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The Opioid Thief

Keep your friends close and your painkillers closer

Welcome to The Baffler’s agony corner, YOUR SORRY ASS, where Amber A’Lee Frost dispenses bossy, judgmental advice on how to live your life fairly, kindly, and with good humor. Send us your rants and pleas, please: [email protected].

Dear Your Sorry Ass,

My wife has bad back that bothers her intermittently. She is occasionally prescribed necessary painkillers, which she keeps hidden in a makeup bag in the back of the bathroom closet for the next time her back acts up. A few months ago, she noticed they were gone. We thought back to who had been in our house since the last time she needed one and came up with a babysitter we’d hired through a service, along with my friend and his new girlfriend. My friend is the most scrupulously honest person I know, and his girlfriend is really nice and has her shit together. I figured it was the sitter, but since I didn’t know for sure, I didn’t notify the service because I don’t want to screw with someone’s employment.

I noticed the bathroom closet had been ransacked. The makeup bag where the pills had been before was dumped out.

A little while ago, we had the aforementioned friends over again along with a few others, and I noticed that the girlfriend (now his fiancée) went to the bathroom with her purse and was in there for a long time. At the end of the evening, I also noticed the bathroom closet had been ransacked. There was nothing good to steal, but clearly someone had tried. The makeup bag where the pills had been before was dumped out.

I’m pretty positive my friend’s fiancée stole from us, and I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’ll say, “I think your fiancée stole painkillers, but all my evidence is circumstantial,” he’ll ask her, she’ll deny it. He’ll have to decide who to believe, and he’ll choose her and then we won’t be friends anymore, and nobody, including me, will be any better off than if I just kept my mouth shut. But part of me is like, “I’d want to know if someone in my life was stealing painkillers if for no other reason than to get her help.” Should I say something?


Hiding the Good Stuff


Dear Hiding the Good Stuff,

It sounds like you have the situation pretty well figured out, actually! Good for you! I’m not being facetious here—you’ve demonstrated excellent judgment, and you should be proud of your careful and measured evaluation of this very sensitive social problem. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a shitty position to be in, but pat yourself on the back for not going ballistic and ransacking the suspect’s home in search of their stash—or at least sending a shitty email. Being stolen from can make one feel very violated, and even though your wife is not in dire, immediate need of painkillers, it’s alarming to be plundered of one’s medical necessities. You’ve been very gracious and selfless, though. You’ve kept a cool head and a solid perspective; this isn’t about a few Vicodins, it’s about your friend and the risk his shady partner may pose to him or others.

So first things first—you’re probably right about the identity of the thief. You don’t have a particularly suspicious streak about you, and you’ve tried not to jump to conclusions. (And good on you for not contacting the babysitting service out of principle; there are very few politically or morally justifiable reasons to get anyone fired.) Your instincts are most likely correct, and while you don’t have the evidence to make an accusation, this nice girlfriend who “has her shit together” probably yanked your wife’s meds.

The trouble is—and I think you’ve already figured this out—you can’t actually win this. There is no secure way to tell your friend you suspect his beloved of fiending for opioids without putting your friendship at risk. The only thing you can really do is “casually” mention that your wife’s meds have gone missing, and that you suspect that someone, at some point, must have stolen the drugs, and goshdarnit aren’t you confounded by it all! You might even say you suspected the babysitter, but you’re certainly not sure.

People often view their loved ones through rose-colored glasses, but it’s possible your friend already has suspicions about his bride-to-be.

Your only possibility for “informing” him is to give him the information you already possess with zero inference on your part, because (and this is a long shot), there is a real possibility that he knows something about her history or her habits that would pique his own intuition. Who knows? Maybe he knows she had a problem with drugs in the past or has some sort of condition or pain that might leave her jonesing. Or maybe she has a history of unscrupulous behavior that he’s accepted, believing her to be reformed. People often view their loved ones through rose-colored glasses, but it’s possible your friend already has suspicions about his bride-to-be. It may seem passive aggressive, but part of being a good friend is accepting that you’re somewhat hamstrung by your love and support for them.

Until then, you’re wise to keep your pharmaceuticals under lock and key.