I’ve learned that it’s useful to view your addiction in terms of your relationship to alcohol, rather than just by how much or how often you drink. During a recent coffee date with my “sober sister” (see “Busted”) this concept made for a lively and eye-opening discussion.
My friend and I have had radically different experiences with alcohol. I was a daily drinker who quietly “pickled” myself each evening, whereas she was a binge drinker who regularly experienced blackouts. While I worked hard to never appear drunk in public (but headed home early to tuck into a bottle in earnest), she was the “woo-girl” waving through the sunroof of a limo on the Las Vegas strip. She has a zillion crazy stories of her antics – often told to her by friends the next day since she couldn’t remember much – whereas I can only say I conquered the world in heels by day and retired to my couch a boring little pickle at night.
Fittingly, how we describe our relationship to alcohol is just as diverse.
I can only hope I do justice to her poignant reflections in this attempt to paraphrase her words:
It’s as though I have this boyfriend who is really great, really fun and all my friends like him. Most of the time we have a great time together and everyone loves having him around. But every few months he beats the shit out of me, so bad that I black out, and the next day I say, “That’s it. We are breaking up for good.”
But all my friends continue to hang out with him and they say, “He is SO FUN! We just love having him around – we still want him come to our parties. Can’t you learn to live with him? He is awesome – why would you want to give up such a great guy?”
And I want to say, “He has really hurt me! Don’t any of you care about what he is doing to me?” It pisses me off that they don’t even care how bad he hurts me. I know I can’t have him in my life anymore.
If a friend came to you and described this relationship, what would you say to her? “It’s fine, just spend less time together,” OR “Get the hell away from the creep! Don’t put up with that abuse. You have to take care of yourself. Don’t go near him ever again. He doesn’t deserve to be part of your life.” I can say for sure that my response would be the latter.
To describe my own nightly pickling as a relationship, I’d say it had become a constant, demanding companion that left me feeling bad about myself. It was the toxic friend that would text me 37 times a day and wanted my attention all the time.
……”don’t forget to meet me after work, ok?”…
……”do you think you could get off work a little early and pick me up?”..
…….”ps don’t tell anyone I asked you to pick me up”…
……..”I will be at the business event tonight but act casual, ok. It’s better if people don’t know that we are such good friends”…
…..”I know you are nervous about your meeting but don’t worry – you are amazing. You have everyone fooled and they’ll never guess how weak and stupid you are. See you after work!”
All day long I’d be annoyed by the constant demands, and would even tell myself, “no more!” but always I’d weaken on the way home from work and stop to pick up this “friend” who I just couldn’t tear myself away from.
This is the kind of friend who makes you feel good at first but then you realize the compliments were actually criticisms in disguise. (“Wow, in those jeans you can hardly tell how big your hips really are!”) THAT friend.
It was a relationship that was sucking up increasing amounts of my time, my joy, my energy, and was taking a toll on my health.
What would you say to me as a casual observer of this relationship? Suggest I cut this person out of my life? Set boundaries and try to limit contact, and if the constant barrage of texts and messages continue consider a restraining order because perhaps my actual safety could be at risk? Certainly you wouldn’t say, “what a great friend, how can I get some of that into my life?”.
So what about you? How would you describe your old relationship with alcohol? How do you describe it now?