Friends and when they don’t help themselves

18 04 2009

My best friend is in a tough situation.

I’m not talking her dog died, or she got in a fender bender and was at fault…I’m talking real, deep, tough.

She was born and raised affluent– a Cape Cod family with old Cape Cod money.  Her grandparents were very wealthy, and kept the money coming in via a heavily-used plaza in town that they owned.  Her mother lived with them as well.  They all lived in one house, and my friend’s mother had never actually lived independent of HER parents– my friend’s grandparents.  My friend’s mother works a low-paying call center job for a ferry company, never having the enthusiasm to work her way up any occupational or socioeconomic ladder because she relied strongly on her parents’ money.  My friend, well, she ended up with the complacency that old, permanent money gives you.  Do what you want, when you want, no matter the the cost or revenue-generating potential.

Fast forward to 2002.  My friend’s grandparents sell the plaza as they are quite old (early and mid 90s), and keeping up with it is becoming cumbersome.  They divy the money up amongst various family members.  Things are still going well, they still have the family money.  In 2003 and 2004, the grandparents die (I miss them, too.  I was very close to them).  This is technically where the story really begins.  My friend’s father figure WAS her grandfather, and she was very close to him.  The grandmother and my friend’s mother were incredibly close as well, so both my friend and my friend’s mother spiral into deep, deep depression.  They burn through pretty much all of the money left behind, not knowing much about the world and how money works.  Why would they?  They had both spent their lives cushioned by the family “fortune.”  My friend racks up several thousand in credit card debt, and simply stashes the bills when they arrive, either refusing or not realizing she has an obligation to pay.  At this point, she is 19.  No one has ever told her anything about money, really.  Her mother is doing the same thing: racking up debt at an alarming pace.

The debts default, and crediters begin calling the house at all hours of the morning, day, and evening.  The house they live in is worth slightly over one million dollars, so the taxes are high.  My friend’s mother’s job pays roughly 19,000 a year, which, on Cape Cod is LESS than peanuts.  She begins drinking again, thus going from “recovering alcoholic” to “raging boozer.”  My friend is immobilized by her depression.

Fast forward, again, to 2009.  It’s been four and a half years since this started.  They are still living in that house.  It’s for sale, but my friend’s mother is doing nothing to foster the sale of the house.  She gets drunk every night.  My friend?  She still hasn’t paid her debt off.  She has not completed any schooling, and cannot (or will not) hold onto any job long enough to generate enough money to do anything.  She calls me, distressed, telling me she needs to get out of the town, and asking for help.  Her car no longer works, as well.  Her debt is God knows how high.  I’ve never been able to get a straight answer.

Now, to my point of this whole story.  Since the debt became an issue, my mother (financial wiz) and I have been trying to help her get through this, erradicate her debt, get through school and get a job.  My friend has had therapy and has since recovered from her depression regarding the death of her grandfather, but she constantly talks about how life “shouldn’t be this hard.”  The thing is?  Life IS this hard.  Everyone has to work for their financial independence.  Things are not just handed to you.  My mother and I have lined up all manner of methods for her to get on her feet– helping her with college paperwork, ideas about jobs, coping methods regarding her mother, calling to settle debt with the collections agencies.  She says she follows up, but I don’t think she ever has.  She still gets calls all day.  She went back to school, but quit when she got offered a job that she got fired from after a month.  She’s back to square one now.  And I, who grapples with her own very difficult (at this juncture) life, have nothing to give.

My friend’s mother has three summonses to court in Boston regarding her debt.  The house will either be lost in bankruptcy or reposession.  I find myself not even knowing how much lower my friend can go.  If she and her mother lose their house– where are they going to go?  When will my friend finally wake up and see life for what it is?  Is she even capable of taking care of herself?  These questions kill me: I have nightmares about it at night.  I feel that, sometimes, she wants my mother and I to offer her money or a place to stay.  That will never happen, mainly because she has shown no direction, no ability to get on her own.  We have tried everything, counciling her for countless hours– and she just sinks lower.

What can I do?  I’ve known her for 2/3 of my life.  We met when I was eight, and we grew up together.  I want her to enter the working, adult world as I am beginning to (I have a job…it’s temporary, but more on that another time), so we can continue to be friends and experience life together.

It makes me so sad.  All I can do is watch in horror.




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