Friday, March 14, 2008

What Would YOU Do?

To completely throw you all off, I am going to post about something completely unrelated to pregnancy! Shocking, I know. But I am worried about a friend of mine and need some advice.

I was promoted to my current position about a year ago. The manager that helped get me promoted is about my age and we became friends after I was no longer her direct-report. She had two miscarriages last year, both at around 9 weeks, so we grew even closer due to that unfortunate common bond. Her husband was a complete jerk, not just about the miscarriages, but about everything. In August, their marriage broke up and she finally admitted that he was both physically and verbally abusing her.

I began to get concerned about her drinking at about that time. Every time she called me, it seemed as if she was drunk or talking about drinking, even if it was the morning. We met for lunch one time, on a workday, and she was on her second glass of wine before I even got there - and proceeded to have two more as we ate.

To the outside world, she is one of those remarkable people who seem to be able to weather anything. I remember her first miscarriage. She called me sobbing, after having just found out that she lost the baby and would need a D&C. Two hours later, she was up in front of our district, conducting a meeting like nothing had happened. I was amazed at her ability to pull it together. No one would have guessed a thing. People keep saying how "great" she is looking or doing. I see a friend that is getting painfully thin and drinking too much. Our relationship is complicated by the fact that she is still technically senior to me. I am no longer entry-level, but I am not management. I have tried subtly talking to her about my concerns, but she always brushes them off.

I have also heard rumors. Stories of too much drinking at managers' meetings. Getting drunk at the Christmas party that she threw. Pounding shots with her district. Like all "I heard from a friend of a friend" stories, I am sure they are part exaggeration, part truth. But the truth part is what concerns me. I care about her, but I don't know how to help, or even if it's my place.

At one point, it might have been easier, but since I got pregnant, our relationship has changed, which I completely understand. She swears that she is in a different place now, not even thinking about kids, and is happy for me. I believe her, but the return calls are a long time coming. Our daily conversations have drifted to monthly, if that.

Two weeks ago, I heard another rumor. This time, the rumor about her is that she was passed out drunk in the middle of the street and had to be picked up by an ambulance and taken to the hospital. This is the type of rumor that can ruin her career. And it's getting around. After I first heard it, I called her to see if she was all right, mentioning that I had heard that she was in the hospital. She admitted that she had been sick, with a bad case of pneumonia. With everything else I know for a fact, I don't believe her. I asked her if she is seeing a counselor, and she said that she is fine now and doesn't need to see anybody. Then, she changed the subject to the latest guy she is seeing.

So, I am at a loss. I am worried that if I talk to her about it, she will get defensive and shut down. But I also know that if these rumors continue, true or not, it will eventually hurt her career. My husband thinks that I should just stay out of it.

What would you do?


Anonymous said...

i would try to schedule an intervention! we all know that people who are addicted or have a substance abuse problem cannot do anything about it until they admit to the problem. can you call AA and ask them about an intervention? i know its difficult but i truly think you have her best interests at heart, and better safe than sorry, i say. even if most of it is rumors that you've heard - one too many is starting to add up to a bigger picture. she needs help! can you contact a family member that you know? good luck!

Katie said...

I think that's a good idea, except that I don't know ANY of her other friends of family. I know some other coworkers that she is close to as well, but I am afraid that if I start talking to them, it is rumormongering. And it might get back to her first.

Ms. J said...

Because it sounds like you work for an organization large enough to have a Human Resources Dept I am gonna offer the following . . . is there any way you could go to them with your concerns? I had a quack of an HR person at my old job, but when something very bad happened to me I did go to HR and they set me up with free counseling sessions courtesy of the "Employee Assistance Program" (EAP), which really helped a lot, and I still see that counselor when I need a mental tune-up.

In addition to ruining her own life, I would be concerned that she could kill someone via drinking and driving. THAT is where it would (to me) seem the onus to get involved comes about.

Any chance of an anonymous note to the HR person? Or someone higher up in the food chain? (Just trying to throw out ideas).

I think your husband wants to relive your stress level -- so maybe by passing this off to someone else you will achieved the goal of getting someone else to try and step in, and well as YOU no longer feeling any sense of duty?!

You are a good person to be so concerned. Bless you. You may save her life, or someone else's.

Tracy said...

My first inclination was to agree with your husband. You don't know any of her friends or family, and she is not discussing the subject with you when you try to intervene yourself.

However, as an ex-HR manager, I tend to agree with ms. J. Hopefully you've got at least one decent contact in HR. I know you probably hate going to them with this, because you're worried about her job, but *most* companies would prefer to see good employees get help rather than pull the trigger and lose them once the situation has escalated to the point of no return.

And I'm afraid she's getting very close to that point.

I don't want to be overly dramatic here, either, but losing a job isn't the *worst* thing that can happen to a person. Losing a life to alcoholism, however, could be.

Tough situation. Keep us posted.

Kathy V said...

I guess I would have to stay with Miss J. If there is nobody in HR that you can talk to about a coworker (no names until you see if there is a program or something to help her), then maybe an anonymous letter. If these rumors are already flying around, you wouldn't be getting her in trouble as much as getting her the help she needs. She might not even be willing to admit that she has a problem at this point. You are a good friend for trying to look out for her. Plus if these rumors are going around somebody higher up will catch on at some point. Get her help before she gets herself into trouble.

Maria said...

This is such a tough spot to be in. I wish I has something brilliant to suggest.

Everyone else posted great suggestions. I like Kathy V's idea of an anonymous letter.

You are a really great friend for caring so much.

Jen said...

That is a really tough situation. On one hand, I'm with your hubby. You're friendship is drifting anyhow and anything you try to do to help might be taken badly. But on the other hand it seems wrong just to let this go on because it would be difficult. I like Ms. J's idea if you feel comfortable with your company and HR department. If she has been an excellent manager for them, they would probably want to help her.

Fertilized said...

I am a different kind of person - i would go with an email - NOT a work email but a personal email if you have it. (as long as you are not afraid that others will read it. Just remember that once in writing - there is no denying you wrote it and know that it is less "in your face" because the receptiant does not have to respond. If she chooses n ott orespond or come to you for help then - you have done your job - you have cast your concerns and it puts the ball in her court to come to you when/if she ever feels the need to - it makes you available to her.

Optimistic said...

What a spot you’re in. I can see where her life is upside down, and alcohol is now her addiction. As a friend, I think saying something to her is something you need to do, but she will most likely get defensive with you (and probably pissed). Going to HR may be better, they can deal with it and it won't interfere with your relationship.

Kim said...

I really don't know, to tell you the truth. You care about her, but she's obviously in denial that she has a problem, so it's a tough one. I think that I would write a heart-felt letter. If you confront her in person, she may be defensive or embarrassed. So I think that a letter from the right place may be best. Maybe you could offer to go to an AA meeting and offer up some locations/times. Just ask her to try it once and that you'll be there to support her. Unfortunately, you can't convince someone that they have a problem if they don't want to accept that they do, so all that you can do is show her that you care.

Antigone said...

She's going to need to want to get help. Reaching out and letting her know that you'll be there for her whenever she needs you, that's all you really can do.

Cari said...

Don't stay out of it. Can you 'corner' her for a lunch and talk to her? If everyone in her life stays out of it, there's might be a big disaster. If you try, then at least you know you tried. Too often we do nothing when we could have done something to help. Even if she's not ready to hear you now, at least you'll know that your heart was in the right place.
Good luck with this -- it's not easy.

Amy said...

I have to agree with Antigone on this one. She is going to have to admit she has a problem before she will even consider seeking help. You know admitting and accepting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Yeah, I know it's a 12 step kind of saying but I'm beginning to think life needs to be taken in 12 steps! Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

moosk said...

what a tough situation! i agree with most that it might be worth getting h.r. involved if you think they might be able to help. you can always ask what they would do before giving them her name...

if you don't have a good h.r. department, you might want to try getting her out to lunch at a quiet little out-of-the-way place. or emailing... if you do talk to her/email her, try to focus on your concern for her... what she's gone through... how it would be tough for anyone. before bringing up the alcohol, ask her how she's dealing with the stress... does she think that anything is not going as well as she hoped... in therapy, we always try to get the person to realize that things that they are using to make their lives easier are actually making them much harder.

good luck!