To My Alcoholic Friend
During the day, I’m told one thing. During the night, I’m told another. When I reiterate to the person what was said during the night, I’m told, “That’s stupid,” or, “I never said that” by the person who said it. The cadence of communication in this relationship is two steps forward, three steps back.
Before too long, you’ve gone past where you started with this person. You went from being insta-buddies to being a stranger. After a string of further miscommunications and misunderstandings, senseless alcohol-induced rage will take you from being a stranger to being an enemy.
But it says something to me about the human perspective. And the inebriated human perspective. And the desire to drink.
Google will tell you that 30 percent of people in America abuse alcohol. When I say, “abuse,” I mean they’re currently suffering from short term effects of alcohol, and are on their way to suffering long term effects of alcohol.
If you consider that an alcoholic is forever spinning their tires in a communication limbo, how does an alcoholic ever get help?
At what point do you tell your friend that they have a problem with drinking? Is knowing them for a day enough time to make that assessment? What about two weeks? Two months?
When communication is already broken down like ice cubes in a glass of scotch… How does the girlfriend, who just moved into her alcoholic boyfriend’s house, tell him that he’s got a problem? How does the daughter of an alcoholic father, who thinks he always knows best, explain to him that his drinking makes her cry? How does the daughter’s mother tell him that his need for alcohol led to their break up? How does the father or mother of an alcoholic son tell him that he needs help?
And what if the alcoholic doesn’t think he has a problem? He’s convinced that because he goes to work and pays his bills that he is entitled to binge drink until he passes out. Just so he can start that same day, over and over again. Getting back to that drink is all that matters to him. This is how alcohol abuse leads to emotional abuse.
The alcoholic’s justification: “I drink, but you do ______.”
It doesn’t matter what vice you put in the blank (we all have at least one). The alcoholic will find a way to justify his drinking problem as long as he can point out something you’re doing wrong. Doesn’t matter if what he thinks is wrong, or if he’s trying to compare habitually eating fast food to his drinking. Logic is lost on him. Empathy is lost on him. Civility is lost on him.
Being an alcoholic is a lonely life. But I know it can be turned around, if the alcoholic wants to change. The desire to change has to come from within first.
This was supposed to be a different story.
I intended to write about how I met this amazing stranger who took me into his home, helped me return on my journey, and restored my faith in humanity during a time of deep polarisation in this country (on second thought, when has America ever not been polarised about everything?).
It was supposed to be a story about how a van-dwelling hippie co-existed, and thrived, crashing on the couch of an armed Trump supporter for two weeks. Proof, I thought, of our ability as Americans to coexist regardless of our political allegiances.
But I refuse to let one bad experience ruin my perspective — I still think it’s possible to peacefully coexist. Even if that requires him staying in the sticks of East Tennessee, and me staying somewhere far, far away (in my van). Ultimately, there’s plenty of space in this country for all of us. Either way, I’m going to call this experience a mulligan because of alcoholism.
It wasn’t supposed to be a story about a falling out with an alcoholic friend, but I knew that’s what it had to be as soon as I started writing because I’ve not had to deal with an alcoholic on this level before. I needed to share.
It saddens me, but more so for the people who have to deal with an alcoholic in their daily life. I know a few weeks of experience doesn’t make me an expert, but I feel for you.
My alcoholic friend told me when we first met that he thought we’d be life-long friends. Recently, he told me wants nothing to do with me. I’m wondering how many others he has treated like that, and how many others he’s pushed out of his life because of his drinking.
By no mistake, I recently came across a powerful quote I heard from a good friend, “People don’t have problems, they have learning experiences.”
I’m now asking myself — what can be learned from this?
My take: substance abuse stops your ability to grow. It doesn’t matter what crutch people rely on or what chemicals people choose to consume. The abuse is the issue.
If someone you love is abusing, tell them the truth. Tell them when they’re overusing. Tell them you’re there for them. And if you have to part ways, tell them you’ll be there for them if they choose to come around.
To my alcoholic friend: If you need me, I’ll be here.