Hubby and I are very similar in many ways. OK, so he is actually the best person on the planet and I’m very far from that, but there are definitely ways in which we are almost too alike. I’m bossy and so is he. We both always and without fail believe that we know the best way to do something and as a result close ourselves off to alternative points of view. As a result, when we bicker about something, we both whinge about how the other person hasn’t listened to us. Or my personal favourite that I like to throw at him simply because I feel it’s good ammunition and allows me to wrap myself in the victim blanket: “you don’t HEAR me“. God, I really am pathetic. Luckily, we usually switch back pretty quickly to both admitting we were being dicks and then declaring our undying love for each other. Anyway, it’d appear that I can never ever again use that ridiculous victim line of not being heard, because it seems Hubby does and when we walked through the park yesterday he blew me away a little.
As we strolled along the path through the wilted ferns, we talked about a friend of mine who I’m really worried about. It’s Poppy and I have mentioned her before. It’d seem she’s being hit with those really bad consequences I personally escaped by the skin of my teeth. How I didn’t lose more is nothing other than insane luck. Anyway, she’s lost her driver’s licence after getting arrested in the morning for being over the limit. You know, I have no idea if I’m seeing things that aren’t there and perhaps she was just unlucky and it was a genuine matter of having had drinks the night before and being slightly over. That, unfortunately, isn’t TOTALLY uncommon and it CAN happen quite easily to almost anyone – we think we’re OK to drive but actually we’re not. Point is though, I don’t know for sure but on top of conversations with her daughter-in-law some time ago (who was desperately worried and told me about some pretty extreme levels of drinking – in fact, much worse than I ever got to) and some other things that have gone down, I just have that awful knot in my stomach. So we talked about what in God’s name I can do. I simply don’t know. Hubby listened when I told him how I worry that even this won’t be enough for Poppy to see that maybe it’s the drinking that’s the root of so many of her problems. Well, if it IS – after all, I can’t know for sure.
“I’d be more worried that [her son and daughter-in-law] have moved so far away and she’s now on her own and can drink without anyone seeing it,” Hubby said.
What a guy. What a guy, who listens and who hears me. I’ve often said it that the worst place for an alkie is alone and unchecked (because that’s when we can drink the way we like to), and that’s what he pointed out. Well, I thought that speaks volumes for how keen he is to understand stuff and how much thought he has actually given to everything I’ve talked about. Plus it was a really good point that I didn’t quite think of.
How frustrating though – I feel like I’m just standing by and watching as Poppy goes down. I have already been through this with Tumbler and therefore familiar with waking up one morning to a string of R.I.P’s in the Facebook newsfeed. Actually, with Tumbler the news was broken to me via Messenger by a mutual friend before it became common knowledge and the wider circle began to post their sadness at her passing. “Did you hear that [Tumbler] passed away?” the message from our mutual friend Garbo read – what I felt at the time can only be described as an unsurprising shock. And maybe this is why – my own journey and Tumbler’s death – I perhaps project on to Poppy. I mean, I hope it’s true what Poppy herself says, that her drinking is under control and in moderation. I do want to believe that and desperately so. And yet I do go around with a knot of fear in my chest at the idea that it could happen at any time. I’ll get a message like that again or log on to Facebook expecting funny cat memes and instead being faced with devastating news.
To be honest, I feel like a traitor even writing this. Obviously I never use anyone’s real name or any other identifying details, but even so. Who am I to pass judgment? No one, that’s who. I should just accept Poppy’s view and let her live her life the way she decides to. And again – I have no idea and certainly not that much reason to believe her drinking is beyond “a little too much”. Hell, that’s what I had people believing about me for the longest time!! Even Hubby – and he LIVES with me and is therefore a primary witness – only ever used to say I just needed to cut down a little. It’s amazing how much you can hide even within the walls of your own home. Maybe it’s because I was hiding such an enormous issue that I, as we say in Sweden, see ghosts in broad daylight. I.e. things that actually aren’t there.
“I’m going to be you,” I told Hubby and squeezed his hand as we emerged from the park and were walking towards the bridge to cross the river, “I’m going to be just like you with Poppy because it’s the best way I can think of, it’s the only thing I know that might work.”
I glanced at Hubby who didn’t say anything in response. I squeezed his hand again, then lifted it to my lips and kissed his knuckles.
“That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give you. You do realise there is nothing you could have done better, right? Any of that what-could-I-have-done-sooner is bollocks. You were honest and kind and I turned to you because I knew you would never judge me.”
“I know,” Hubby said and did his cute half smile.
I just don’t know any other way and that’s partly because Poppy says she’s fine (well – in terms of the drinking, that is) and who am I to say she isn’t? Just because I have a knot in my stomach that might have formed because of a million other things? Fuck me, this isn’t an easy one, is it? Check out the alkie who is now some sort of sobriety warrior and declaring who has or hasn’t a problem. It’s precisely what I shouldn’t be doing. So I’m going to be just like Hubby. I’m going to gently say to Poppy, when there is a good moment, that I worry that her drinking may be causing her problems at the same time as I underline I’m always in a corner and will do all I can to help if she ever needs me. Poppy did say to me many months ago that “no, seriously Anna, I need to stop drinking” but then that got lost again and whenever it came up she was back to claiming she’s all fine and all is well.
What gives me the heebie-jeebies is that this is the approach I took with Tumbler. At one point, I believe it was after her second DUI (how’s that for an echo?), a group of us got together and tried to help and support her. People told Tumbler they’d be there for her but she’d have to be sober when she called. I told her I was there for her and would always take her call no matter what state she was in. Tumbler, like alcoholics do, distanced herself and started lying about her drinking to most people but kept calling me. Nine times out of ten she was drunk. In fact, around the time she posted on Facebook that she was one year sober, I spoke to her – it was 9am in the morning where she was and she told me she was drinking wine. Sometimes I’ve regretted not taking that tougher stance because being softer just enabled her to still have someone to talk to even if she drank, given she didn’t have to hide it from me. At the same time I know that if I’d done that she would have distanced herself from me too and perhaps our conversations did make her feel a little better. I’ll never know. No one will ever know. What I do know is that neither approach worked because the one person who had the power to make Tumbler stop was Tumbler herself and she didn’t want to. Or rather, as she put it to me once: “I don’t think I will ever be able to.”
This very dilemma was perhaps one of the biggest questions asked in the film we went to see Saturday morning: Beautiful Boy. It’s the story of a guy who gets hooked on methamphetamines along with alcohol, heroin and whatever else. It shows his father’s desperate attempts to understand, to help, to do the right thing. It poses the question of what we can do to help someone we love, but it doesn’t answer it beyond showing the absolute hell everyone goes through. In a scene from an Al-anon meeting (support groups for the people close to the addict) a woman talks about her niece who has just died from an overdose. She points out how she was already grieving her when she was still alive, but how it now makes more sense to do so. It’s heartbreaking.
So I can only emulate the best person I know, my husband, by trying to give to Poppy what he gave to me:
- Openly state I’m worried for her.
- Always be kind, always be there and never judge.
- Offer her hope by showing her it gets so much better.
And let’s face it, if Poppy’s problems with alcohol are all in my head, all I’ve done is being a good friend when she’s gone through some shit and waxed a little lyrical about the joys of sobriety.
Any views welcome as always.
Today I’m not going to drink.