She's important to me. She used to be so smart and so much fun to be around. I feel like I can't just walk away, and in any event, I don't want to. Help me figure out what to do. Avalanche of details to follow.
posted by sevensnowflakes to human relations (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So my best friend - let's call her Liz. Liz and I met nearly a decade ago during my freshman year of college. She's always been a partier, and when we met, so was I. But our friendship deepened and was not about drinking and partying; over the years we became closer and closer, to the point that when I was at a critical juncture in my life with lots of options, I moved to her state and started the rest of my young life there.
I should stress that when I met Liz, she struck me as intelligent, interesting, and insightful. She was also a very good friend to me for years - we have seen one another through many ups and downs, and I have met many positive people who have had a wonderful impact on my life because of my friendship with her.
Things started to go downhill in her world about five years ago. She is a creative type - a brilliant artist and amazing musician - and she's struggled to find her place in the world. She has always had trouble following through on her commitments, but her father was the same way in his twenties and eventually became quite successful, so I think that myself and her other close friends cut her a lot of slack because of her upbringing/life story.
Anyway, about five years ago she lost a huge amount of weight. For the first time in her life - at 25 - she began to receive lots of positive attention from men. She got involved with someone who drank way too much but who was very charismatic and attractive. That involvement turned out to be a very negative force in her life; the man was in a relationship at the time and she became the other woman.
When that (predictably) disintegrated, Liz started to disintegrate too. She was arrested twice for driving while intoxicated within a very short period of time, and dealt with the legal and financial fallout from that for several years. I really believed that, after that ordeal, she was seriously evaluating her life choices. She went through AA - which wasn't for her, as she's not religious - but took away some positive insights from the process, including (what I thought was) real shame and incredulity about what she'd allowed to happen in her life and how much time and money she'd wasted on drinking.
Liz (like me) worked in bars and restaurants throughout her early and mid-twenties. About a year ago, she enrolled in culinary school, but ended up dropping out, ostensibly at the behest of one of her instructors, who told her that spending more money on culinary school was not worth the investment and stressed that she should find an entry-level job in the industry and work up that way.
After Liz dropped out of culinary school, she was working as a waitress along with a group of people I would describe as generally unsavory. Some of them were/are good people, but I would consider most of them transient drinking buddies. A problem that I would say Liz has is that she undervalues herself and trusts people that she should not trust. She does not seem to realize that the vast majority of her drinking buddies are just that, and do not genuinely care for her. When things go wrong in her life, I am generally the one who gets the phone call. Anyway, Liz fell for one of her co-workers, and a few months ago, was arrested again for driving while intoxicated after a night out with him.
This time it was very, very serious. She was in a major accident (no other vehicles involved, thankfully) and hurt herself and her passenger quite badly. I was devastated by the accident and am fearful about what will happen to her (even though I know that facing serious consequences will be good for her). This third offense has rocked her family and will make her a felon.
I should mention that her mother is apparently a severe alcoholic. I always knew that when Liz was younger, her mother had a drinking problem, but I was not aware that her mother's drinking had been an issue, consistently, for the many years leading up to the present.
The most disturbing thing about the fallout from this most recent accident (her legal responsibilities are about to start - there's been a lull between the accident and when court begins) is that she has slipped entirely into a life that revolves completely around alcohol. It is like she's given up. I notice all the little things: she is unable to have almost any conversation without mentioning alcohol and partying; even when, right after the accident, she wasn't drinking, she would speak longingly about alcohol; she is unable to see events as they truly are (for example, her account of the way others perceive her and the way others perceive her in reality no longer match up).
I encouraged Liz to seek therapy, both for her own good and because it would be a plus with the court, and she agreed that it would be a good idea; she even made noise about getting herself into an inpatient rehab program. I know that she went to at least one appointment, but I suspect that she either never went after that one or stopped going only a few appointments in. As far as rehab is concerned, she tells me that she and her family don't have the money to put her into rehab at present (I believe this). According to her, she's on a waiting list for a program that will cover most of her costs, but I really can't judge whether or not that is true.
The one close friend that Liz had, other than myself, has known Liz longer than I have. That friend has distanced herself from Liz's life without explanation. I suggested to that friend that the two of us try and stage an intervention with Liz, and she (the friend) agreed that would be a good idea. Both of us feel like our relationships with Liz mean we owe her that much.
That intervention hasn't come to fruition yet, not least because I am very, very busy in my graduate program. I have started to think that maybe I should do something before the intervention, like writing Liz a letter, or something along those lines. I've read all the AskMes about alcoholism, and I've educated myself as best I can (Al-Anon, lots of reading). The thing is, I have so much invested in Liz. I am completely convinced that in her heart, she is good, and in a corner of her mind that she makes every effort to repress, she knows that she has screwed everything up. I am also certain that she is terrified about the future and is actively rejecting the idea that she will go to jail because she is unable to deal with it.
Liz currently has a job working in a kitchen that she loves. This may help with her situation in court; then again, it may not, since kitchens are just a heartbeat away from booze. The last detail I'll mention: Liz takes enough responsibility for herself that she does not accept handouts. She has not asked me for money and pays her bills. I suspect that asking others for money is a final frontier for her as she's always been resourceful and self-sufficient, despite her many issues.
This girl is like a sister to me, and I mean that with all my heart. I am afraid to lose her but this has reached the point where I feel like I already have. What should I do? How can I be of greatest help? How can I make it clear to her that this behavior is destroying her and destroying all of her relationships? Trust me, I have no interest in getting sucked down into the ugly vortex of addiction codependency, and am self-aware enough that I know I need a strategy for dealing with this that keeps me at a healthy distance yet lets her know that I love her too much to watch her do this to herself anymore. I know that whatever action I take will probably make her angry in the short term. I'm okay with that. I just want to do whatever it is a family member would do in this situation. I refuse to abandon her without explanation because I am essentially all she has left. Her whole life is connected to drinking.
I know that an alcoholic has to hit bottom before she gets help. I don't want her bottom to be death, and am willing to be the hand under her head that makes the bottom an iota less excruciating, in the sense that I don't want her to die. Is that stance a bad thing? More to the point, is my desire to help her see the bottom actually hindering her from getting there and thus coming to some kind of final realization/getting help?
Sorry for the length.
TL;DR My best friend is an alcoholic and I can't imagine what her bottom will be if it wasn't her third drinking-related offense - a terrible car accident that almost killed her. I know I need to step away but I want to make it clear that I love her and want her to get sober before I could ever consider walking. How?