What Can I Do to Save My Lying, Substance Abusing, Crazy-Acting Girlfriend?

Reader’s Question

Thank you for the opportunity to seek some advice. I need some help figuring out what I can do to help my girlfriend. She is 42 years old. She is angry a lot, seems depressed, and is always negative. She also seems like the biggest liar in the world. She hasn’t worked for 4 years, throws tantrums, breaks things in the house, is demanding, always wants things, tries to impress people with her looks and is always seeking attention. She has cost me much, but I still keep trying to help her. I have given her nothing but love and support for more than 3 years now, but her behavior has never improved.

My girlfriend lost her husband four years ago, and her family took her kids (she can’t see them but she sees her oldest child who is 21 every now and then). The main problem is that she drinks and abuses drugs. She takes tranquilizing tablets, sleeping pills, pain pills and abuses alcohol. She says hateful things to me, threatens me, and genuinely seems like the most unhappy person on earth. She always threatens to leave me but never does. If she could successfully seduce another guy, however, I’m sure she would leave. She has mood swings like I’ve never thought possible for a person.

Her family has suggested that the solution to her problems is to get a rich boyfriend who will completely take care of her. I am not wealthy, but I love her and I don’t think her family’s suggestion is really an answer to her problems.

My girlfriend really needs help, but I don’t know what to do. I really do not have money to waste, but have tried to support her getting help. She promises she will work on her problems but then cancels her appointments. We have also gone to some counselors at church but she always lies and avoids dealing with her real problems. What can I do?

Psychologist’s Reply

Your girlfriend is an adult woman of 42 years. You have no power over her behavior. In addition to the other psychological problems she might have (there are indications of both mood and personality disturbance), from what you say she has a significant problem with substance abuse. The true nature and extent of any of her psychological problems cannot be ascertained with any certainty as long as she is abusing drugs and alcohol.

There are some who contend that individuals caught up in this vicious cycle of self-destruction have to “hit bottom” before they admit the powerlessness that results from their addiction. Proponents of this point of view also suggest that actions such as your own, though well-intended, do nothing more than “enable” the addicted person to keep on their self-destructive course.

You are no doubt correct that simply hooking up with a boyfriend rich enough to give this woman everything she wants will not save her. But it’s also likely that your love is insufficient to save her. She will have to want that for herself. And as long as people help make it possible for her to continue on her present course, it’s not likely she will change direction.

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