It’s a beautiful Monday morning here. I’m sitting here with my morning coffee and enjoying my favourite time of day, as I always do in the mornings. A bit of course work to finish and I need to get back on the job search too, but right now I’m quite preoccupied with my worry over my friend Poppy.
I guess a bit of a background summary is needed as it’s been a while since I talked about her…
We met when we worked for the same company roughly ten years ago. Poppy was Head of Business Administration, a great position that she did incredibly well, and I was PA to the director of the company. Given our roles were similar, there was a lot of overlap and through working together we got to know each other well. We clicked, and in no small part this was because we were birds of a feather. My drinking at this point of my life was at its absolute worst – it was around this time I sniffed around morning drinking and I was barely functioning. There were times when I’d rush off for my lunch break and head to the pub around the corner from the office, order a pint of lager (because it’s easier to gulp down quickly than e.g. wine) and throw this down my neck in a desperate attempt to keep at bay what felt like (and probably was) an impending fit or just collapsing. These were the days of holding the pint glass with both hands because I was shaking so hard I worried I’d knock and break off a tooth or something with the glass. It was hell.
Poppy and I became fast friends and the times we went for drinks after work were to my mind The Best. Here was someone who drank like I did and we’d normally, over the course of just a couple of hours, polish off four bottles of wine between us. I’d then head home and drink even more. Figuring out the next day how I’d got home and what I’d had to eat usually consisted of checking my phone and bag and the rubbish bin for clues.
It’s not my business to diagnose anyone, but I always saw in Poppy what is in me too. I’m sure it was also a way of projecting my own shit in order to avoid dealing with it for myself, but I know in my heart that she’s in a much worse way than she now would have me believe.
And what’s that?
Well. Poppy has taken quite some fall and the trajectory has been very steep indeed.
The company went bust and closed the office. I had since moved on to another job so it didn’t affect me, and actually for Poppy it meant a huge improvement. With the office closed but the company still maintaining a smaller operation in the UK, she was allowed to do the same job but working from home and on the same salary. Poppy moved into a lovely seafront apartment down on the coast and all seemed rosy.
First came all the injuries. She ended up falling over drunk and really hurting herself, including black eyes, at one point broke her foot, other times breaking a wrist and I believe once fracturing her ribs. Then came all the Bad People. She ended up associating with these really horrible characters who treated her poorly and abusively, but for whatever reason her self worth had plummeted to a level where she believed this was all OK. Poppy dated the sort of men you might see on the Jeremy Kyle show – I hate to sound like a snob and God knows I’m not trying to say I was ever any better, but these guys were real low lives. Scum, in fact. For whatever reason, Poppy was like a moth to the flame though, and would pursue these shit bags. And that’s when the really shitty stuff began to happen.
It coincided with the company she’d worked for from home on a great salary folded completely. Poppy had struggled for some time with depression and anxiety and ended up on medication. Her drinking was getting out of control and she was in a bad way – her son and his girlfriend (who shared the apartment with Poppy) were desperately worried and the girlfriend confided in me that they wanted to stage an intervention because they didn’t think she’d survive. I was on board (busy projecting too!) but of course it all backfired and Poppy was FURIOUS with us for suggesting there was a problem with her drinking. She read us the riot act and we shut our mouths after that.
Poppy, one of the most caring and giving people I know, pursued support worker roles and ended up taking a carer’s position as well as volunteering at a Samaritans call centre. At the call centre she got mixed up with more low level scumbags. These people make the crazies who used to appear on the Jerry Springer show appear pillars of society. Amongst them a guy she ended up hooking up with, despite how he was also sleeping with the rest of the team of women at this call centre. The first low point was a furious row where Poppy ended up slapping him across the face and he called the police. She was promptly arrested and spent the night in a cell. Everything took a real nose dive from there.
Things just seemed to go really badly in all respects and about a year ago, Poppy got caught drink driving – three times over the limit. In the morning. And she lost her job, the carer’s position for which she needed to drive. Her licence was revoked and it ended up in the local papers as these court things do, i.e. her name and her offence. Her humiliation was complete. By this point, her son and his girlfriend had moved to a different part of the country, and she decided to follow them to get away from the toxic cliques of people she’d got so entangled with and get a chance to heal.
Where she is now, the health care is better and she has better support, but Poppy is unable to work because her mental health is at rock bottom and she’s on multiple medications including antipsychotic pills. When I spoke with her yesterday, she was slurring (it was around lunchtime), kept losing her train of thought, seemed very confused, got emotional several times interspersed with giggling happily one minute and getting angry the next. She is on benefits and going bankrupt. She has no one around except her two cats because her son and girlfriend have moved out. Are they busy trying to escape aka self preserve? She is feuding with her neighbours, aggressive and nasty things happening all the time (they’re throwing dirty nappies into her garden, overturning her rubbish bin etc etc). Poppy tells me she suffers hallucinations, sees people outside her window and at the door, and recently fell out of bed because she woke up in the middle of the night because “this woman was lunging at me and I fell out of my bed as I tried to get away from her“. She has a community psychiatric nurse who comes to see her, following a crisis where her son had to wrestle her to stop her taking a bunch of pills to kill herself. Poppy is in a bad, bad way. The worst I’ve seen.
What I want to believe: the medications she’s on are doing this. It’s her fragile state of mind that’s breaking her down to this. It’s depression, anxiety and PTSD. Poppy has been through some really shitty stuff and she just needs to heal.
What I know in my gut: it’s the alcohol and everything else is a smoke screen. There has been some bad things and she’s had bad luck, but it’s the booze that’s taken her to this awful point.
It’s a long, long fall. Poppy has lost literally everything. She is frail and fragile, both mentally and physically. I’m so worried and sad for her that it breaks my heart.
What do I do? Do I accept she can only stop when she’s ready or will I sit here not too long from now and bitterly regret that I didn’t do anything to help? It’s so hard when you gently suggest removing the booze might be a good thing when Poppy is adamant that she hardly drinks at all now due to the meds. I know in my heart this isn’t true. This is at the very crux of what I’m trying to dedicate my life to now and perhaps it’s important that I’m facing this impossible situation. And it seems clearer than ever that nothing I say or do will make a difference until Poppy herself decides she’s had enough and wants to make a change.
Alcohol is a cruel fucking beast.
Today I’m not going to drink.