Thursday, March 21, 2013

Among Friends

I read a great story on DrinkingDiaries.com this week about a woman whose old friend from school - "T" - was an alcoholic. How the hard drinking started in high school - and worried the friend, but she didn't do anything about it.

Things escalated during college until, finally, the friend said she could no longer have T in her life. Not until she got control of her drinking. It was just too hard on her.

(Spoiler alert) Cut to about thirty years later and the two started linking up on Facebook et al. But T always seemed a bit out-of-it. It was clear she was still drinking.

Well, a Facebook update let the old friend know that T had died at age 53. There was no indication of what might've happened, but the friend is pretty sure it had something to do with her alcoholism.

It's hard to know what to do when your friend is an alcoholic. Especially if you're a young person and drinking is so prevalent.

I know I was drinking very dangerously in university. I had two friends at the time - a young woman "K" and a gay guy "C" - who seemed to be able to keep up with me (at least through first semester). But a visit to the emergency ward (K had borderline alcohol poisoning) and a number of other falls, blackouts and bad decisions (on my part) later, K & C decided to have an intervention with me one Sunday morning.

I had no idea what was happening. The word 'intervention' wasn't even in the lexicon yet. Not really. I thought we were all getting together for a little brunch at my place. So I taped a little sign to the door that read The Breakfast Club (we loved that movie, saw it together) and welcomed them when they got there.

I don't think there was drinking involved - it was too early, even for me. But I imagine there was some coffee (my caffeine habit back then was almost as bad as my drinking). I remember looking at them and knowing that something was up. K had the strangest look on her face. Sort of serious - and superior.

She led the whole thing. C just sort of seemed sad and along for the ride. K said I was drinking too much and they were worried about me. They couldn't stand seeing me do this to myself. It was too hard on them. K said that if I didn't quit the partying, they couldn't be my friends anymore.

I remember the conversation so clearly. I remember how much it hurt. Just an arrow slowly pressing into my heart. I was so shocked. This wasn't a Breakfast Club get together at all! I didn't cry or anything. I sort of felt myself seal off a bit. Then I said, "Really? Okay. Maybe we can get together when we're thirty or something. For a drink."

Gulp. (That's because I swallowed hard after saying that, trying to hide my true feelings and how hurt I was.)

K sort of gave a sarcastic little laugh. I deserved it for such a cold crack. They left my apartment shortly after that and ... well, we never hung out again. She 'pulled up her socks' and became a serious student.

I found a new friend who liked to party.

K got married during our second year of university. A small wedding to another student - a born again Christian, no less.

I wasn't invited.

The whole thing hurt pretty bad. Still does, really.

I saw C at a little get together a few years ago. He looked good. Had become a talented artist and was enjoying the great freedom and lifestyle Toronto can offer to gay men. We actually met in the Church/Wellesley Gay Village (my old neighborhood). He had a fab Facebook page full of buff shots of himself and his gay friends (no women were allowed to friend him, if I remember).

C seemed to have gotten over whatever anger he had toward me. Even though he never seemed to be behind the intervention in the first place. We had a great time. He still saw K sometimes and I found out she had two children - and that she'd gotten divorced. Life happens, I guess.

I sometimes wonder about reaching out to her again. We were such good friends back then.

Or ... were we?

If you love someone, if you care about them, if you're worried about them - how do you leave them? When they probably need your support most? I know dealing with alcoholics is difficult. And nobody wants to go down with a sinking ship. So I'm not judging. But abandoning somebody when they need help ... well, it doesn't feel very good to the one getting dumped. Like I said, thinking about that ultimatum still hurts me to this day.

Who knows? If I'd known about alcoholism, depression, dopamine and addiction back then - and if I knew how to handle it better (through cleansing) - that intervention might never had to have happened.

Here's some advice on how to handle the alcoholic in your life from Psychology Today. And some information from the Mayo Clinic about how to hold an intervention.

Also know that Ms. Functional would be happy to write anonymously to any friend or family member that you're worried about. Just contact me at msfunctional@gmail.com. I could send them the link to the blog. I could tell them it's from someone who loves them.

Maybe we could even help save a friendship.

I only wish I could've saved mine.