it, and this is my dilemma.

Should I tell someone about what he's doing? He'll be 18 in a few months, but he'll still be in high school. I know that he needs to worry about himself and that I can't live his life for him, but I want to try to prevent a disaster before something happens that that he can't get out of. Where is the line between being a good friend and keeping his secrets and acting negligent to the point where if I don't step in, and there is something I can do now, that he will get himself into deeper trouble?

Concerned for her friend

Dear Concerned,

Yes, I do think you need to tell someone about his behavior. He's moved from the appearance that he's "dangerous" (dressing goth, being depressed) to actually being dangerous (getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking). He has crossed the line of which you speak.

You have a few options as to how to get the word out. If you're comfortable with his mother, you can speak directly to her. However, I think it would be a better idea to speak to someone at school, such as a counselor or a teacher to whom your friend is close. Tell them your concerns. They will take it from there, most likely calling his mother and informing her.

After you say something, realize that things might not go perfectly. If your friend realizes you have said something, he might get mad. Know that 18 is not a magic "I'm an adult" card for most kids, who are still living at home and going to school. His parents will most likely have an influence on him after his birthday.

I know it might feel like you're betraying your friend, but he's making choices that could change his life and the lives of others in a very negative way unless someone says something. Since you know, it has got to be you.

Aunt Amy

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