Now here’s a question I’d love to know the answer to – what can you do as a friend when you realise someone you care about is drinking too much?
This was a conversation I had with one of my best friends over the past couple of days. I’ve been pretty open about why I’ve quit drinking and for this friend – let’s call her Cherokee, because her hair is dark chocolate and gold, her spirit is free and she’s simply the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen – this should have meant she’d have the super advantage of insider information now that she is witnessing another friend teetering on the edge of a growing drinking problem. Straight from the horse’s mouth, right? And all I could tell her was that there is fuck all she can do. Isn’t that just so depressing? I kept going back to myself, how I felt any time someone said anything about the amount of Sauvignon Blanc I was pouring down my neck and I do remember it very clearly: I got massively offended and angry, then made a mental note to avoid that person from thereon out.
What CAN you do? I am genuinely asking! What do you think? If like me you are an alcoholic, is there anything anyone could have said or done that would have made you listen or stop?
For me I think the answer is no, partly because I’m too fucking stubborn for my own good but mostly because I remember exactly what I felt anytime my husband tried to slow me down – it got me in a really bad mood and it was torture sitting there with the beast clawing at my throat and wait for him to take his merry time finishing his goddamn beer. I remember it so well it gets me irritated just thinking about it! Or any time he’d say we should try to drink less often. I knew he was right but I just pushed it out of my mind. I honestly cannot think of something that would have worked. If anything, I think hubby’s way actually got to me more than if he’d tried to place demands on me or tried to stop me from drinking – it got to me WAY more to hear this person who loves me say he thought I drank too much but I’m an adult so it’s my choice. Ouch. Much more effective in my case. Hubby magically let me know he’d always support and help me, yet never judge or tell me what to do. Cherokee also always put things to me in a way that didn’t get me defensive, simply told me it was awesome that I was doing something about my drinking if I felt it had become a problem. No pointing fingers. Having said that, Cherokee and I only see each other a few times in the summer and around Christmas so she only knows about my drinking because I’ve been open with her. It would have been pretty easy to disguise it otherwise – hey, I’m on holiday, carte blanche to drink every day!
I suggested to Cherokee that with quite a risk of this potential problem drinker getting really angry and distancing herself, perhaps just sit her down and tell her something along the lines of I love you and don’t want to see you in harm’s way, your drinking really worries me and here’s why. Would that have ever worked for you? I keep thinking stuff would have registered for me, but until I truly wanted to quit drinking there was nothing that could get between me and that bottle. From what Cherokee told me it doesn’t sound like this chick has got herself into a habit as bad as the one I eventually had, but the warning signs are all there including how she always chooses party and drink over any other activity. Cherokee says she is different. Either way, it’s sad to hear of a smart, kind, witty and vibrant woman slipping further into the pitcher plant. The slope gets steeper very suddenly unfortunately.
Apart from being a Class A Drunk myself, I’ve also been on the other side of the fence with another friend of mine, Poppy. A mutual friend contacted me to say she and another person were both extremely worried about her drinking. Poppy was of course one of my favourite drinking buddies because she was limitless like me although I always thought she was worse – crap I made myself believe so I could in my own mind point at her as proof that I was JUST FINE. Anyway, that’s a different conversation and what that other blog post is about. This person who contacted me told me about the stuff I didn’t know about – how Poppy was drinking in the morning and used a tea mug in an attempt to conceal it (been there!), how she’d throw up several times per day and how she had the shakes so badly she was pretty much housebound. It was a bit of a shock because although I knew she drank too much I just thought she was a bit like me and of course at this point I was still in la-la-denial-land. Actually, even then I knew I was the MUCH heavier drinker but Poppy was still more hardcore than most of my other friends so for me it was reassuring.
Anyway, our mutual friend confronted Poppy and Poppy got really, really mad. At all of us. We’d talked shite and gone behind her back. I calmly explained our mutual friends had come to me, for one, and secondly I was the one who’d been faced with new information here. I had said nothing to them that they didn’t know. But that was probably something Poppy couldn’t deal with hearing or taking in, so I just let her be angry with me for a while. But I think her reaction is one that’s typical for someone who has a problem but not yet ready to deal with it – bat it away, refuse to acknowledge or even sniff at the possibility that there is something to it. I mean, that’s what would have been behind MY reaction had I been confronted about my drinking before I was ready to deal with it. But it could also be that Poppy doesn’t at all have a problem and us friends just got it really, really wrong. And of course me, the drunk, probably put two and two together and got 1,435.
Either way, whether Poppy drinks in a dangerous manner or otherwise – and I accept that all is probably well and to stay out of it – that’s for Poppy herself to determine. If there isn’t a problem, there isn’t a problem. Point is though, that each person has to reach that realisation themselves. If there is anything TO realise, that is. With Poppy, maybe not. With Cherokee’s friend, again, maybe not! And if there is, they just have to figure it out themselves. I suppose all we can do as friends is to always approach things with love and respect and show we’re there.
So my experience tells me that there’s very little Cherokee can do but wanted to throw this out there in case someone has something less depressing to offer. Interventions, has anyone tried? Either been part of one or the person it was intended to help?
Today I’m not going to drink. Oh, and my app tells me 114 days!