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Friends can be like jumper cables or emotional vampires

Posted Feb 24 2013 5:00am

Friends ether get you started or drain you of all your energy. 

Are your friends helpful or do they drain your batteries?

Friends give you energy

Do your friends help you get going or do they hold you back? This thought that a good friend is sort of like a set of jumper cables came to me the other day when I discovered that in my haste to get to work and get going I had left the lights in my car on. By the time I noticed, the battery had gone dead. 

Most of us have had this experience. Some people carry jumper cables in order to be prepared. The cables of course are not the only thing you need. You need someone with a good battery to help give you a jump.

Not only do you need a willing person to help you jump-start your car but their battery and charging system needs to be strong enough to run their car and start yours.

Trying to find someone who not only had jumper cables but was willing to give me a jump got me thinking. At this point it occurred to me how much like a jump-start our friends can be.

Some people do nothing but drain you. No matter what sort of help you go to them for, they need you to do something in return or do something before they can help you. The experience of going looking for help is so draining that you leave thinking that you are now in worse shape than when you started.

Some people described these emotionally draining people as Emotional Vampires; they suck all the joy and pleasure out of your life. Asking them for help is like requesting an emotional bloodletting. 

Many recovering people discover that those around them, the ones they call their support system are not very helpful. Some so-called friends want you to fail. Others have so little energy left that they drain you rather than recharge you.

Friends should be someone we are close to and we can trust emotionally. To many of the people we call friends are in fact acquaintances. People we have to be around because we run into them often, but who are not especially dependable or close. 

One of the dictionary definitions of a friend is an “ally or someone who is not an enemy.” From a lot of people’s description of their friends it is hard to tell the allies from the enemies. Does your friend encourage you to live well and happily? Or is that person in a friend disguise telling you to go ahead and stay in your addiction or disease? Do they build you up and encourage you to move forward or are they telling you that it is someone else’s fault and there is nothing you can do in life.

Does that person encourage you to be a victim or a survivor?  

There are those people in our lives that brighten our day any time we see them. We all need more of those kinds of friends. Happy positive friends are out there but they can be hard to find especially if you don’t look in the right places.

Clients tell me they can’t trust those around them. They have trust issues. Their friends are unreliable. How did you meet them, I ask?

The most common answers I get are in bars, dope houses, a friend of a person they met in jail and so on. If you look in hospitals you will find sick people. If you want to improve your support system and have friends who energize you then look in places where people are trying to improve themselves.

The word friendship includes not only being on good terms but also giving mutual assistance, approval and support. That is something we all can use, support in times of struggle. A full dose of approval will go a long way also.

In looking for this supportive friend be sure that the relationship is mutual. Good friends get tired of you if every time they see you, you have your hand out for something. This works in two directions. People who are only your friends for what they can get out of you are abusers not friends.

Look for people who are full of enthusiasm and love life. People who want to spread recovery and not those who want to stay in their disease.

This does not mean you should avoid other recovering people. Far from it. If you have a mental illness, look for those who have overcome their emotional problems. They have something to share with you. Those who use their diagnosis as an excuse to stop trying will drain your battery. Those who have recovered or are well along in their recovery can help energize you.

What kind of friends do you have? Are they the kind that energizes you or the ones that drain your batteries?

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at

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