she had a bad night. the day before she had decided to get drunk. good and drunk. she has been a drinker ever since I knew her, but this day she set a full intention within herself to get hammered. I was unaware of the plan and proceeded to just be my usual clueless self that day. I am not a drinker so I don’t see things happening that would inform someone who knows the drill.
I was completely unaware as the evening progressed that this was going to be a bad one. she became progressively louder and more argumentative as the minutes passed by. normally we enjoy each others company and I was starting to notice the uncharacteristic behavior. but only in that I was feeling quite irritated with her. she would just blurt out something very loudly and unintelligibly. I kept thinking she was talking to me but she wasn’t. she was lost in her mind, responding to whatever was going on in there.
at one point I noticed that everything I said drew out a nasty response. I was confused. what was happening to my close friend, I wondered. as she sat there smoking butt after butt, refilling her cup several times, I decided to just go to bed.
the next morning I sat and talked with her about some of the things she said last night. concerning and troubling things that sounded to me like issues that would and could affect me personally. it was only then that I realized she was wasted last night. and whenever she told me she had set out to accomplish this drunken belligerent state, I became alarmed at her decision making process. we had just moved in together. what was going to happen I f she decides to do this again and doesn’t tell me?
she announced to me that she was going to quit drinking and go to aa. I did not ask her to do this, I really didn’t even comment on her behavior except to say what the hell happened there?
she has been to aa before and her plan was to drink all the alcohol she had and then go the next day. she has endured a lot of grief in her life for her drinking from her family and friends, so I thought ok, good idea. her drinking never really bothered me nor did I even notice when she was drinking before. and she did it every day. but it didn’t seem to be a problem for me and I wondered why was everyone so uptight about it. she is a grown woman who has seen her share of shit in life and in my mind, if she wanted to drink well what was that to me. my definition of an alcoholic is: when someone drinks and bad things happen to them and/ or through them. I never noted that bad things happened when she drank and even after last night, the worst of it was she was annoying. I solved that by removing myself from her presence.
but here she was in front of me the next morning, obviously shaken by what she did last night. there surely was more to this episode that my tiny uninformed brain could grasp. I set about supporting her in her bid to get sober. she did indeed drink the rest of her whiskey and some wine that night until it was all gone. empty bottles in the trash.
her journey did not really start until cocktail hour on the first day. she was nauseous, headachy, irritated, jumpy. she came home from her first meeting and said it was like she had never left. there was a banner she had made during one of her sobriety attempts that was still hanging in the room where she had left it years ago. she reconnected with the regulars who all seemed happy to see her. she seemed relieved to have made this decision.
the first week was marked by sleeplessness, tormented aggravation, perpetual persistent activity, indigestion, loss of appetite. I tried to help as best I could, even giving her the rest of my Ativan so she could at least just sit there and get some tiny amount of relief. she seemed to be alright during the day but when five pm approached, she returned to her state of torment. thank god the meetings were at five pm also and really they seemed to help a lot.
week two was better. she seemed to stabilize and was preoccupied with life in general. she had just moved so her hobby became unpacking boxes, setting up her new home, avoiding her family, going to church, her up coming baptism. her family situation was standing out as inharmonious to her sobriety. she knew these people acted as triggers that helped her to crave a drink. so avoiding them was a daily activity that kept her busy. she and I spent much time together, happily chatting or watching TV.
week three is when things started to go downhill. no longer was I able to maintain any conversation with her. she became sleepless again. she was defensive towards me. anything I said was met with a snappy hostile response. so I started shutting up. she stopped going meetings, and I stopped asking if she was going to go. five o’clock would come and go with no move from her to get to the meeting. I’ll go tomorrow she said. but tomorrow never came.
she had had a bad day inside week two, the day of our baptism. it had been a long day, we had gone to church that morning, attended a cookout with her family that afternoon and the ceremony was scheduled for 6pm. as I watched her through the lens of my camera at the cookout and had the opportunity to take some photos of her with her granddaughter, I started to understand today was going to be bad for her. her family acts as some kind of kryptonite towards her well being. to the untrained eye there seems to be no real issue. but every word, every action every piece of information stabbed her straight in the heart. it was all over once she realized she was not going to get a four generation photo today because there already was one, and she wasn’t in it.
on the way to the park she was struggling something fierce. she almost asked me to stop so she could get booze. this day it was all she could do to not crawl up inside that bottle and die there. I was impressed with her resolve. I still did not get the seriousness of this day. as of this day she began her descent into drinking again.
yesterday she brought home a bottle. as she drew it from the bag in front of me I said uh-oh. she said no worries. I have decided to have a drink. she said she considered not telling me, hiding it from me. she says it was only a momentary thought but I have my doubts. she seemed awkward and embarrassed. I didn’t know what to say or do. then I remembered what she had told me to do if she was relapsing. read to me from the one day at a time book. so I did. and while reading aloud to her she sat politely listening as I randomly read pages to her. I realized the words in this book could be taken in two different ways. one way could have been an aha moment for her where she realized she doesn’t have to drink again and her higher power could intervene if she let him. the other way the words came out was hey if you’re thinking of taking a drink, no big deal, it happens all the time.
the other thing she said I could do was ask her if there was someone she could call. so I said is there someone you can call. she said sure there are plenty of people I can call but I have spent my last twenty dollars on this bottle and I have no minutes on my phone. and she said, I have made this decision consciously to have a drink. I am taking ownership of this move. there is nothing anyone can say or do to change my mind.
so here we are. she seems to relish in the putting off of the consumption. she waited until several hours after coming home with the drink to actually have the drink. she seems to feel she has control over the situation. she and I are barely speaking because she only answers a direct question with a terse response. there is no casual easygoing feel to this day. I am acutely aware of her discomfort. I have never been in this situation before and I feel like an idiot for not knowing how to deal with it. I certainly don’t feel like I have any ownership in her decision to drink or not to drink. I don’t know how to help her to be comfortable. I pray and hope that she will somehow come to terms with this surrender back to alcohol. I don’t want her to suffer. I don’t want me to suffer. in an attempt to understand what I cannot comprehend, here is some info I have found. eleven steps to a relapse:
Change in Attitude – For some reason you decide that participating in your recovery program is just not as important as it was. You may begin to return to what some call “stinking thinking” or unhealthy or addictive thinking. Basically, you are not working your program as you did previously. You feel something is wrong, but can’t identify exactly what it is.
Elevated Stress – An increase in stress in your life can be due to a major change in circumstances or just little things building up. Returning to the “real world” after a stint in residential treatment can present many stressful situations. The danger is if you begin over-reacting to those situations. Be careful if you begin to have mood swings and exaggerated positive or negative feelings.
Reactivation of Denial – This is not denial that you have a drug or alcohol problem, it’s denial that the stress is getting to you. You try to convince yourself that everything is OK, but it’s not. You may be scared or worried, but you dismiss those feelings and you stop sharing those feelings with others. This is dangerous because this denial is very similar to denial of drug addiction or abuse.
Recurrence of Postacute Withdrawal Symptoms – Anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and memory loss can continue long after you quit drinking or doing drugs. Known as postacute withdrawal symptoms these symptoms can return during times of stress. They are dangerous because you may be tempted to self-medicate them with alcohol or drugs.
Behavior Change – You may begin to change the daily routine that you developed in early sobriety that helped you replace your compulsive behaviors with healthy alternatives. You might begin to practice avoidance or become defensive in situations that call for an honest evaluation of your behavior. You could begin using poor judgment and causing yourself problems due to impulsive behavior without thinking things through.
Social Breakdown – You may begin feeling uncomfortable around others and making excuses not to socialize. You stop hanging around sober friends or you withdraw from family members. You stop going to your support group meetings or you cut way back on the number of meetings you attend. You begin to isolate yourself.
Loss of Structure – You begin to completely abandon the daily routine or schedule that you developed in early sobriety. You may begin sleeping late, or ignoring personal hygiene or skipping meals. You stop making constructive plans and when the plans you do make don’t work out, you overreact. You begin focusing on one small part of life to the exclusion of everything else.
Loss of Judgment – You begin to have trouble making decisions or you make unhealthy decisions. You may experience difficulty in managing your feelings and emotions. It may be hard to think clearly and you become confused easily. You may feel overwhelmed for no apparent reason or not being able to relax. You may become annoyed or angry easily.
Loss of Control – You make irrational choices and are unable to interrupt or alter those choices. You begin to actively cut off people who can help you. You begin to think that you can return to social drinking and recreational drug use and you can control it. You may begin to believe there is no hope. You lose confidence in your ability to manage your life.
Loss of Options – You begin to limit your options. You stop attending all meetings with counselors and your support groups and discontinue any pharmacotherapy treatments. You may feel loneliness, frustration, anger, resentment and tension. You might feel helpless and desperate. You come to believe that there are only three ways out: insanity, suicide, or self-medication with alcohol or drugs.
Relapse – You attempt controlled, “social” or short-term alcohol or drug use, but you are disappointed at the results and immediately experience shame and guilt. You quickly lose control and your alcohol and drug use spirals further out of control. This causes you increasing problems with relationships, jobs, money, mental and physical health. You need help getting sober again.
oh my friend. I miss you. I love you. I am here for you as much as you are here for me. drink. don’t drink. do what you want to do. just don’t shut me out like you are right now. it really hurts. I didn’t do anything to deserve your dismissal. this is where we are today.