Friend's unhealthy career causes concern

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Chicago Tribune columnist Amy Dickinson and reporter Jenniffer Weigel help a caller deal with an unclear platonic relationship. Recorded live from the Chicago Tribune newsroom. March 7, 2013

Dear Amy: I am a 22-year-old woman, and I'm having issues with a friend. She and I have been very close friends for half of our lives, but as time goes on she is changing.

I can't figure out if I should start to keep my distance from her because I really don't like her new "career."

She has found herself doing extreme (sexual) things with guys she doesn't know — for money.

I don't condone any of these decisions she's making. I worry about her so much. It's not as if I'm superjudgmental or anything, but I value myself as a person, and I see that she's devaluing her worth.

I love her like a sister, but I hate her choices. I don't feel I can be around this. I have to worry about myself to get my own life together.

She gets defensive and says she doesn't give a "bleep." She's kind of like an alcoholic who is in denial.

What should I say to her? Should I say anything at all? Should I just keep my distance?

— Worried Friend

Dear Worried: Your friend's denial protects her from the reality of her frightening and potentially dangerous choices.

You should express your love and concern for her, carefully and consistently. Tell her, "I'm so worried about you. I wish you would get help to make different choices." She might be struggling with addiction issues; if so, she has a challenging road ahead.

Sadly, you cannot save her; you can only support healthy choices while keeping your distance from the rest. It can be extremely challenging to detach from a loved one's choices while still caring about her. However, you need to realize that this burden — being honest, kind and loving while not becoming overly involved — is one you are strong enough to handle.

You are absolutely correct that your first responsibility is to yourself. You must get and keep your own life together. That will be your best and most important gift to others.

Dear Amy: I belong to a writers group. We submit writing samples to be critiqued by members of the group.

One person has consistently said hurtful things. Not just pointing out writing flaws, but predicting future failures or making value judgments about the writer's character. Some people have dropped out of the group over this. I simply decided to throw away all critiques from this person.

We recently discussed how to give more productive critiques, and I mentioned that someone offers spiteful critiques, that people have been hurt, and I asked that it stop. I did not mention names.

It's caused a lot of drama. And to make it worse, this person is now trying to "friend" me on social media. (I previously "unfriended" him over some of his comments.) I honestly don't think he does this intentionally, but I'm actually a little afraid of him.

Should I make an effort to contact him away from the group? I'm trying to let it drop gracefully, but that doesn't seem to be happening.

— Written Into a Corner

Dear Written: I'm going to assume that the content and quality of this person's comments are not debatable, and that this is not just a matter of perception. If so, then you did the right thing in confronting this issue; I cannot imagine why this was met with drama rather than applause.

In this case, there is no reason to connect with him through social media. Confine your contact to the writing group, and do not let him bully you out of it.

Thoughtful first readers and editors are a writer's lifeline. Stay open to the toughest critiques.

Dear Amy: "Worried Mother" was eager for her daughter to begin dating again after coming out of an abusive relationship.

When I broke up with my first serious girlfriend (who was manipulative and cheated), I swore off relationships for almost two years. No amount of convincing could've made me get back out there. I have since met the love of my life, and we've been happy together for more than three years.

— Took My Time

Dear Took: If you had rushed this, the outcome would have been different.

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