Do As I Say
Giving advice is easy; following it is hard. Or, as my mother used to say: "Do I say, not as I do."
In the article, Encouraging Junkies to "Clean Up", I made some very good recommendations about how to deal with heroin addicts--recommendations that, even if they didn't stop an addict from using, would improve your relationships with them. The main point I made was that you should treat a heroin addict like any other adult. But this is very hard to do, as I know from my own recent experience.
The specifics of my experience do not matter. What came out of the whole episode was that I was not clear with my expectations. As a result, I found myself as the "go-to man" when my junkie friend was in need of money; I was loaning money at an increasing rate with no end in sight, and no hope for repayment.
At one point, I reached my breaking point and the relationship became very strained. I began refusing to take phone calls from my friend. I felt used, but truly it was my fault, not his. He was just trying to get through a tough period, and I was the easiest method available. In the end, it was also the person to take the steps necessary to repair our damaged relationship.
My mistake was not being clear to him about what I felt comfortable giving. No one expects a friend to give up his last dime as a favor. I find myself falling into this trap of thinking that if I can loan (or give away) money, then I should--being a good friend requires this. I suspect I am not alone in this feeling, even though the ridiculousness of it is obvious.
If someone (junkie or not) asks you to loan money, it is okay to say, "I don't mind loaning money, but when someone repeatedly borrows money from me, it makes me feel like a sap--so please don't ask to borrow money again until you've paid back this loan."
How successful you will be at setting up these kinds of boundaries will depend upon you. It is a lot easier to give advice that to follow good advice. You will do better to do as I say than to do as I do.