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Ask Angela: I think my friend is an alcoholic

Published: Sunday, Sept. 8 2013 9:44 a.m. MDT

What do you do if you're not sure, but you think your friend might be in trouble?

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Dear Angela,

I suspect an LDS friend of mine is an alcoholic. She's an active member with a current temple recommend. I don't know if her family knows and I think that no one else at church knows or even suspects. Over the past year, I've smelled alcohol on her breath almost every time I see her.

I'm not sure what to do. We are casual friends but I care about her and I know some of the struggles she is dealing with. How do I approach this? Is it even my place? Is this something I should tell the bishop directly or talk to the Relief Society president? I just want to help but I have no idea how. Talking to her directly about it scares me to death.

Concerned

Dear Concerned,

My heart goes out to your friend; I’m sorry to hear that she’s struggling. You’ve identified two really great resources: the bishop and the Relief Society president. They love her very much and would work diligently to put her in touch with helpful resources.

I’m sure you’ve considered this, but talking to them without her knowledge could backfire. She might feel betrayed, “tattled on” and defensive about the fact that you didn’t come to her with your concerns first.

So, even though it’s scary, talk to your friend. These types of conversations are always nerve-wracking to begin but when your motivation is good, you’ll have that extra spiritual help to be honest, clear and composed. You don’t have to outright tell her that you suspect that she’s an alcoholic — you can leave that diagnosis to the professionals. Instead you can share with her what you’ve noticed, emphasize why you care and allow her to talk. When we struggle, one of the best medicines is a loving and listening ear. You can be that for her.

The reality of this situation, though, is that alcoholism is a disease, and if she is an alcoholic she’ll need help beyond this conversation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has many helpful resources at providentliving.org. Still, showing her that you care and are interested in her health and happiness can help prepare her for that journey — when she’s ready.

Love,

Angela

Readers: How would you begin a tough conversation like this with a friend? In this scenario, would you tell your religious leaders or talk to your friend?

To learn more about “Concerned’s” issue, read a question and answerinterview on The Ask Angela Blog.

To share your own story, send an email to askangela.dn@gmail.com. Find Ask Angela on Facebook at www.facebook.com/askangelaslc.

Angela Trusty is a millennial writer who lives and writes about the Latter-day Saint experience. Twitter: askange_column

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