Confronting an Alcoholic Friend
I have a dear friend who is the sweetest, kindest person you could ever hope to know. She remembers everything you’ve ever told her, and always follows up to find out how things went. But, she’s a drinker. The last time we met for brunch, there was unlimited champagne, and she had seven or eight glasses. When we go out for dinner, she always has multiple glasses of wine. There is no way I can keep up with her, so I just nurse my drink so she doesn’t feel like she’s drinking alone.
The drinking doesn’t change her personality, she basically stays the same, not louder or sadder or sillier. I’ve never once seen her out of control. What concerns me most is when she drives home after we go out. I usually try to drive, so she can feel comfortable if she wants to drink, but once in a while she insists on driving because she feels like she should share it. Then, I’m petrified for both of us. I know I should be ordering cabs, but I don’t want to offend her.
I know she’s unhappy in her job and she’s living far from her family, although she is so upbeat that you would never know if she had anything on her mind. I have never said anything about her drinking to her, but I’m wondering if maybe I should. If I did, what would I say? Or should I just not bring it up?
I’m so glad you’re pondering this. Oh yes, sweetie pie, you’ve got to bring it up. It’s your sister-girlfriend duty to help save her life. I know, I know, confronting a loved one about an addiction is a rough road to travel. Once the words come out, you’ve gotta dodge speed bumps, gravel pits and potholes the size of a mini-van. Nevertheless, there’s no excuse to ever park on the street of silence. She needs you and I commend you for stepping up. Now, let’s take a minute to weigh in on the good, the bad and the ugly that stands before you.
The good: she’s your dear sister-girlfriend and you love her. It breaks your heart to think she’s pained in any way. You want to protect her from any hurt, harm or danger.
The bad: She’s a functioning alcoholic. So far, to our knowledge, she has never been confronted about her problem or had to admit to it. She’s allowed to continue this charade because she’s composed, calm, employed and performs as if she has it all together.
The ugly: She doesn’t have it all together. She knows how much she drinks, but she thinks she can handle it because of the enablers she has surrounded herself with. And yep, you’re one of ‘em.
My Uncle Dan (God rest his soul) was an absolute drunk from 5:00 pm on Friday until 10:00 pm on Sunday. Come Monday morning, he was clean as the Board of Health, and never missed a day of work. Where I’m from it’s called “carrying your liquor.” For most of us, when we think of an alcoholic, what comes to our mind’s eye, is a person who’s unkempt, homeless, unemployed with no family to speak of. But that’s not the truth of the matter. Everybody knows an Uncle Dan. Bottom line is, if you abuse alcohol every day or just on the weekends, you have a problem and it’s up to your family and friends to call you out on it.
Allow me to reiterate for loves sake, yes, have that hard conversation with your friend. I’d suggest you go to alcoholic.org; it explains how to take the first step with love and kindness. It tells you what to say, how to say it, and what to expect after you’ve said it. All best of blessings to you both, my dear. It may not feel like it right now, but let me be the first to say, you’re doing the right thing. I pray your friend will be able to receive it.
Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma.