Friday, October 7, 2011

Should I Be a Single Mother?

Dear Jocelyn,
I’m curious what you think of a single person adopting a child by themselves. I am in my mid-late thirties and have never been married, but would really love to have children. While I would love to provide a child with a home with two parents, I feel like one loving parent would be better than an orphanage or continuous foster care. I’m open to either local or international adoption. Do you think I would be allowed to adopt as a single person, and would you recommend it for the wellbeing of the child?
-Hopeful Mother


Dear Hopeful,
Whenever I attempt to answer a question like this, I always ask myself, "What is the best thing for the child?" I am wholeheartedly opposed to single women becoming pregnant intentionally and raising children by themselves. I believe that purposefully bringing up a child without a father is a foolish thing to do.   



This being said, I think adopting a child, especially from another country, is a different matter. In this case, the child is already in this world, and is without any parent. Children from certain countries are deprived not only of parents, but love, food, and proper medical care. In this case, I believe that having even just one loving parent is much better than the child's current condition. I think if you decide to adopt, you will be blessing a child and doing him a great deal of good.   If you do decide to adopt, please research the matter extensively before doing so.  To answer your first question, yes, single women are allowed to adopt--I actually know a woman who adopted internationally.  


Adopting and raising a child is hard enough, but as a single woman, you will be doing this without the same support that a married couple will have. Try to find a single woman who has adopted so you can interview her. Contact an adoption agency and set up an interview to ask them questions. Raising a child is incredibly hard work. If you decide to adopt, please realize that it will be the hardest thing you have ever done; however, it will certainly be the most rewarding.
-Jocelyn

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Troublesome Teammate

Dear Jocelyn,  
I am working on a class project in a team of five people. Three of my teammates are great, and the other is … special. In my opinion, the idea of working as a team is that everyone brings ideas to the table and then you decide as a group. She has some decent ideas, but others aren’t feasible for what we are trying to do, and she won’t let any of her ideas go. If we manage to talk her down from an idea one day, she brings it up the next day like the previous conversation didn’t happen. At this point I’m not sure we can trust her to research ideas that aren’t her own, and we’re losing a lot of valuable time (and sanity) repeating all of these conversations. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I kind of want to shove her in a corner with a coloring book so she won’t screw anything up and we can actually get our project done. Any thoughts on how to deal with coloring book girl, short of murder or crayons?  
-Really Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,  
Depending on your teammates, working on a team can improve a project by providing collaboration between brains and division of labor, or it can make the members want to hit their heads repeatedly on the wall. It sounds like you are having the latter experience.   

As I see it, you have four options.  All of these should be discussed with your other teammates to make sure that you are in agreement about which one to choose. The first is to gently confront the team member who is slowing you down. Tell her she has some great ideas, but that she needs to drop the issue if the team decides not to use one of her ideas. Tell her that it feels like it is slowing everything down to go over these ideas several times. Depending on your level of comfort  with confrontation (and with this girl), this might or might not be the way to go.   

A second idea is to simply shut her down when she tries to bring these ideas up again. If she begins to present a previously rejected idea, simply say, "Jane, we already talked about that and decided not to use it." Then quickly move on to another idea. If she insists on discussing it, say, "We discussed it yesterday and we don't have time to talk about it again." Repeat as necessary.   A third idea is to find a small sub-project for her to work on by herself. If the project can be divided up into parts, give her a part that is hard to mess up, and ask her to focus on that. That might occupy her attention long enough for the rest of you to get your work done.

A fourth idea is to go to the professor about this. I would reserve this for only severe cases of teammate issues, since the professor will not appreciate being bothered with minor team disputes. However, if the first three ideas do not work, and you find yourself wishing for a weapon whenever she opens her mouth, then consider asking the teacher to talk to her. You should know that this will, most likely, make working together more awkward, and she might be angry at having been called out. So use this only in case of emergency.   Best of luck to your team. And remember - the dollar store has great deals on coloring books if you need them!

-Jocelyn

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why Was My Boyfriend Not Invited?

Dear Jocelyn, 
My dear girlfriend is getting married in England and I live in LA. She asked me to be the maid of honor, the only person standing up for her, and she is not inviting my boyfriend of 13 months, who lives with me in LA. Is this crazy? I have to travel across the world to be by her side and I can't have the man I love to be with me? 
-Bridesmaid in Britain 

Dear Bridesmaid, 
Without knowing the circumstances behind her decision, I would have to say yes, it does seem strange to not invite a long term boyfriend of a close friend. (I am assuming you have actually asked her if he could come, and she said no. If you have not asked her directly, do so!) 

However, I would encourage you to not let that come between you and your friend. There are some benefits to not having your boyfriend there that perhaps you haven't thought of. For example, you will be busy with maid of honor duties while there, and now you don't have to worry about entertaining your boyfriend while also being wrapped up with manicures, bachelorette parties, etc. You can turn your focus solely to your close friend - after all, this is one of the biggest days of her life! 

Even though this upsets you, try to give your friend the benefit of the doubt and forget about it. This is one day, and it will soon be history. And remember, if the prospect of going for a weekend (or longer) without seeing your boyfriend is upsetting, he can always fly to England with you and just not attend the wedding! He is not barred from the country because he is not invited to a wedding there. 
-Jocelyn

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Afraid the Relationship Break Might Become Permanent

Dear Jocelyn,
I've been with my boyfriend for 6 months. I met him 13 days before his ex-wife suddenly passed away. He had been divorced from her for almost 2 years. She had complications from cancer treatment that affected her immune system, which eventually deteriorated her body and took her life. My boyfriend took care of his ex-wife even though they were divorced, because she was not able to work. After 7 years of marriage, they divorced due to verbal, mental and emotional abuse. Apparently, she had been in an abusive marriage before. My boyfriend said that they couldn't live with each other anymore, but that he still loved her in his own way and would help her. He never allowed himself to deal with her death, so now he is dealing with the emotional trauma. His therapist stated that he was still emotionally attached to her and that since she died so abruptly, there was no closure between them; now he's dealing with the loss and going through the process of grieving. We both agreed to take time apart while he continues his counseling. He said he was not purposefully pushing me away, but needed the time to sort things out. I have agreed, but during our time of separation, I can not help to think that maybe he shouldn't be in a relationship-at least not now. Things have been a little rocky between us because of what he has been dealing with. We both opened up about things that bothered us and he realized that his actions towards me were emotional abuse, something he dealt with in the past relationship with his ex-wife. This is when he told me that he wanted to get some help. I commended him for noticing some of the issues arising in our relationship and agreed he should go to therapy. Since then, we agreed to take some time apart, which he assured me would be a good thing for us, not a bad thing. I have not heard from him in 3 days. I know that he needs time to recover, and I am doing my best to be understanding and supportive. I feel like I am going through the motions with him and feel mixed emotions. Our relationship is fairly new and we've come to care deeply for each other. I want to be there for him, but then I don't want to interfere with his recovery. I also wonder if the time apart will bring us closer or bring us apart. I would like your advice on if I should prepare myself for a possible break up, or how to deal with our situation.
     -Soon-to-be-Single?


Dear Single,
Your letter is fraught with so many issues for such a new relationship.  Let me address your most pressing concern first.  You are concerned about not hearing from your boyfriend in three days after agreeing to take some time apart.  It might have been helpful to define what "time apart" meant to both of you before agreeing to this.  Three days is hardly any time for your boyfriend to receive help, and it makes sense that he is not contacting you now.  I would imagine he might take several months to receive proper treatment.


One concern of mine is your statement that your boyfriend and his wife divorced due to mental, verbal, and emotional abuse.  You did not say who was the abuser.  Later, you wrote that your boyfriend realized his actions were emotionally abusive. This leads me to think that your boyfriend was also the abuser in his marriage.  If this is the case, please realize that without extensive therapy, your boyfriend will not be a loving and balanced romantic partner.  You might be in love with him, but you will not experience a healthy relationship with him until these issues are resolved.  Please strongly consider thinking of this "break" as a blessing.  Move on from this relationship, and make this break permanent.  Do not get back together with your boyfriend unless he has participated in therapy and can prove to you that he will not be emotionally abusive anymore.  


Your boyfriend has many things to deal with right now, such as mourning the loss of his ex-wife and resolving his abusive nature.  Please steer clear of him for now and move on.
     -Jocelyn

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Boss Didn't RSVP

Dear Jocelyn,
Is it rude for me to ask my boss if she received my daughter's wedding invitation?  My daughter seems so excited and can't wait to hear about it.  I am afraid it may have gotten lost in the mail, but don't want my boss to feel obligated to give me an excuse if she just can't come.  The wedding is in 5 days.
-Mother of the Bride


Dear Mother of the Bride,
Of course it is not rude to check on guests who have not responded to an invitation!  In fact, you are being gracious by conjecturing that the invite might have been lost in the mail, rather than assuming that your boss is being rude and just didn't respond. I recommend treating the whole manner lightly; go to your boss and ask casually, "Mrs. Smith, I was finalizing the wedding plans and noticed we had not heard back from you about whether you could attend my daughter's wedding. Will you be able to make it?"

You said you don't want her to feel obligated to give an excuse if she cannot make it—don't worry about that!  A simple question about attendance is not putting undue pressure on her.  If she is unable to attend, she can give you the reason.  If she simply does not want to attend, she can make up some excuse, or (what I would recommend in her situation)say, "I'm afraid I won't be able to make it," and leave it at that.  Invitees are under no obligation to give a reason for not attending. 

I hope this helps, and congratulations to your family!
-Jocelyn

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Leaving My Wife For Another Woman

Dear Jocelyn,
I'm leaving my wife of 8 years and moving abroad to be with the woman I love.  Unfortunately, I don't feel this woman loves me as much as I love her.  She says she will open up to me once I'm there with her.  In the meantime, I've left my wife, quit my job, and put my house on the market, but I can't stop thinking this could be a recipe for disaster.  I love this woman like crazy and she says she loves me too, but I'm extremely insecure and fear that my insecurities may cost me the life I’ve always wanted with her.  Please help.
-Insecure

Dear Insecure,
You might not appreciate the advice I am going to give you, but here it is:  End things with this other woman, go back to your wife, and beg her forgiveness for doing the unthinkable. 

You said you can't stop thinking that this could be a recipe for disaster. I agree—it is a disaster. I believe you will wake up in a few years and realize that you abandoned a wife who loved you for over eight years for another woman, who despite perhaps appearing to be sexier or more exciting, was just as flawed as the woman you left. I can guarantee that any problems you and this other woman currently have will not be fixed by you moving abroad together, and will most likely be compounded. 

Perhaps your extreme insecurities led to never fully giving yourself, heart and soul, to your wife. Or perhaps they led to you being hurt by things your wife said.  No matter the reason, it is time for you to take a risk and commit fully to your wife. 

Please don't think I am giving advice purely on moral grounds. While I could, I also must include my advice as a therapist, which is that whatever is wrong with your first marriage will be wrong with your second marriage. The reason?  They both have you in it. I say this not as an insult to you, but because one thing most marriage and family therapists can agree on is that when a person gets divorced and doesn't receive counseling to fix whatever problem caused the divorce, he is much more likely to divorce the second spouse. 

So, my advice—both as a Christian and as a therapist: go back to your wife, beg for her forgiveness, and beg her to receive counseling with you. I have a link on the side of my blog to look up counselors in your area; please take advantage of it.
-Jocelyn

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Boyfriend and Mother are Ruining Life


Dear Jocelyn,
I usually do not do this, but I definitely need advice. I've been with my boyfriend for almost 3 years, and I have never been with anyone else.  However, he has cheated on me with two other females.  We just had a beautiful baby boy.  We have been butting heads—every weekend he thinks I always have something to complain about; however, I think my concerns are reasonable to bring up and discuss.  At this point in time, he has stated that he is fed up and wants to go separate ways, but this is the last thing I want since I grew up without a father figure around the house (and of course because I am truly in love with him).  On the other hand, my mom does not like him; she always has comments about everything and anything and is always complaining—nothing is ever good enough for her.  She is miserable and she thinks I am obligated to give her things I have and take her everywhere I go. I definitely think she is the reason that I am the way I am.  My mom's ways are ruining my life.  I don't want to be miserable, single, and raising my son without both parents together and happy.  Please help!
-Life Is Falling Apart

Dear Falling Apart,
I see two problems in your letter—your relationship with your boyfriend, and your relationship with your mother. I'll address them one at a time. 

When reading your letter, I was fully set on advising you to leave your boyfriend behind and never see him again without a second thought until I read that you two have a son together; then my heart sank as I realized such advice would no longer be practical. Since you have a child, you two are forever joined by this new life you have created. I think you are right in wishing to give your son a father, and that means staying in close proximity to this fellow so that your son can see him often. 

However, all of this does not mean you must marry him, or even continue to date him—if you do, your future relationship will most likely be one of heartache and pain. Your boyfriend has made it clear to you that he does not love you. He might enjoy your company, and say that he loves you, but his past infidelities mean he has not made the wholehearted commitment that love requires to survive. He has also stated to you that he is "fed up" and wants to leave. This, again, is a clear sign that he does not love you. 

I want you to change your mindset for a moment. Right now you are lovesick for him, pining after this man that has cheated on you twice and has expressed a desire to leave. Consider this: as the woman in this relationship, you are the one he should be pursuing. While being the woman does mean working hard in the relationship and sometimes fighting for your man, all I see here is a disinterested man getting away with whatever he wants because he has a woman who loves him no matter what he does to her.

Go to your boyfriend and state that you are leaving (or at least agree to separate). Work out visitation for your son so that he gets to be with his father frequently. Move on from this man, and develop your own interests.  Visit a counselor and work through your feelings of low self-worth; she can also help you sort out your relationship with your mother. 

Speaking of your mother, you say she is ruining your life, and she is miserable.  You are an adult with a child—it is time you learn how to have an adult relationship with your mother.  First, consider the advice she has given you—is it actually wrong, or do you just disregard it because it’s coming from her?  Second, when she begins complaining and acting miserable, end the conversation. If you are on the phone, say you must be going and you will talk later. If you are visiting, change the topic. If she insists on continuing, stand up and leave. Your obligation to your mother is to be respectful and to care for her if she needs it, not to sit and listen to continual complaining. 

With both of these relationships, think of the example you want to set for your son. Do you want him to see his mother in a relationship where she lets herself be cheated on? Or in a relationship where she is a doormat?  Of course not; you want him to see you as someone who is strong and knows that she is worthy of respect.
-Jocelyn

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Which Man Do I Choose?

Dear Jocelyn,
I am 18 years old, and I am in a very confusing situation. I am in a serious relationship with my boyfriend of two years and about a couple months ago, I met someone else.  At first it was just a simple flirtation, and then it grew to be more serious. I am now going out with both of them at the same time. I love my boyfriend of two years, but my family does not approve of him. He would treat me like we were married, but now we have worked that out. Now the other guy, he is actually a long distance relationship and my family does want me to be with him; the only thing is that I'm not sure if that's really what I want. I do have some feelings for him, but of course they are not as strong as for my boyfriend of two years, He is very nice and we do get along, but again I'm stuck at a fork in the road and don't exactly know what to do. I'm very surprised at myself for keeping this up so long, and I'm getting to the point where I really can't do it anymore. I know I have to make a decision and I just don't quite know how to make that decision. To be completely honest I don't know exactly know what I want, I just really don't want to hurt or disappoint anyone. Your advice would very much be appreciated.
     -Don't Know What to Choose

Dear Don't Know,
The most important thing you should do right now is come clean.  First to your boyfriend, then to the other man.  While I think casually dating more than one person at a time is perfectly fine and can even be helpful (especially at your young age), there is a difference between casually dating and being in a monogamous relationship.  Your boyfriend believes he is your one and only, and you are lying to him by keeping this other relationship a secret.

I think you should also break up with your boyfriend, if he does not do so when you break the news to him.  You should take some time to yourself to consider why you would lie to these men.  After all, you are not married to your boyfriend, so you could have broken up with him if you wanted to see this other man.  It seems as if you want to "have your cake and eat it too" - you didn't want to have to choose between the two men.  It is this type of thinking that will get you in trouble in marriage.  That is, after all, a harder and much longer commitment.

Before you consider entering into another serious relationship, you have to deal with this.  If you're not willing to do what it takes to be faithful, and to sacrifice being able to explore other relationships in order to be true to your boyfriend, you are not ready for a serious relationship.  

You are very young, and the prospect of coming clean probably scares you.  It should.  However, the choices we make when we are young define us.  You already made one mistake by cheating on your boyfriend; now is the time to decide whether or not to correct that mistake.  You can try to be a woman of honor, or you can continue in this duplicitous relationship.  Try not to make the choice that will be easiest, but the one you can be proud of.
     -Jocelyn

Friday, May 13, 2011

Taking a Break From a Relationship

Dear Jocelyn,
My boyfriends father just passed away and he needs a break. He says he loves me but he needs time to be alone. Do I wait for him? I fear he will let someone else in...
-Waiting

Dear Waiting,

It is quite understandable that your boyfriend is having difficulty dealing with something as hard as the death of his father. There is not quite enough information in your letter, however, for me to figure out whether he is pushing you specifically away, or pushing everyone away.


Is your boyfriend needing time away from his other friends as well? If so, this might be how he deals with grief. Some brief time away from society to process his sadness is understandable.

Is your boyfriend just asking for time away from you? If so, this indicates a problem in the relationship that is coming out due to the stress of his father's death. Grief usually serves to bring two intimates closer together, not drive them farther apart. Tell him gently that you are either dating or you are broken up- there is no middle ground. If this does not sway him, then move on.

You say you fear him letting someone else in. This indicates a basic lack of security in your relationship - whether this has any foundation to it, I don't know. If he actually loves you and is a man worthy of respect, he will not turn from you and towards another woman. If he doesn't love you, or isn't worthy of respect, then him turning to another woman is entirely possible. If this happens, view it as a blessing that you found the truth out before the relationship got any farther along.

-Jocelyn

Friday, May 6, 2011

Reluctant Grandmother

Dear Jocelyn, 
I feel bad about asking my mom for help in any way. I work a part time job at my office and work at home the rest of the day while I take care of my two toddlers, one is 18 months and the other one is almost 3 years. My sisters and mom live in the same area and my mom takes care of my 8 year old niece from Monday till Friday because my sister works full time. But whenever I ask my mom to watch out for my children even for a little while she complains and it makes me feel really bad, because the way she expresses herself seems like my children are a burden. I recall she wasn’t very enthusiastic about taking care of us when we were kids. Besides that, she constantly complains about feeling tired for cooking, cleaning the house, arguing with her husband, etc. What I can’t understand is why she is so negative and hurtful. Once she even said my niece and her husband ruined her life. They are both wonderful persons, and although I am aware of how hard it can be sometimes taking care of others and how tired it can get, I feel there is no excuse for being so cruel. The hardest part is not being able to tell her anything because she is very insensitive and I feel like I have no way to approach her without being humiliated. It’s amazing that I am telling you this when I’m already 33 years old, but I still wish I could have a happy, loving and unconditional relationship with her. What do you recommend?

     -Tired


Dear Tired,
While many women speak of being a grandmother in glowing terms, your mother seems to resent her role.  In fact, she seems to resent many things!  You said she not only complains of taking care of children and grandchildren, but also of household chores and even her own husband.  It would appear your mother focuses on the negative aspects of life.  You, on the other hand, seem to relish the joyful moments and delight in your family.


You stated a desire to have a happy, loving, and unconditional relationship with your mother.  I wish I could tell you that was possible, but it simply isn't without some sort of change on the part of your mother.  You have the option of approaching her and telling her what you wrote to me (in different words, of course); however, you also said you didn't feel you could approach her without being humiliated.  Your best option at this point is to distance yourself from the relationship.  If she complains of not seeing you or the children, simply remind her of her complaints about taking care of the children, and say you do not wish to be where you are not wanted.


On a side note, I am not simply recommending this for your sake.  Children are more perceptive than they appear, and your children are coming to the age where Grandma's sighs and complaints might affect them.  If your mother said that your niece ruined her life, imagine what she might say about your children?  Imagine the damage it could do to them to hear their grandmother say something like that within earshot.  It is not just yourself you are protecting from this woman; it is your children as well.


Please find someone who will enjoy the gift of children with you.  Plug into your community (religious or otherwise).  Seek out an older woman you can learn from, and who might be a sort of "adopted" grandmother to your children.  You might look into even visiting a nursing home on a regular basis - it would be a delight to the residents there to see such beautiful children, and it could do wonders to your family to be appreciated instead of viewed as a burden.


-Jocelyn

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hiatus from posts

Dear Readers,


Due to the recent birth of my child (Abigail) on April 22nd, I am taking a brief break from posting.  For those of you who have sent me questions, consider it a blessing that I am not trying to respond to your question in my sleep-deprived, half-delirious state.  :)


I hope to resume by next week.  Thank you for your patience!


-Jocelyn

Friday, February 18, 2011

How To Move on From a Mistake


Dear Jocelyn,
Apologies if I go on and on...

I'm 19 and don't have any Christian friends; I don't really have many non-Christian friends either, but the friends I do have seem to love sex. I had a boyfriend who I was with for a year and a half, but we broke up about 3 years ago. I unfortunately made the mistake of sleeping with him and I regret it! I don't believe in sex before marriage so I'm very disappointed in myself. I wasn't really a strong Christian at the time (which still doesn't excuse my mistake) as I was quite angry and disappointed with God due to my deafness. (I speak clearly and am learning sign language: long story short, I had meningitis when I was a baby, was dying, God saved me but I still ended up deaf.)

I'm slowly getting to know God again and growing in faith, but I still find it difficult to get over the fact that I had sex; it’s difficult having no Christian friends to confide in, and I haven't been to church in months and months because I feel that I keep letting God down! I use to dream about sex a lot; it was hard trying to dream about something else because I didn't know what to dream about instead but I'm getting there. Basically I'm struggling - I feel like I'm trying to reach God but I keep holding back, it’s like I take one step forward and three steps back every time. I'm my worst enemy at the moment. Please help me...
- Lost

Dear Lost,
It sounds as if there are several different issues at play here.  When you were younger, you were (understandably) bitter towards God about being deaf, and made the mistake of sleeping with your boyfriend at the time.  Now that you are growing in your faith again, you deeply regret that decision and are holding back in your relationship with God because of it.  Let's address one issue at a time:

I can see why you were angry with God.  Not only were you 16 and having to go through the difficult emotions that every teenager goes through, but you were also dealing with deafness after a tragic illness as a baby.  This is something that even a wise, mature adult would have difficulty processing.  I would highly recommend seeing a Christian therapist or counselor to properly deal with your anger and disappointment.

Now, let's address your sexual relationship with your ex-boyfriend: I have several Christian friends who planned on remaining a virgin until their wedding night, but, during a period of rebellion or confusion, became sexually involved with a boyfriend or girlfriend.  What I have noticed that all these friends have in common is that this particular mistake grieves them more deeply than any other sin or mistake they have made.  While there might be several reasons for this, my guess is that it grieves them because they know they have lost something beautiful.  Christians wait until marriage for sex because we know that God made sex to be beautiful, and that when it is shared solely between a husband and wife, it is a uniquely deep and precious intimacy.  There is an entire book of the Bible (Song of Solomon) reserved for the achingly beautiful sexual love that a husband and wife share.  Therefore, it is reasonable for you to grieve the loss of this.  It is right for you to be upset that you shared this with someone who was not your husband.  But, it is essential for you to remember this: God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to forgive and redeem you from your sin.  This particular action (having premarital sex) is not even the worst of things that Jesus came to forgive!  He came to pay for the sins of liars, cheaters, murderers, and abusers.  1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Memorize this verse and recite it to yourself when you feel down about yourself.

The final issue seems to be your current relationship with God.  You have no Christian friends and attend church sporadically.  This could be part of the reason you struggle in your relationship with God!  There is a story in the Bible that I think can illustrate this issue:

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.  Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order.  Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation (Matthew 12:43-45).

This doesn't just apply to demons - when we simply try to stop committing sins and don’t work on replacing them with Christ-centered thoughts and actions, there is a void in us waiting to be filled.  Often, this void is filled with something even worse than before.  The key is to fill the void with God, with thoughts and deeds that are focused on Christ.  In psychology, this is known as the elephant trick - if you tell someone to not think about elephants, it is all they are going to think about!  However, if you give them something else to focus on, they will easily and naturally not think about elephants.  I would recommend that you make the commitment to attend church regularly, even if you are not feeling up to it.  That will fill your life with something godly to focus on.  Try making friends in your church, or find a young adult's bible study to attend with people your age.  As you make new Christian friends, you will naturally spend less and less time with non-Christian friends.  This would be a good step to take now.  While there is nothing wrong with having friends who are not Christian, right now it is only making it harder for you to grow in your faith.  You said at the beginning of the letter that your friends love sex - this difference in values is making it difficult for you to focus on living your new life in Christ.  Just like a drug addict stays away from old friends, and an alcoholic might stop hanging out with a drinking buddy, I would encourage you to gradually move away from any friends who are holding you back in your spiritual walk.   

I hope this helps.  Take heart in knowing that as you grow in your relationship with Christ, the guilt you feel will become easier to let go of.  Please know that you are on the right path and are doing the right thing.
-Jocelyn