50-Odd Yards Behind Her

Yesterday, I saw someone demonstrate what a really fucking awesome friend is. Right there in front of me.

Little Miss was being dropped off at the rehab by aforementioned friend and wasn’t happy about it. Drunk and unhappy, actually, alternating between savage anger and drink-fuelled poor-little-me sadness. Excuse after excuse after excuse. Little Miss was adamant that she didn’t need to be there, that she has her life together and everything going for her. Sadly, I’d hazard a guess and say I don’t believe she was being dropped at rehab by mistake. A guy who recently left said in the morning meditation group on his last day:

When I came here I didn’t have a drinking problem, it was just my family who had issues. Now that I’m leaving, I know I have a drinking problem and my family’s fine.

Wise words indeed. For some people, it clicks. And heartbreakingly, for many, many more it doesn’t. It takes time and the sad truth is that no matter what our loved ones say or do – even if we end up losing them altogether – we won’t accept help until we accept we have a problem. As much as I do believe this, I am coming to believe that although no one can get you sober but YOU, there is a way to be a great friend and that’s to be honest. Little Miss has a great friend and I have to say I was pretty impressed, because it takes balls to do what she did.

I’m not staying,” Little Miss whined and struggled to light another cigarette, her hand holding the lighter swaying too much and missing the tip of the cigarette.

You have to get well. You are ill!” Good Friend told her firmly.

No I’m not, you bitch, I’m fine,” Little Miss snapped and knocked the cigarette out of her own mouth as she made wild gestures.

How can you say that? You’re not fine at all. If you don’t stay, you’ll go back to an empty house!

I have too much work, I don’t have time to stay here,” Little Miss insisted and pouted defiantly.

What work? When did you last work? Stop bullshitting. Look at you! You’re not fucking fine!

You’re jealous because I have everything I want.

Good Friend at this point glanced at me and shot me a resigned look. I did my best to reassure and persuade Little Miss that coming here was a good thing and we’d help her get well. But how do you convince someone who doesn’t believe they need help that they do? Best part of my shift yesterday was spent doing Little Miss’s admission in small instalments, reassuring her that it’s not a prison and we don’t hold anyone against their will, but let’s just do this one step at a time. At every turn, she wanted to leave, then reluctantly agreed to give it a chance only to change her mind again moments later. In the end, late in the evening, after lots of paperwork and going through the whole process including a full examination by the doctor, she was off. You can’t force recovery on anyone, it never works. Only you can get yourself there.

What Little Miss has however, is a great advantage. She has her Good Friend who clearly loves her enough to make her seek help, but most importantly, sets boundaries and tells her straight. Do you know what, I don’t know if I’d have the balls to do that. Actually, yes. If it were someone I love, yes I would. But it would be fucking horrible, is what I mean. That’s NOT an easy thing to do, and of course Good Friend did end up on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse from Little Miss who was having none of it. Especially not a problem!

I know my friends would have done that for me if they’d realised how fast I was slipping. That’s the shitter with alcohol though, you can sink almost the whole way down to rock bottom without it being too obvious. Little Miss, appears to have sunk a little further than I did. Oh, it wasn’t far off – of that I’m certain, because that slope was beginning to get very steep – but I didn’t quite reach those consequences. Little Miss, as spelled out to her by Good Friend out there on those steps, now had a choice between accepting the help or losing her family as well as her friends, relatives already taking care of her children and a partner who’s moved out. Addiction does that – it strips you bare, because that’s all it wants: you, all on your own, so it can go ahead and kill you.

So to those of you who love an addict – be it your partner, sister, father, friend – I have this to say: it’s OK to set boundaries so lay those down. You can still love us and be there for us at the same time as you tell us straight that we need help. You can’t force us to get clean, we have to do that for ourselves or it won’t work, but you can state your case without compromising your love and even if we lash out you may just have planted a seed. Please be patient with us. I know we hurt and abuse you. That’s not OK, but please do remember we are held hostages by our addiction and this person you love is still here underneath.

Perhaps Good Friend’s words did register somewhere and Little Miss comes back. I do hope so. Perhaps she did come back to an empty house. Hopefully Good Friend along with Little Miss’s other dear ones hold the boundary they set: get yourself help or we walk away. It’s a tough one, very tough. But maybe, just maybe the coin will drop. I couldn’t help but think, as Little Miss stood there waiting for the Uber to take her back home, that I wished she’d just see that just 50-odd yards behind her across the parking lot, a totally new and better life could be started if only she made the decision to come back through those doors. Well. Yesterday wasn’t her day. Let’s hope her day comes soon though.

And, just to be crystal here, OK…. It took me almost 11 years to work up the cojones to ask for help, so I’m not bloody sitting here saying Little Miss is silly. She isn’t. She’s an addict. And like the rest of us, it’ll only happen when it happens. I just hope she’s one of those of us who it happens for before it’s too late. What I say above is said off the back of my own addiction and how I struggled with it, plus an enormous amount of hindsight. Hell, 11 years! I first realised I had a huge problem with drink and sought help in May 2007. It happened for me in January 2018. So don’t for a moment think I’m trying to say I’m some kind of sobriety straight A student. Flippin’eck no. I may work at a rehab now and yes it’s frustrating to know this amazing life awaits and is available yet people continue to throw it all away so needlessly, but I also know how hard it is to see that light when you’re trapped in darkness.

Sometimes we need a lot of nudging. Sometimes we need a Good Friend.

Today I’m not going to drink.

7 thoughts on “50-Odd Yards Behind Her

  1. My heart seriously breaks for both of them, addiction is so very hard on everyone. But you are the perfect person to be there to support the good friend with either a small or a comforting touch and for her when she is ready XOX

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to this in so many ways, having worked in the chemical dependency field. I remember times when I wanted to just wanted (not literally) to choke people, “Don’t you get it, you’re going to die!” But I’ve come to realize when a person is desperate enough, having enough pain and suffering, they either reach out for help (even reluctantly) or they die. For me, that’s the unfortunate truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There was so much in this that I related too. I’ve been the addict AND I’ve been the friend on a few occasions (once I was just a mum-shaped friend). Honesty is HARD to do. The best example of friendship/tough love is something I know you’ve seen – you have written about the documentary Russell Brand made about addiction, his and others – and the friend who literally forced him into rehab. On the other side of the coin I’ve watched a family sidestep and avoid alcoholism rather than confront it for YEARS. Even after death, the sweeping under the carpet continues. Witnessing this tragedy has been frustrating and tragic, and worse, they made me guilty by association. I’ll never do that again!

    You inspire me Anna. I’m glad I know you.


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