According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) criteria, people with alcohol use disorder as its now called, will meet at least 2 of these 11 criteria. I scored one and part of another so 1 ½ ish. When I was younger and dumber, I would have easily been able to score a 3. Not proud of it but it's true.
Why am I concerned with this? Well because for a long time now one of my close friend’s alcohol consumption has concerned me. Near as I can tell, she’d be able to say yes to at least 5 of the things on this list. Maybe more if she digs deep. I have no doubt that she has a problem. No doubt whatsoever.
I have known her since we worked together about 15 years ago. She would come into work hung over and complaining about her night out. I didn’t say anything because we were just acquaintances then and I thought she would grow out of it. She was young, I rationalized, and eventually she would grow weary of that crap right? Wrong. If anything, her drinking has gotten worse. It’s not so much how much she drinks (although it does concern me) but why she drinks and how often she drinks alone. I recall a time where every time she called me to whine about her deadbeat (then) boyfriend, she was drunk. Not just tipsy but slurring her words drunk. It was common. I got to a point where I wouldn’t answer the phone if I saw it was her. She uses alcohol to forget. She uses it to cope. She uses it to feel better. She uses it to celebrate and be in the moment. It’s her drug of choice…her social tincture. Had a bad day? Drink wine. Self esteem low today? Drink wine. Celebrating something cool? Drink wine.
Within the past two years I think, she has had two incidents, that I know of, where she’s fallen, seriously injured herself, and had to go to the hospital. There are others where she’s fallen but managed to avoid the emergency room. All of these are wine related. She tries to frame them as “freak accidents" because she wasn’t “paying attention” and always claims that she “wasn’t that drunk or has been drunker.” I think if you are constantly trying to justify your level of drunkenness, then you have a problem. Now before I polish up my halo, I’m no stranger to falling down drunk and being taken to the hospital. I experienced this humiliation once. It happened at a open bar wedding. I was stressed and unhappy. I find weddings very tough emotionally. I knew I was drinking too much but I didn’t care. I made poor choices that night and I paid for them. My point is – it happens and I understand it. I’ve also turned to alcohol when I’m hurt or stressed. Who hasn’t at one time or another? I guess my point is that those moments, for me anyway, aren’t a regular part of my life, as they are for my friend.
I’ve also seen her drink wine in the morning. We were on vacation and she would routinely drink a bottle of wine in the evening – now granted we were on holiday and I wasn’t exactly sipping water myself. The morning we were checking out of the hotel, she awoke to her bottle from last night which had about 1/3 left in it and she proceeded to finish it off because she didn’t want to "waste it.” This was a $7 bottle of wine. Waste it! That was a light bulb moment for me and I remember thinking to myself “it’s not my imagination. She is an alcoholic.” I quickly pushed that thought from my mind. Not my friend. No she can’t be. She’s just living it up because we are out of town on a girl’s getaway. I felt guilty using the dreaded -A- word. Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
So what to do? Do I stage an intervention myself? Do I reach out to her family and let them know my concerns? I feel like they must be aware on some level but maybe they are not. Maybe she shields them from it. Maybe they live in a bubble. Maybe they don't want to know. Would I be opening a big can of worms? I have had this dilemma for several years now and the reason that I haven’t intervened is purely selfish. I like having a friend to go out with, travel with, party with who likes to have a few drinks. So many of my friends are well…boring teetotalers, or will maybe have one drink. I’m not a huge drinker and for many years, I was one of those teetotalers, but as I’ve gotten older, I like to drink when I go out. I put limits on myself 90% of the time, but every once in a while you want to have just one more than you should. When that urge strikes, she’s the friend I call. I call her because I know she’ll never turn down a night of drinking. I know this makes me a bad person. I accept my personal failings. Maybe I’m the one with the problem. Maybe I need to intervene on my own selfishness.
Drink responsibly. This is the season of terrible tragedies. Don’t drive your car. Don’t text your ex. Don’t drunk Facebook. Don't post selfies of yourself on Instagram and hashtag them #wasted. Don’t make your friends ask themselves whether or not they need to stage an intervention. Rules we should all try to live by.