A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.

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I wrote this months ago about a former friend.  I decided to not publish it because I worried that this former friend might see this and freak out.  At this point I doubt she reads my blog or cares what I have to say.  I don’t drink alcohol often, usually only a few times a year on special occasions.  I don’t drink because my extended family has not had the best history with addiction or alcohol use.  I have seen far too many dark examples of what happens when people let substances take over their lives, so I chose to not make substances a part of my life.  It is not easy, as most adult social situations center around alcohol and it is assumed by some that anyone who doesn’t partake is unusual, uptight  or anti-social.   With the recent passing of Whitney Houston (probably drug related) it made me want to publish this.  The rich and famous have handlers who will enable them all they way to the grave.  When an addict has so much money and people hired to please their every whim, it takes an extremely long time before they reach their rock bottom and get help.   It is why so many celebrities die from the disease, no one is there to stop them before they fall.

I don’t know who will read this but my depression entry gets tons of traffic so maybe an alcoholic seeking recovery or someone dealing with an alcoholic will stumble on this and it will help.  To protect this person’s identity I won’t reveal her name but for privacy purposes of this blog I refer to this friend as simply D.

I met D at a horrible time in my life, dealing with a rough divorce and an extremely painful depression  that followed it.  Throughout my recovery our friendship grew and I thought of D as one of my closest friends.  We started to work together and that is when the problems started.   On more than one occasion something I did seemed to upset D and she would completely react towards me in an irrational way.  Everything became blown out of proportion and several angry phone calls or emails would follow, but then D would eventually apologize or at least partly apologize.  It was exhausting.   D also admitted to me that she had a drinking problem, or that she thought she had a drinking problem.  She confided to me that she would drink alone by herself until the point of being intoxicated nearly every night.  She also thought her spouse also was an alcoholic.   She strung me and another sober friend along for weeks with promises of getting help and going to Alcoholics Anonymous. She never went to a meeting, she never sought help of any kind other than to call both of us repeatedly.

Then she finally decided to quit drinking for thirty days.  She did this without therapy, going to an AA meeting or rehab.   About a week shy of her goal she called me to tell me she was about to relapse.  I was actually on the phone with her as she walked into a bar and started drinking again.  I didn’t know what to tell her, as I am not an addict and I had no idea what to say to her that might stop her from drinking.  But it was heartbreaking on my end.  It was late at night and she was several miles from me, I don’t know if she expected me to jump in a cab and try to physically stop her, but I couldn’t afford to blow money on a cab, especially since I didn’t think it would do any good.

After her relapse she never again brought up her drinking problem.  Our relationship definitely changed after that as I felt I didn’t know how to bring up that topic, because I definitely thought she still had a problem.  Months later she lashed out at me while she was visibly intoxicated.   After much back and forth between the two of us I finally brought up that her drinking might have something to do with these erratic mood swings and her self-destructive behavior.   She had told me on multiple occasions that she had problems with feelings of paranoia especially when drunk.  So I didn’t think much of bringing up both to her because I had hit my breaking point.  Her reaction of course was to deny everything and then to attack me for every flaw she could find.  Somehow after telling me for months that she_thought_she had a drinking problem, then showing up drunk and becoming emotional I wasn’t supposed to even dare bring up the obvious.   I was supposed to suddenly develop amnesia about all the times previous she had gone on in detail about her problems with booze.

I am far from perfect, I have horrible demons in my past and bad habits and I make mistakes all the time when dealing with interpersonal communication.  I know this, but I don’t feel bad telling an alcoholic that they are an alcoholic and they need help.  I don’t regret losing a friend over this.  Because otherwise I would have slowly drifted away from her.  Eventually eroding my ties to her and she would never know why.   I would be yet another friend who cut her off without confronting her about her very real and serious problem.  She attacked me for being self-involved, yet I was the one who picked up the phone time after time with her breaking down on the other end about her addiction.

To any addict the whole world seems self-involved, because anyone who knows an addict knows that they view themselves as the center of the universe.  No one understands their pain except for them, no one is as tortured, as despondent, as complicated and as misunderstood.  When in reality the addict is like every other addict, sick, scared and in need of help.  And if she sought professional help she would find out that simple truth, that addicts are more alike than they are different and that they are all battling a difficult disease.   If left untreated they will take down everyone within their path until they get that help.   I chose to take a step back and get out of her way.  I am not going to get pulled down into her personal hell because she feels like taking spectators with her.  She can only cry out for help so many times and then slap me in the face for trying before I just give up.

If you have an addict in your life who is repeatedly begging for help but not changing their behavior.  Make the difficult choice and stop enabling them otherwise you will only get blamed for their mistakes and tragedies the alcohol has caused.  No one is perfect and everyone deals with their own hang-ups and flawed ways of dealing and coping.  But addiction is a real disease and sometimes the best thing you can do for a friend in crisis is to confront them with their problem.  I probably permanently destroyed my friendship with D, but I would have felt worse placating her and pretending to not see what was right in front of my face.   If had just smoothed things over and ignored her real crisis I wouldn’t have been much of a friend to her anyway.  I am fairly certain that she is still drinking to the point of intoxication nightly and that she will eventually destroy herself if she doesn’t get help.   My heart is still a little broken from the experience but I don’t regret my attempt at an intervention.


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8 comments on “When you finally stop enabling and tell your friend to sober up.

  1. tom dolak

    in Al-anon they say “detach with love”.

    and some genius made an acronym out of detach: don’t even think about changing him/her.

    1. julietjeske

      I would agree. It is agonizing to be put in the situation, but I honestly felt like had I said nothing then things would just get worse and I was just sick of the ride. She didn’t really want my help, and I didn’t like feeling like her punching bag only to watch her self-destruct.

  2. tom dolak

    “Her reaction of course was to deny everything and then to attack me for every flaw she could find. ”

    yep, that’s routine for them. i’ve learned to expect it and just sit and be present during these comical displays of righteous indignation. much of what spews out amounts to “you too! what about you?!” it’s the ol’ Tu Quoque logical fallacy thing – completely devoid of reason and sanity.

    the best strategy: laugh. laugh at the addict. chuckle, giggle, or just smile when righteous indignation shows up. and do this without doing the addict dance with them, without defending yourself.

    you might try something like “ok, i hear you stating that i’m divorced and i was depressed (or substitute whatever the addict comes up with for your flaws) and that is all 100% true, that’s me. but – can you tell me how that relates to your addiction? please explore that, i’ll sit here and listen…”

    part of them may very well know they’re being unfair and simply crazy. yes, people are able to perceive their abusive behavior as such even though they’re not able to control it.

    laughing at their attacks will tell them you also see the lunacy of their defense strategy. you’ll appeal to the rational part of their mind and state you’re not buying their BS. it’s effective. you’re essentially standing up to bullying behavior. this forces the bully to seek alternative ways of getting needs met. i’ve used this for the past 12 years with restaurant co-workers, customers, girlfriends, and plenty of addict roommates too.

    appropriate responses to addict righteous indignation require some courage and a real desire to help. in recovery, addicts will remember who was part of the problem and who was part of the solution.

  3. Shabnam

    My son is hooked on cannabis. He smokes day and night and has been doing so for the past 15 years. His looks and health have suffered and he has no life no career no nothing. MY CRIME IS THAT OF ENABLING. An today and everyday I pay the price. He swears at me, uses disgusting language and BLAMES ME FOR EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING IS MY FAULT. My advice to every enabler, YOU WILL REGRET IT. SO DONT IT. ITS HARD BUT DONT DO IT. The user will become YOUR WORST ENEMY. trust me.

    1. julietjeske

      He sounds a lot like my younger brother. My brother blames my mother for nearly every mistake he has made in his life and every short-coming. And of course I know it is nonsense because I grew up in the same home, and had the same mother. My brother is the problem, not my mom. He has learning disability and she went out of her way tutoring him on his own so he was able to read at grade level. Now he blames her for focusing too much on his disability. His logic is classic addict, everything is someone else’s problem and he is the ultimate victim. My parents finally kicked him out when he was 36 years old, and honestly it seemed to help him quite a bit. But they still bail him out of jail when he gets busted for DWI or backed up traffic tickets. It’s hard, but tough love is the best thing an addict needs. I am so sorry for your situation, if you can kick him out, then kick him out as soon as possible. He’ll find a place to land, my brother did even though it took my sister also kicking him out before that happened. Hang in there my family has a lot of addicts in it, these things are never easy.

      1. Shabnam

        Same here. He has a younger sister, who is now a mother of four little ones. She is very strong, very outgoing, friendly, and she has never blamed me for anything. I havent been the perfect mother, because of divorce etc but I always put them first. I dont know if this is true of all addicts, but My son is very very cruel and harsh with his words. I,m 58 but he manages to reduce me to tears and sometimes I sob like a hurt child. ALL BECAUSE OF HIS LASHING OUT WITH THE MOST CRUEL AND HURTFUL WORDS. I was a cheerful person, with a sense of humour. Not afraid to be laughed at. I had no complexes. Always smiling, always laughing. Today my sons says I,ve always been ”this pathetic little bitch”.
        when he is the one who has reduced me to this. but I still think I,m not pathetic.

        1. julietjeske

          I would kick his ass out as soon as possible. He probably views you as pathetic because he lets you treat him like that. Addicts don’t think like the rest of us do, they don’t think rationally and they will bend reality to make EVERYONE ELSE the problem. Even if you think he might end up on the street if you kick him out, you should kick him out get the cops involved if you can. He needs to hit rock bottom, and I think most addiction specialists would say the exact same thing to you. He has friends he would probably stay with one of them until they kick him out. My brother just assumed he could move in with my sister who also has a small child, she was livid and kicked him out when she found him doing drugs in her daughter’s play room in the basement. He eventually found a place on his own. That is what it is going to take, or he will tear you down every day. Try to not react to him, he is not in his right mind, it is like a sickness. He needs help but living in your home abusing you like this is not the help he needs, he needs tough love and to have to rely on himself. He may never come around and apologize for his treatment, it sucks. He may never realize he has a problem, not every addict gets better. But the only hope you have is treatment for him, and he won’t get it until you remove the safety net. He needs an intervention. I am so sorry for you though, I know it can’t be easy. I can’t imagine raising a little boy to have him grow up and treat me like that. Don’t blame yourself though, addiction is an illness and it runs in families. There is a strong biological component to the disease, your son could have had the absolutely best childhood with no trauma and still ended up this way.

  4. fashionlover891

    Hello Juliet,

    Thank you for taking the time and not only stopping by my blog, but actually reading my blog post! I am very sorry that you had a terrible experience when dealing with alcohol, affecting your friendship with a dear friend of yours. Although I can relate only through reading, I personally myself have never had a situation where neither my family, nor friends, have ever had this problem. My intake on your post is if I ever let any substance including (Alcohol) influence my daily activities, such as work, school, family/friends. Then I would have to personally change my hobbies, in any event thanks for giving me a chance to step into your world and perspective on such a serious matter!

    Best of wishes!! Hope you would consider visiting my blog again =)

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