My Roommate, the Single Mom, Has a Cocaine Problem. Should I Move Out?

Advice on sticky friendship dilemmas.
Feb. 7 2012 7:00 AM

My Roommate, the Single Mom, Has a Cocaine Problem

Do I move out of this toxic situation at the risk of abandoning her?


Illustration by Jason Raish.

Dear Friend or Foe,

Lucinda Rosenfeld Lucinda Rosenfeld

Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including I'm So Happy for You and The Pretty One, which will be published in early 2013.

For the past six months, I’ve been letting my roommate and best friend since middle school—“Deirdre” —drive my car to work every day. She’s a single mother with no help from her 5-year-old's deadbeat dad. Plus, she has no other way to get to work. (I can easily ride the bus to my job.) However, I’ve tried getting my car back a few times, only to be told that she'll lose her job and has no other way to get there. Other times, she tells me she can't wait to get fired and sometimes doesn’t show up for work, which makes me angry. I recently found out that Deirdre’s new boyfriend (of three months) introduced her to cocaine. We’ve both lost friends to drug abuse. Deirdre has even seen her own brother go through the recovery-and-relapse cycle, over and over again. I told her that I disagree with what she’s doing and that she’s never allowed to use it near me or in the house. I also said that if I found out she had it around her kid, I'd call Child Protective Services.

Last week, I threw a mutual friend's birthday party at our favorite bar, and I invited Deirdre. I walked into the ladies’ room and found her and her boyfriend running into a stall together. I laughed and said they better not have sex in there. As I was leaving she said, “No, we're about to do a bump. Do you want some?” I blew up, saying that I’m not friends with junkies and that I don’t want to live with them, either. Now I don’t know what to do. If I move out, I'd be leaving both Deirdre and her daughter homeless and carless. (She can’t afford the rent herself.) However, I feel as if I’ve sacrificed a LOT for her and it’s not OK that she can’t heed this one request. I also feel hurt, betrayed, and angry. All she’s said is that she wants me to apologize for calling her a junkie.



Blissfully Ignorant (Till Recently)

Dear BITR,

OK, I agree that having a roommate who’s a single mother with a coke habit (who won’t let you use your own car) is far from ideal. And yes, you’ve sacrificed WAY more than any roommate should have to sacrifice. But if you want to get technical, Deirdre agreed that she wouldn’t do coke in the house or near her child, and she lived up to that part of the promise. I’m not condoning the habit. But I’m also not convinced that the 3B’s incident—by which I mean, doing Blow with the Boyfriend in the Bathroom—should represent the final straw. What if you make it a “final warning” instead? You two have been friends since you were kids. And no one wants to be responsible for sending a 5-year-old and her mom to a shelter.

If I were you, I’d sit Deirdre down and tell her that you’re sorry for calling her a junkie. You were upset when you said it. You don’t want to see her mess up her life. You don’t expect perfection. You also know how hard it is being a single mother. But since you share a home, her life affects yours. And there’s only so much messing up you can handle. To that effect, if you ever see her “bumping” again, you’re packing your bags. (Also, you wouldn’t mind being able to drive to the mall once in a while.)

That said, if you’ve outgrown Deirdre and her semi-functional lifestyle, you have every right to jump ship. In that case, I’d explore a back up living arrangement for Deirdre. Does she have a parent or other close relative she and her daughter could live with for a while? While the child is not ultimately your responsibility, I think you’ll feel better about leaving if you know that Deirdre has reinforcements.


Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,

My best friend—“Tilda”—has always been mildly anxious, obsessive, and hypochondriacal, but she's recently gone off the deep end. She thinks she has HIV. A few months ago, she slept with someone and used protection, but she assumes she contracted the disease anyway because she was tipsy and might have messed up the contraception. Her sex partner was a semi-professional athlete who has frequent and thorough health screenings. He also assured her he's been tested for STDs. But she constantly checks for symptoms, "researches" the disease on the Internet, and "confirms" her worst fears by worrying herself into becoming sick. Then she concocts scenarios in which she has to tell her parents she's dying of AIDS. The fear makes it hard to eat or sleep.

This has happened before. A year and a half ago, she had a similar (safe) encounter and spent six months obsessing. She rejected a negative HIV test at three months, saying it was too early to be accurate, then rejected a second negative test at six months, saying the nurses botched the job. After more than a year, she relaxed. I don't know if either of us can handle another six months of this, but I don't know what else can be done. Her doctors tell her she's fine, and I finally convinced her to go to a counselor. But it only helps for a day or so after her sessions. Then, she reverts. She also said her medical plan only covers a limited number of sessions. I love Tilda even when she's being a lunatic, but this isn’t healthy for either of us. Any suggestions?


Exhausted by a Hypochondriac



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