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We have been friends since childhood. As a teenager she drank and over the years it became worse. She is a full blown alcoholic and has been for well over a decade. She was fired from her job years ago and no longer works at all. She has no other friends and her children avoid her also. She has been treated several times for alcoholism, but always continues to drink. She tells us she will NEVER stop drinking, so no one can help her. When drinking beer she is tolerable, but vodka makes her mean. Her brain is "pickled" and she has memory loss. She hides in the bathroom drinking straight vodka thinking I don't notice. Then in front of me she sips her beer or daquiri, etc. In the morning she shakes until she pours more alcohol down her throat.

 

I find her disgusting and cannot handle being around her any longer. I thank God she lives in another state so I don't have to see her more than once or twice a year. We talk on the phone once a month and I always try to call early to avoid the drunk who doesn't hear me talking, talks over me, and repeats the same lame stories over and over. I feel bad about my feelings toward her. She tells me I'm her only friend and I believe it. I no longer want to associate with her, so I avoid her as much as possible. How do you tell someone you have nothing in common with them, except a past?

 

 

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My heart breaks with this story, for you and for her. Unfortunately, no one can help her if she does not want to be helped. It seems like she has given up on herself and as sad as it is, alcohol will likely kill her. You have tried been a friend to her, but if it is causing you so much pain in your own life emotionally, it might be time to say goodbye to this friendship. Be honest with her, and let her know it is killing you to continue to be friends with her if she is going to continue to live her life as an alcoholic. Tell her to get help before it is too late, if she is unresponsive, tell her goodbye, that you will have to move on as friendship with her as an alcoholic is draining you emotionally and you can no longer do it.
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Oh wow Tevroc- I can't tell you how much your post resonated with me.

I cut-off two alcoholic friends; 1 around 7 years ago & 1 at Christmas, just gone. I must say, you have been more patient in your friendship than I was, in any of mine. However, I was once on the otherside of it. A good friend of mine cut me off 10 years ago, for my drinking & drug behaviour. We were only 25 when she cut me off and in the years afterwards, I grew-up; went through massive changes and am now, quite respectable & doing well for myself. It took a lot of work- inside & out- but I did take the hint.

When I cut-off my first friend, it was after years of an erratic friendship. She was a link to my past that I gravitated towards when I needed lifting up. Whenever we met up, there was lots of alcohol, drugs & strange men. However, I wasn't one for the strange men, so she would turn on me- belittle my more introvert nature & in a way, bully me. And when I was going through my 'growing-up' stage, I could see how detrimental her lifestyle & behaviours were. She had many flaws as a mother and the drugs & alcohol were escapism from some very tragic circumstances in her life. When I started opening up my eyes to what she was doing to herself, I got scared. I could see how easily I could be dragged under with her, when I was working so hard to do something with my life. I simply avoided her. When I saw her in town, I ducked in to a shop. I never called & I never visited. Even when I found out that her daughter, aged 15, had died from Cystic Fibrosis.

Then, a couple of months ago, I got the news. My old childhood friend- the girl I'd known since I was 2 years old & went through high school with- had died, aged 36; one year & 15 days after her daughter.

I felt awful and still do. We only shared a past and a mostly unhappy one at that. Our childhoods were filled with a council estate mentality; spliffs & cheap cider- underage nightclubbing & a tragedy that was to effect us all in our own ways, her most of all. Yet we did share it- it was our past, together. And it would have been nice to chat, once every year or so- just to catch up. A few minutes a year- it would have cost nothing to my self-esteem. I'm not that weak anymore.

The second one had been my best friend for the past 9 years. I'd known her 12 years & she's related my son. She'd been my rock, at times- and at others- a lot of others- I had been her's. The end was sudden for her- it started with an argument with her family & although, she took my side (as she did, most of the time), I couldn't bear having contact with her anymore.

With both her & her brother (my son's father) & parents, there appears to be a selfish gene. With her parents, they put their jobs & hobbies before their children- and with my son's father & his sister, they put their friends, drink & image before their kids. She has been unemployed for a long time now, while she raised her daughter, as a lone parent. The child's father is still involved, but there are issues (he has let his new wife become overly involved in the care of said daughter & the care is overly controlling & very restrictive); however, he's been consistant & pays regularly. She has quite a good life; she's on benefits, has a spacious house in a nice area, good friends & indulges in her passions of animals, tattoos & piericings. She claims to be happy as a single parent & despite offers, stays single. Yet she drinks a copious amount on a regular basis & drinks nearly every day.

Her idea of fun is passing out- or watching her friends pass out- and getting covered in black marker. She borrows money- left right & centre- because she miscalculates her budget or has spent the money on drink. And due to her needing her 'mummy time', left her daughter in the hands of someone who was to abuse her trust & abuse her daughter.

I can't get past this & this was part of the reason I had to cut off our friendship.

For me, I had seen the signs & warned her, but due to her not wanting to upset her 'status quo' of a happy drinking-friendship with the boys mother, she didn't act on it. I remember the phone call, where she told me of something her daughter had said & I advised her to approach the subject with her- we talked about how you approached the topic of sexual abuse with a young child & I gave her lots of educational tips & things to say. Yet she didn't say anything to her daughter.

Then the school told her and she came to tell me. We had our blow up sometime after that. I did a lot of 'Told-you-so's' and she cried a lot. Then she got drunk- we both did and I rarely drink these days (because it genuinely makes me feel ill!), but after what I had heard from the mouth of her daughter- it was that or hit something. We got deep- I told her things had to change & she swore blind they would. She would get a job- she would bond with her daughter, instead of running away from her. Life would be different.

And for a while it was. She did start changing things. A night out with her daughter once week; not going round friends as much, low alcohol beer & herbal tea. I really believed that she was going to keep going. But it didn't last for long. After around 8- 9 months, she started sliding. She wasn't drinking so much, but she was having lots of binges. And she was slowly filling her house & garden with animals, that as she was on benefits- she wasn't paying for. She spent a lot of time running around mates houses & looking after her animals, then getting wasted beyond conciousness at weekends (usually on someone else's penny). Her daughter's behaviour was still the same & she was still having the same issues with her. Yet she boasted about her & made out that she was good parent. All I could see was someone setting a bad example & a confused, ignored daughter that was encompassing aspects of her mother's personality.

Yet despite what I saw in her- I remained close to her. I could see that she had potential to change. It was slow, but she had it in her. She was so close to me for a long time. So close, I called her my 'sister' & she described me in the same way. I could voice what I thought with her and her to me. She hates to argue, so rarely, would she bite back at my harshest of critism.

Then came a big crunch. In the space of a few months, I saw a real scrounging, side to her. She had been complaining about ill-health, then for a few beers & a night out on her brother, helped him move furniture. A few weeks later, he was paying for her again & a week after that, was paying for her to get a facial peircing. At the same time, he was telling our son that he had no money & he couldn't take him anywhere on his time with him.

I simply saw selfishness- albeit, in both of them. But with her it was the scrounging that annoyed me. Then in the run up until Christmas, she had the audacity to moan about a neighbour not lending her money when she had over spent & forgotten that a direct debit was due. I did say what I was thinking, at the time, but I could feel myself biting hard on my tongue to not sound judgmental. It's not as if it's a one off situation with her, though- she owes another friend quite a bit of money. I don't lend & I don't borrow. I have enough legal debt & don't do 'friends debt'- not even a pound. Personally, if I give money to someone, I don't expect it back & see it as a gift, so it doesn't happen often! I don't expect everyone to have the same philosophy, but when it runs in to hundreds that isn't being paid off at a regular rate, then I think there's a problem & it can affect the friendship. In her case, it kind of has- others are wary about lending her money & are starting to get wary about covering her drinking. She'd mentioned a few occasions where her friends were getting 'selfish with their cans' when she had nothing to drink.

However, she's a generous friend, so people warm to her. Overall, she's a nice person; very caring & emotional. But when it comes to her daughter, she can come across as unemotional and blase to her behaviour. Reprimands for bad behaviour are a hard voice that elicits no change from her daughter and good behaviour is rewarded with an unemotional, stern 'Good girl'. And there are a lot of people in their lives. There isn't that 'family' time between the two of them often, as both are very socially stimulated personalities.

The new additions to her face are signs that she is not ready to grow-up. She's in her 30's, a mother & not establishing her future. If she had been settled in a good job or at least in some kind of training, with a direction to something; I'd have said "Pierce away- it shouldn't make a difference to who you are & what you can do" and I'd have believed it. Yet at the moment, she when I was last talking to her, she had little inclination of what she was doing with her life, except collect animals, she couldn't realistically pay for. I had suggested volunteering with animals- training courses, etc, etc. But her lifestyle was more important.

She had been on a training course earlier in the year, yet had failed to collect the qualification. There was a lot of procastination & 'If I...', but nothing materialised & she wasn't even trying. For every challenge, there was an obstacle that she was simply to lazy to move.

With both her and her brother, over that period of time, I realised that they were so absorbed in their lifestyles that they didn't want to change. Both her and her brother are scared to grow-up and take on their responsabilities & both are more than happy to disappoint others, in order to get their version of 'peace'.

They have parents that use their addictions to escape reality; their father with bikes & computers and their mother with work. Both smoke like chimneys. Their parents, by the sisters account, were apt at ignoring their children. No abuse- some shouting & dramas, but certaintly nothing consistant or detrimental to them. By all accounts, generally happy childhoods, with some ups & downs. Teens- like many others; both are quite popular & social & had generally, normal relationships & friendships in adulthood. Some depression- but situational & exageratted (no hospital, psychs, counselling or meds- just lots of depressing music & a couple of dramatic, para-suicides, which were regarded very minor to some I've done myself & heard of). Nothing since very early 20's for both & no direct genetic disposition to mental health illness.

For both of them- they are selfish. They both have an over inflated sense of their achievements, efforts & appearance, and the brother often changes situations to make out that he is victimized or not responsible. She doesn't necessarily do that, but even after admitting blame, she uses it as an excuse not to change or tries to use emotional blackmail. I have 'a polar effect' when it comes to emotional blackmail- it completely repels me. I prefer someone to state their defence, so I can see if they have a logical explanation to what's happened.

People with addictions & selfish lifestyles often use emotional blackmail. It's the reaction to an argument that doesn't adhere to logical, because it's aimed at the heart. Anger, emotional bribery, blame-taking- like your friend suggesting that you are her only friend. It's pulling at the heart strings. However, she hasn't made much effort to be a friend to you. She has put her friendship with alcohol before every one else.

I believe there are two kinds of alcoholics- what is your friend?

There are the ones that do it because the were bored, unambitious young adults, with generally stable backgrounds. They start off drinking as a social habit; weekends, drinks in the pub after work- regular lads/girls nights or romantic nights, getting wasted. Drinking is a social expectation & something to do as an 'interest'. Drinkers that start off this way, go on one of two paths. One path is that they have a family & get expectations. They replace the drinking with other things that involve the family. They cut their nights out to once every so often & special occasions; the odd lunch time drink, with mates & weeks & months between occassions or a glass or two, in front of the TV.

Then there are those that have depended on their drinking habits to shape their lifestyle. They form their identity around their drinking lifestyle; form friends and routines around it and feel as if they are missing out, if they stop. And if they are generally, a selfish person- the type of person who has been bought up to only consider their own needs- they will find it very hard to give up, what they think is rightfully theirs- no matter how detrimental & hypocritical it is to everyone else around them.

The last path is the path I see my friend on. Her and her brother. They live in a world where change is a bad thing & it's too hard to sacrifice their own wants, in order to make life better for those around them. They don't believe the sacrifice is worth it.

I have an uncle like them. He had a rougher childhood & parentage, but is definitely someone who took the over-indulgence path. He now suffers similar symptoms as your friend. 

Your friend has wenicke's korsakoff syndrome & if you notice a yellow tinge in her skin (if you recall, when you last saw her or got pictures), she is having liver & possible kidney problems. Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome- her brain being "pickled", her bad memory & shaking. This is down to a lack of Thiamine (Vit B12- if I recall rightly!- look it up) in the brain. It affects a region called the wernicke's (in the back of the brain, below the parental lobe and somewhere in the temporal lobes), the frontal lobes, hypothalamus & thalamus. There is also some damage to the paretal lobes. Hypo & thalamus areas control appertite & temperture- hence, an alcoholic's appertite & urges for certain foods change. A lot of medically treated alcoholics tend to suffer from malnutriction, as they replace food with alcohol & eat a lot of processed, fat laden, salty foods. The frontal lobe and other areas contribute to memory; damage in these areas through a lack of thaimine means that memories are not encoded properly and not remembered. This is why your friend repeats stories. She doesn't remember telling you them. She may also go on about the past, because those memories have been encoded in a time before her brain was damaged by the alcohol, so she can recall them clearly. The same with her forgetful behaviour. She'll have little blank spots or disconnected memories. This does eventually lead to dementia symtoms & a care home facility, if she doesn't die from other complications (sorry- to phrase this so bluntly!). 

In my experience of cutting off two close friends with addictions- I looked at why they had got that way & what it would do to me if I stayed friends with them.

The first- I have guilt, because I don't feel as if her addiction was in her power. There were circumstances and tragedy in her life that stemmed from something very deep. Her life was a testiment to her background & the path leading in to her alcoholism was a unique one. However, had I stuck around- I wouldn't have been support. I would have been dragged down with her tide. I was fragile at the time myself & trying to run away from own demons.

The second- I saw gradually and I saw how it was something she had been given the opportunities to change, yet still refused. She had been given the chances to prove herself & shape up; she had been given a horrible, life-changing shock- and she had support & encouragement. Yet still, her image & 'interest' had to come first. And there isn't a desperate shadow to her & her brothers drinking- they drink because it's fun & makes them feel young. But they're adults and should be acting like the parents they are.

In your situation, I think if you are avoidant and 'phase her out', you could be left regretting it, when you find out that she's passed on from her addiction. Yet for your own sanity, perhaps, put a time on your conversations & just listen to her, rather than try to talk. You've said that contact has largely phased out, so perhaps, just keep contact for nostalgia moments & leave them when you put down the phone. If she is indeed suffering from a related illness, just apprieciate the small link to fun moments & friendship in the past. We all have friends that we have 'thinned' the link to. You are not in a position to help her, if everything else has failed. There has to be some personal responsabilty and want to change. The alcoholic has to travel that journey alone & start taking responsability.

If you haven't had an argument- leave contact to her. You can be busy & keep the conversations short & pleasant, and send birthday & holiday cards. To be honest, if she has korsakoff syndrome & she is quite far along, she won't necessarily recall times when you spoke.

In my cases, I am not in a place in my life where I can watch someone self-destruct. I am being selfish in our friendship with my second friend. I have worked so hard to get where I am & I slip back in to old behaviours on our times together. I was the counsellor in the friendship & while taking on her burdens, I created more for myself. Yet when I had burdens to unload (which was rare), she was  hard to get hold of.

I wish I had kept occasional contact, xmas cards & such with my first friend, because I now understand the reasons behind her addictions & how certain factors shaped her life. When hearing she had died, I wished for that one last conversation & catch-up, to see if she had found some kind of peace.

With my second friend- I know it's not peace that she's after and while I have no contact right now; I will in the future, but when I think there will be some change.

Right now, she's in the generally healthy, yet neglectful stage. Anything my friend is suffering is reversable- I know this because she's done it before. Yet she chooses her lifestyle, because it serves her free, alternative image. 

I think your friend may be to far gone. I'm convinced my 2nd friend has it in her and hopefully, our hiatus after harsh words will encourage some change. We were close & it wasn't only a past we shared.

Whatever happens- good luck.

V

 

 

   

 

  

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Violet Ivy - your reply shook me to the core. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend and glad you have left the others behind. Your own life is so much more important. We cannot change our bad habits while still hanging around with those who continue to drink and do drugs. Best wishes on your new sober life. Living sober allows us to grow into the person we were always meant to be.

You ask me what kind of alcoholic my friend is -- she developed alcoholism after drinking since she was about 14 years old. Now at 55, she has spent the greater majority of her life as a drunk. She doesn't know what being sober is really like and doesn't seem to want to find out. This is what is so sad to me. Change comes from within. If you have no desire to change, you never will.

I think you are right about still being frinds with her. Because I'm not living in the same state, I do not have to deal with her on a daily basis. I just wouldn't feel right dumping her completely knowing she has no one else. We all need to feel loved, even if we are not lovable.

Thank you for your reply. You are an inspiration to others. God Bless you and keep you.

 

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