I know the answer to this. You can’t. But it doesn’t mean I think about it any less.
Steve, a friend of mine for many many years, has what I would consider a drinking problem. We grew up drinking together and he used to be a lot of fun. Then he started getting aggressive. He started being an asshole. He got kicked out of bars regularly and embarrassed me (and other friends) by the way he treated complete strangers, or even friends of mine that he didn’t know. When I moved away for a few years I didn’t have much contact with him, although the strong bond we’ve built over the years didn’t weaken at all. As circumstances would have it, I am now living with him in a different city than where we grew up.
His social circle has shrunk dramatically, almost to nil. He still likes the drink. So do I. So we go out together. Since moving here I’ve made plenty of friends. I include him in social situations in an attempt to get him more social and less…hermit-y. At his heart, he is a great guy. He has strong convictions about what is right, how to treat friends. He is the kind of person who would take care of you. The kind of person who, if he genuinely likes you, would “go to the wall for you” (his words).
He doesn’t drink all the time, but when he does drink, he passes a tipping point where he completely loses himself and the demons he keeps hidden away while sober rise up. It’s almost a given now that when we go to a bar he will get kicked out. We live in a small town, with half a dozen drinking establishments. I am sure he is getting known as “that guy.” I took him to a New Year’s house party where, at some point in the night, people were coming up to me and telling me that Steve was making everyone uncomfortable and that he had to leave. I had to kick him out. Send him home.
This is a terrible position to be in. So I confronted him about it yesterday. I know he knows. Many times he’s woken after a night of drinking and apologized to me for things he said or did the previous night. One time I received a text message while in the living room. It said “Sorry.” He was in his bedroom. So he knows. He just doesn’t do anything about it, so it perpetuates.
After confronting him, he basically just said he’s aware, but he wants to be left alone (in a nutshell). He expressed appreciation for my concern, but just wants the friendship without the psychoanalysis. This is where I stop being able to relate. When I recognize and admit to something I do that I don’t like, I make efforts to change it. On top of that, this is also a physical issue. Something that could seriously jeopardize his health, not just his mental state.
So what are my obligations as one of his best friends? I’ve already decided that it will be the end of going out drinking with him. Do I have choices? Or do I just respect his decision and back away? Should I bring it up with family? Is that crossing a line?
What would you do?
[Feature photo: MicGloWal]