When a Dear Friend Is an Alcoholic...

Updated on November 3, 2017

All too many drunken women lie on our city's streets like crushed rose petals. Authorities can't keep up.

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A UK rehab.
A UK rehab.
A UK rehab.

...Be prepared for the long haul.

There can be nothing sadder or more frustrating in the sorry tale of human foibles than trying unsuccessfully to help a family member or close friend give up an addiction.
It may be worse with hard drugs, I don't know, but where alcohol is the enemy, you face an implacable foe who has such a stranglehold on its victim they need watching 24/7, night and day, to stop them drinking - and even then they may find a way.

It was my turn at the plate.

My very good friend of 30 years - we'll call her Sadie - not her name - had always been a party animal and liked to have nights out with the girls terrorizing waiters, vomiting, losing her belongings, and generally often enjoying the Hell on Earth binge-drinkers call fun, if they can even remember the events.
But she didn't drink all day, every day, as she will today if allowed.

Her sad losses became an unbearable load.

It started to get really serious in the last two or three years when she lost her mum; a friend in the USA, and her husband in quick succession. This would be a blow for the most well-balanced of individuals and Sadie is far from that now.
The problem intensified when her youngest daughter moved overseas and her older sibling moved out, saying, "I just can't take dealing with it and looking at her (mum) any more."

Her addiction may have caused her epilepsy to return.

To add to the load, Sadie has had epileptic fits in the past and her recent drinking probably brought on the two most recent. The first I witnessed a couple of months ago - Grand Mal with all the trimmings - the severe tongue and lip biting; the delusions for an hour afterwards; her refusal to get into the ambulance...
If you have seen a person having a grand mal seizure you know how terrifying it is.

NHS counselling has not helped much.

We have tried counselling; severe discipline from family and myself: as soon as our backs are turned, she somehow finds a way to get another bottle of vodka. This, although I have her car keys, her daughter has her money and credit cards and the nearest vendor of booze is a taxi ride away. (There is a local post office-cum-grocers, but they have finally been convinced not to serve her.).
The results of all the persuading and caring have been days and even weeks of sobriety before she succumbs again, small victories which have allowed her system to recover.

Alcoholics can be so cunning!

Hiding booze in the most inventive places; even emptying other drinks, such as tonic water, and filling the bottle with a vodka/tonic/lemon mix - and vodka is so hard to detect anyway.
And the constant, wearying denial. Me "Youve been drinking again!" Her: unkempt, incoherent and unsteady, "I haven't, I haven't!" Constant denial. The house and her robe filthy and disgusting.

Alcohol use supported by producers and government.

It's such a tragedy; alcoholics are so ill! And yet these blasted criminals, the makers of booze and fags are allowed to go on and on distributing their poison all over the world, bolstered by corrupt research and sanctioned by governments who rake-in a fortune in taxes.

Sadie's money helps her find a way to drink.

Unfortunately, Sadie has money, which provides ways for her to drink despite all the attempted control. She has even been to her bank 10 miles away and somehow got cash. Thank you, a bottle of Smirnoff please!

Tired old truisms don't help concerned family.

OK, I know the prevailing wisdom is "Until addicts want to stop themselves, there is nothing you can ultimately do to stop them."
That may be sound advice, but who can abandon a basically decent and good person, who was a marvellous friend once, to their fate of being a stumbling, slurring, sodden wreck 24/7 without trying to help??

Private rehab. centers below par and expensive in the UK.

I went round to her house today after she and her sister had visited a rehab. center in Essex she considered "Unsuitable," and so did her family - for £10,000 for 28 days, this place sucked.

We feel let down by the NHS.

And we get no help from the NHS worth a damn; no offer of rehabilitation, only useless "counselling" from underpaid civil servants with nothing like psychological credentials.

No way in the UK to legally have Sadie committed.

In the USA I believe the family could have Sadie committed to a secure rehabilitation hospital. Nothing like that law exists in Britain where money is the god which drives all of society and its ills. The exception would be if she was suicidal or a danger to others when "sectioning" might be appropriate, but when drunk, she is always as docile as a poor, sick lamb.

She combines her medication with the alcohol.

She had been clean for a week, bless her, and was looking forward to going into rehab., had made plans for the pets and the house...my eyes are blurring with tears writing this - poor thing...Sadie, Sadie, this is going to kill you at just 54... Her chemical cocktail of pills for high blood pressure and epilepsy, tranquilizers; added to the damage from non-stop smoking....and then vodka, vodka, vodka.
How much more will her fragile system support before she is hospitalized, her beloved house, daughters, two cats, a mini Schnauzer puppy, all forgotten in the daily disgusting hopelessness of trying to wring the last defenses from her destroyed liver in some bleak NHS hospital bed?

Only the rotters survive.

Why can't this be the fate of theswine who populate this world? Not some decent, humble woman who has brought up a family, only to loose the breadwinner - her "rock," a much older man, while she was still young; 33 years of marriage and dependence which has left her ill-equipped to stand alone.

She seems to have no interest beyond the TV.

I just am so fearful this story won't have a happy ending, as she seems to lack a base of inner fortitude to fall back on; nothing in her character to arrest her fall; no interests to buoy her through the dark days, and a family obsessed by their own affairs to really do what it takes to care for an alcoholic, daily.

Her late husband is still "with her."

On the mantle in her house reposes the urn with her husband's ashes in it waiting burial, or scattering to the four winds in Epping Forest, which he requested before a stroke took him in minutes last year.
On the wall are pictures of the family in better years, when to have a drink had seemed so normal and fun.

Afterword:

This writer was a heavy drinker and probably is an alcoholic himself, but without the "addictive personality" that seems to snare so many until an early death. I never smoked and quit getting drunk 30 years ago. So I do have tons of sympathy for my poor friend; "there but for the grace..."and all that.
Tomorrow, and for as long as it takes, we will all try again to "save" Sadie from herself; we can take no other path...Hope, indeed, springs eternal.

Notes:

There are estimated to be 208 million alcoholic addicts world-wide. Closer at home, the USA is said to have around 1.7 million, the UK, a disproportionate 1.4 million with a much smaller population than the USA.
The National Health Service in Britain - cash strapped and desperate - where one in four people are binge drinkers, a huge problem in itself and which often leads to dependance - is currently spending 2 billion, plus, in treating alcoholics, while up to 10,000 victims die each year from their addiction. And many more are assisted to an early death by the poisons in tobacco.
(Statistics condensed from Wikipedia; comments are the author's).

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    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      2 months ago from North Texas

      Alcoholism and substance abuse generally are huge problems in the U.S., and from what you write, pretty much everywhere around the world. I have known a lot of alcoholics, and probably a lot of junkies, I just didn't know about their drug habits, because they went well out of their way to hide them from me knowing I disapprove.

      There are plenty of male alcoholics, and in fact the only ones I've known were men. I know some women have the problem too, but I have never personally known any.

      Seems to me life is hard enough without adding alcohol to the mix. Some people seem to turn to alcohol no matter what goes wrong in their lives, but I have never seen the advantage of that. Seems to me it only makes everything worse. Of course things going wrong is likely just an excuse for a habit they would entertain no matter what.

      Thankfully, I did not receive the gene that makes a person more likely to have alcoholic issues. Neither am I tempted by tobacco or gambling or a host of other issues. Rather than feeling smug or better than those who are, I am simply grateful they do not complicate my life more than it already is.

      What a surprise to have a visit from you! It's been a very long time. Hope all is well with you and that you spent the last many months doing things you enjoyed. Life is short. :) xx

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi Bob

      This article is an eye-opener for me. I've learned a lot about Alcoholism through reading this story about Sadie. Thank you and glad you're back.

    • profile image

      diogenes 

      11 months ago

      Yes, Dolores: She wants to go into rehab so that's a good sign. I will be away in Mexico shortly so her family will bear the brunt

      Bob

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      11 months ago from East Coast, United States

      I am so sorry to read about the troubles with your friend as I have suffered the same worries myself. It is so hard to feel so powerless while watching someone you care about live like that. Perhaps multiple hospitalizations would steer her into seeing that she is on the wrong path. She has to make the choice to change. She has to choose AA or another similar group.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      11 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I recommend Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon (for the families and friends of alcoholics):

      http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/

    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR

      diogenes 

      11 months ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Will: Thanks for positive comment. The only reason many keep trying in this situation is that they do save the victim - for hours or days - in order for their battered bodies to recover from the poison even a little.

      But as you say, we may be contributing to their addiction. When even professionals can't tell us what to do, much less help, as it is in the UK, it puts a huge burden on the rest of us.

      Best regards to you Bob

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      11 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      A topic near and dear. Alcoholics and addicts are never 'cured'. Those who do stay clean and sober are in a lifelong recovery. We are currently in the process of detaching from a close loved one because letting her go is the only method that may end up in her finally seeking help out of sheer desperation.

      Addiction is now epidemic Bob, so this is a timely and well written topic.

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