Where Are You?

One of my best friends is an alcoholic. She’s also brilliant and funny and loving. She’s also totally pissing me off right now. I suppose I am angry because I am scared. I haven’t heard from her in a while and the last time I did hear from her, via email, she shared some pretty bad news. Then she dropped off the face of the earth as she is wont to do. This is not the first time. I doubt it will be the last.

There’s a part of me that gets it. She’s probably avoiding me because she knows I won’t let her bullshit me. She can’t tell me things are “fine” when we both know they aren’t. She’s tried to tell me being unemployed and broke is teaching her lessons in humility. That’s her way of finding the bright side in a very dark place.

I’ve known her for over 20 years and have watched her take the most difficult path each and every time. If there were three options in front of her- easy, medium and difficult- she’d ALWAYS choose the difficult way. . .or the fourth alternative, complete and utter inaction. It’s like: You can either take the elevator, walk up these 5 flights of stairs or scale the wall and she’ll say, “I’m gonna scale the wall.” And then get up half-way and just hang there not able to complete the climb but too stubborn to come down.

Some people are like that. Maybe they are punishing themselves. Maybe they really are at a loss for seeing the clearer path. Maybe they prefer the hard way so that when they fail they can say, “But it was so hard!” I’m really at a loss lately when it comes to her. I have more questions than answers. I don’t know what to do or say or act like. I feel really uncomfortable. I feel really sad. And I miss my friend.

I’ve had to contact mutual friends to find out if they’ve heard from her. When they say they have, it hurts my heart. Does she not want to talk to me? What did I do wrong? Why won’t she let me help? But those questions are likely the wrong questions and this situation is too convoluted to be watered down to a couple of simple inquiries. Sometimes you can’t be what someone you love needs. I need to face that fact.

I don’t know what it will take for things to be different for her. I have no idea what her “bottom” looks like. Each time I think: This Is It. It gets worse. And excuse me while I selfishly freak the fuck out that my best friend is seemingly falling apart and all I can do is WATCH. And excuse me if I suddenly feel 13 again, helpless and torn, as I recall how it felt to watch my Dad struggle with the bottle and slowly Just.Give.Up.

Because I can’t fight for her. She has to. I want better for her. But does she?

53 thoughts on “Where Are You?

  1. Oh honey, my heart goes out to you. There is nothing that can fix that powerless, desperate feeling. I know that sadness (through my experience, of course, I know yours is unique to you), and the constant hope that remains even though all the signs point against it.
    Let others be a friend to you in those tough moments.

  2. “Sometimes you can’t be what someone you love needs.”

    As a people pleaser who wants to make all right in the world (totally to my detriment) I completely relate. There always comes that point where caring for that person starts to be too painful….

    I have no helpful answers, I can just relate.
    *Internet hug*

  3. I can see how much this is hurting you. You are such a loving, giving, nurturing person that you can’t stand that feeling of not being able to “fix” her. …and, yes, I’m sure your family dynamics has a huge part in that too.

    As others have said, there really isn’t anything you can do unless she lets you, but you can’t let yourself go down that same path. Let others help you as well and know that you have done everything you can.

    Sorry you have to go through this. **hugs**

  4. wow..if you read a couple of my posts back- we are living similar days you and I…I know. I know. It is all I can say and throw a hug yr way. xo

  5. Its sad – but you know the answer to this – she is the only one who can help herself. Though it does not make it any easier to deal with.

  6. I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for both you and your friend. Here’s hoping that she gets the love, support and help she needs. Even if it doesn’t come from you…let’s just hope she gets it.

    (And I hope your friend isn’t the same friend that we have that has also suddenly gone MIA here in Seattle.)

  7. You’re on the right track. She has to help herself. You can only be there for her WHEN she’s willing to be there for herself. I’m sure it’s sad to not be able to do a thing so my heart goes out to you. and your friend. I hope she wakes up and gets real help.

  8. I can completely relate. It is so hard to watch a loved one suffer from this disease that is purely cunning, baffling and all consuming. It effects everyone not just the alcoholic. Although my husband is in recovery I still fear alcohol. It is only through the support of Alanon that I have made it through this tough time in our family. Maybe you could go to a meeting? I will be thinking of you and your friend through this hard time.

  9. She probably does want better. She just does not know how to get there at this time. But it’s something that she is going to need to realize on her own. And she may never realize it. Sorry.

  10. I have a friend who was always the exact same way … until he got diagnosed with cancer. He is now in an everyday fight for his life and every time we speak he apologizes to me or simply states how he should have listened to the plethora of advice I tried to dole out, but in truth many o the qualities that led him to trouble were the very things I like about him. His fiercely competitive side, his impromptu spur opf the moment decisions, his willingness to say or do anything regardless of who was watching.

    It’s sad that he had to face his mortality to understand his limits and to finally get away from cocaine, but the plus side is that we have had many a great conversation lately and with a bit of luck he’ll pull through this as will your friend.

  11. That’s really, truly hard to deal with. But she needs to find her own way and you never know, she may come and ask you for help. And I’m sure you will give her the support she needs. Unfortunately sometimes when we desperately want to help someone who means so much to us and is just sinking, we have to wait until they ask or they could push us further away.

    I hope she finds her way out of whatever she is going through and hope she contacts you.

  12. Maybe with her strange logic, she’s hiding from you so you don’t hurt as well. She’s ashamed, I’m sure, since you’ve known each other for so long. she doesn’t want to face you or the facts, she needs to get ahold of her life.

    As you very well know, ONLY SHE CAN CHANGE HER LIFE. not you or her friends. Maybe it’s a slight godsend you don’t know what’s going on because she knows you’ll just want to beat her and well, she’s obviously not ready to make the necessary changes to stand up straight and look you and others in the eye and say, “I’m ready to make a change.”

    Oh, yes, I’m harsh because this shit is rampant in my family as well i have issues with my own personal battle.

  13. Oh sweetie! You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. I know this from past experience and it meant going a very very long time without any contact for exactly the same reasons as yours. You can’t be bullshitted and she knows it. She’ll come back, they always do :o)

  14. Been there with a very close family member. Still pretty much there, in fact. The most difficult thing for me was wondering “do I continue to watch this and care and let it fuck MY life up, or do I cut and run and decide that I don’t care anymore.” I’m not saying that the decision had to be made, but thinking it in the first place was hard enough. The whole situation sucks pretty hard.

  15. it’s tough to be part of such a screwed-up situation – have you thought about reaching out (mail, email, phone) just to say you’ve been thinking about her… leaving it generic might be better than, “where have you been, why haven’t you called?” but who knows… perhaps she is most frighted to talk to you because she cares about you think the most… know what i mean?

  16. Hi Sizzle…I’m a lurker but I enjoy reading your blog. I’m sorry to hear about your friend and know how frustrating it is for you to watch it all happen. People DO shy away from the voice of reason so I hope you don’t take it too personally. I know what you are going through as my brother is a severe alcoholic as well. I get to watch it also, feeling frustrated and often times angry and disgusted at what is happening. But in the end all you can do is be there for her when she needs you. And I bet you will! In the meantime, maybe you could send her a card just to let her know that you are thinking about her and miss her? Maybe at the very moment she reads it, it will be the thing she needs the most, even if she doesn’t say so. Anyway, good luck and I’ll keep you both in my thoughts!

  17. First, BIG HUG, second I have several friends like this and I have learned through the years that all you can do is love them and be there when they surface. People only change when they want to and there is also the fact that perhaps this is what she has to do to learn. Hang in there and try to detach a bit(Yes, it is hard), but try. Good luck. OXOX

  18. My heart goes out to you and thank you for your honesty and open hearted writing. This strikes a familiar nerve with my emotions.

    Gezz, maybe she’s scared to tell you what has been going on. Question. Do your mutual friends have the same close relationship with her as you do? Do your mutual friends let her drink, or may even drink along with her?

    Hugs and more hugs to you!

  19. One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn about living (and loving) an alcoholic is that there is nothing I can do about it. The impetus to change had to come from him and only him, and his view of rock bottom was far different than my own. Unfortunately, this disease defies logic and common sense.

    To echo many comments here, I had my therapist tell me that in many situations the best course of action is to just distance yourself from it. Make it clear that you’ll be there if they need, but maintain a healthy distance. Eventually, they’ll remember and come on back to you when they are ready.

    But it’s really really hard to watch. Hang in there. I hope she sees the bottom and makes the changes she needs to make for herself.

  20. I have so much alcoholism in my family that it literally makes me cry sometimes, and is also a big part of why I don’t drink at all. I agree with all of those who have said she really needs to hit the bottom before she can find her way out. It’s a long painful process, but you can be there for her when she’s ready to get better.

  21. You are probably her reality check and when people chose destructive paths, they tend to want to disapear from that. You are an amazing friend Sizz and I’m sorry that you are sad and hurting because of this. Not knowing and feeling left out is very hurtful. I really hope your friend reaches out soon.

  22. You are such a great friend. I know how hard it is when people pull away. I’ve been through situations like this with my own longtime friends and when they’ve come out on the other side, they usually tell me they were too ashamed to have contact. She knows what she’s doing is hurting her and she knows that you want to help but right now she may be too filled with shame to accept assistance. Try to hang in there. 20 years is way too long for a friendship to just disappear. I’m sure she’ll come back to you when she’s figured out some of her stuff.

  23. You are exactly right, you CAN’T fight for her. When she can learn to fight for herself, that will be the most valuable lesson in her life and it will be life changing. In the meantime, (I know you already know this, but it really does help) you can go to Al-Anon or ACOA (adult Children of Alcholics) and get support for you. Even if you don’t think it’s for you, just go to one meeting. If you go once and don’t like it, nothing says you ever have to go back.

  24. Sizzle, WOW! Are you sure you are not best friends with my sister? FOR REAL. She is just as you described.

    I understand. I struggle too. My sister won’t call back when she is deep because she knows I know just by talking to her. She knows I call her out.


    It sucks and I know you said you can’t fight for her but that is a hard reality. It’s hard to have someone in our lives we fight harder for their lives then they do. It’s dissappointing. It’s awful.

    I hope your friend finds her way back to you and appreciates you.

    Again, *hugs*.

  25. Ah, Sizz. No wonder you’ve been feeling blue. 😦
    I have a friend I’ve been trying to get to deal with a health situation, and she’s not budging. That’s so small scale by comparison, I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.
    I’ll be thinking of you both…

  26. We have one of those in our midst as well. I totally feel you on the frustration front. It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. I guess the answer can always be simply: Compassion; easier said then done.

  27. No offense to your other friends, but she must really respect you – and that’s why she’s avoiding you. I have been through/am going through this same thing (too many times!!) and it breaks my heart when the person doesn’t return your calls, but is in contact with everyone else… but then I realized that they don’t want to talk to me because I am the ONE person who will absolutely call them on their bullshit and won’t let them go down that path. Everyone else was wishy-washy, and therefore safe. And they have even told me that they knew I’d give them the what-for and so they laid low for a while.

    That being said, it doesn’t hurt any less. But know that if you were an enabler, and therefore a bad influence, you’d be the first one she’d call. That she hasn’t called is actually a kind of good thing.


  28. Ugh. One of my loved ones has a serious problem but still hasn’t admitted with it or dealt with it. The little fixer in me always wants to come up with a way to fix or help. Everyone tells me I can’t do anything. That’s really hard. I am sorry.

  29. I have a friend doing similar things. When asked about it, he said he couldn’t face me right now and that is why he avoids me in particular. I’m betting that is the reason she is avoiding you and not the other friends.

    I am thinking good thoughts for both you and her. She is lucky to have someone who cares so much about her, and hopefully soon you will feel like she knows that. It is hard to sit and watch someone self destruct, and since you have been through this before, I can’t even imagine the despair you must feel. If there is anything I can do to help you, please know I will do it. I know there is nothing, but if you think of anything let me know. I make awesome cookies if you think that would help you.

  30. Sometimes you just can’t give people unconditional acceptance or be the person they need because it’s not what they really need. Don’t feel bad! Your friend needs to help herself, and you can be their to support her.

  31. I have a similar situation with my best friend of the past fifteen years, only I am the one who periodically retreats from her. I am not an alcoholic, but I am bipolar, and there are periods of such darkness that I cannot bear to bring the people closest to me into such a place or see me in such a state. [So I retreat from the people closest to me. Those who do not know me well can be more easily fooled into thinking I am better than I am, but not those who know me best.]

    My best friend and I struggled with this cyclical dynamic for years before we finally hashed it all out. She is also a “giver” and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t let her help when I was in the most trouble – I finally explained that the best way for her to “help” was to give me the space I needed, without anger or impatience, and only then did she realize that her absence WAS helping me because I didn’t have to also worry about dragging her down with me when I was in my dark place. It may seem crazy, but it is impossible to let yourself hit the “bottom” you need to in order to bounce back up if you are worrying about the effect you will have on the people you love if they are around you.

    The best thing my friend does for me is occasionally leave me messages on my email or phone that say only “I know you’re still hiding right now, but I am thinking about you and will be here whenever you come back out. Take your time. I love you. You don’t have to call back if you don’t want.” Whenever I am out of the dark place, I am able to tell her how much those messages meant to me.

    If your friend is anything like me, I think she is trying to protect you from herself, even if she is not aware of or able to articulate all the reasons WHY she avoids you at her worst. She will come back again. If you have the same strength as my friend (who is an angel on earth, truly) then your friendship will survive this. It takes honesty, patience, and a lot a lot of love between you.

    I’m so sorry you miss your friend and she isn’t there for you right now.

  32. Oh, honey. I’m so sorry. I have been there and doing the right thing in this situation is so damned hard. But you’re doing it, and that’s something. Anytime you want some tea & sympathy, give me a call. K

  33. I am sorry that you can’t be there for her. Well, at least not physically. It is obvious that you are there for her in every other way that you can be.

    Whether she realizes it or not, she is very lucky to have your undying friendship.

  34. Having watched several close family members drink themselves to an early grave, I feel for you and your friend Sizzle.
    You are being a good friend by asking about her, caring and wrroying.
    Unfortunately this is all you can do for her till she wants to accept the help your offering.
    So sorry you are going thru this right now.

  35. Sometimes we avoid those that see us most clearly and hold us accountable.

    This seems like a typical ACOA struggle. Doesn’t make it any easier. I feel for you and am really glad that you have Kaply to talk to.

    Hugs and cupcakes for you.

  36. Don’t get me wrong — we love your funny stories about your tenants. But don’t ever stop talking about what’s really going on. It’s why those of us who visit everyday love Sizzle.

    Sending good thoughts out for your friend. Addiction runs rampant in my family so I know how you feel. You can’t fix it. You can only hold on to your own sanity and hope to be of help if they ever realize they need it.

    Mayberry Magpie

  37. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, and I have been there on all levels, with people I love. The friend I most recently dealt with? Either doesn’t talk to me or is an absolute ass (see: driving me away) when addiction/bad behavior is part of his life. You did nothing wrong, but she knows SHE is doing something wrong and can’t face it. And she won’t let you help because the minute she reaches out her hand? She has to — sorry for sounding like a cliche — deal with some hard truths that she might not be able to face sober. Or at all, right now.

  38. There are people who don’t want to get better, but there ae unfortunatly people who don’t find a bottom either. I hope for both of your sakes that your friend is not one of those people…

  39. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m sorry your friend isn’t able to get help right now – for whatever reason. I hope she figures it out soon.

  40. IMHO she’s not in contact with you because she knows what you’ve been through in your own family. She can not handle being responsible as yet another person who hurts you with alcohol AND she can’t handle the look of disappointment in your eyes.

    Because even if you try not to show it, the eyes always tell the truth.

  41. I hate to say it, but that being put-off is part of the price of being close to someone. You know her too well, and she knows you too well for her not to feel examined, even in passing. Maybe she’s afraid of being judged, maybe she feels like a screw-up, but one thing is for certain is that if she’s taking the hard way? There is just nothing you can do, but let her figure it out. And what’s worse? She may stay just out of reach, forever. If she pulls it together she may contact you, feeling able to present a good picture to you, etc. The hardest lesson for me is ALWAYS, letting people go to do what they are going to do. You can love her, and miss her, and wish her well…it’s just the missing them that is so tough right?

  42. This is such a powerful and intimate look at your relationship. As a strong-minded/willed individual, there have been times when I know I’m too much for my friends. When all they need is someone to listen. Or a shoulder to cry on. Or someone to just be in the same room. I have learned to anticipate those times and tone down. Though I want to scream at them, it’s not always about me. It’s about them, too. And at the end of the day, if being supportive without commentary isn’t something you’re capable of doing because you won’t be true to yourself, then it’s your turn to take a step back. Friendship is a two-way street. And we have to learn how to navigate each street without hitting the potholes or slamming into trees. My heart goes out to you.

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