How to handle a friendship with a needy alcoholic?

nicoletoukJune 7, 2007

Beth and I have been close friends since childhood. In a nutshell, she is a very sweet and eager-to-please woman who has a horrible relationship with her self-absorbed mother. She lost her father, whom she was very close to, as a teen. She has horrible taste in men as she only dates men with LOTS of money. She is a very loving and gentle woman, but she is a mess.

She had been hospitalized a few years ago for bulima (which she has had since age 16) and alcoholism. Since then she had gotten out of her unhealthy marriage and really seemed to be doing great - AA twice a week, gaining a little weight and getting healthy, bought a condo, supporting herself w/her own business.

She entered rehab yesterday for drinking again. She had gotten into an accident while drunk. We come to find out it is her third DUI. She is facing a minimum of thirty days in jail. This is tearing me up because she hasnÂt a malicious bone in her body, she really doesnÂt "deserve" jail. On the other hand I have no tolerance for anyone who would put the lives of everyone else on the road at risk, and I totally support tough DUI laws.

I promised her I would go visit her in rehab. She has already asked me questions like, "Will you still love me?" and, "Can I still see your kids?". I am expecting more of the same during our visit in a few days. Of course I will still love her, but I am fed up with her lies (not outlined here, but a lot have come to light these past few days). She adores my kids and they adore her, I donÂt know how to handle that one. They love sleep-overs at Auntie BethÂs house and will not understand when I will suddenly not leave them alone with her.

The last time she was in rehab I totally supported her and helped her get on with her life. She understood my apprehension about trusting her and in time her seemingly impressive progress rebuilt my trust. But that time I didnÂt know about her driving while drunk, and that seems to change a lot for me. I feel that all drunk drivers commit their crime against ME and my family personally.

I donÂt know how to handle this 30-year friendship moving forward. She has such a messed-up history and is such a truly loving and sweet woman that it is hard to be mad at her. She is very needy and I donÂt want to desert her, but I am fed up with her at the same time.

I apologize at the length of this post, IÂm sure I gave you a lot of info you didnÂt need.

How do you handle a friendship with an alcoholic?


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You need to contact Al-Anon. It's really easy to slide into the role of co-dependent, and the way she questions you shows the very manipulative side of alcoholics.

I understand how you feel, but don't go to see her without getting some ammunition (knowledge) first.

Good luck---you are a good friend.

Here is a link that might be useful: Al-Anon

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 9:49AM
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Excellent advice from fairegold; do try to respect your gut feelings and act accordingly, even if it means putting some distance between her and you.
Good luck in this difficult situation.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 4:13AM
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She adores my kids and they adore her, I donÂt know how to handle that one. They love sleep-overs at Auntie BethÂs house and will not understand when I will suddenly not leave them alone with her.

A difficult but necessary lesson for your kids. Alcohol and other drugs can be abused. When someone abuses them, not only do they pay the price but others around them suffer as well. My philosophy in raising kids (I have two boys, age 17 & 19) is to ALWAYS be honest with them. Don't lie or soft sell the truth.

Auntie Beth has lied, abused alcohol and has driven while drunk. Sure alcoholism is an illness and she needs help. But she has endangered her life and the lives of others and your kids should have no illusions about that. It won't be easy but please explain the truth to your kids.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 9:53AM
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I second everything everyone else has said on this thread. I think its important to realize, as well, that her inability to control her addiction makes her a danger to your children as well as to the hypothetical person on the road when she is DUI. Under no circumstances can she be left in charge of your children and both she and they (depending on their age) need to understand that. I don't have any personal experience of alcoholism or drug dependency but it seems to me that she is, as others have pointed out, drawing you into her life and making you partly accountable for her behavior. What does it mean to her to keep asking you whether you will still "love her" when she messes up and whether she can still be like an aunt to your kids? The fact of the matter is that your relationship with her can't go back to whatever it was before you knew about her addictions and her endangering others. For her to ask that it will is another kind of denial of her own responsibility in controlling her addiction. And, it seems to me, that she is putting you in the position of somehow "standing by her" or "abandoning her." You aren't doing either. She is choosing to continue with an addiction regardless of how it affects the lives of people around her.

Maybe that sounds hard hearted and I'm sure she's a nice person but I'm reminded of a wonderful stand up comedian (Jimmy Tingle)'s routine on being an alcoholic. In his routine everything was a good reason to take a drink--anger, and happinness, getting along with relatives, and fighting with them. sounds to me like she is sounding you out--are you going to keep forgiving her (reason to keep drinking!) or are you going to be angry with her (reason to keep drinking!). She needs to concentrate on straightening herself out and she can't do that as long as she is using other people as a measure of what is right or wrong with her own life.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2007 at 12:16PM
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You are truly a good friend to want to stick by her in bad times. We have had a few alcoholic friends and unfortunately they became so unpleasant to be around that we drifted apart.

I spent quite a bit of time around some alcoholic adults as a kid. I didn't enjoy it at all and found it quite "uncomfortable" to be around them. Maybe your kids are younger and don't notice the alcoholic behavior - or she has been sober since they've been spending time around her. If it were me I don't think I'd ever leave kids alone with someone like that - unless perhaps they'd seen many, many years of sobriety.

I had a close relative who had major alcohol problems and several attempts to quit. I stuck by this person but finally "lost it" when I got a call at work to come and get her because she'd driven somewhere and didn't know where she was. I told her things had finally reached the point that I would no longer have anything to do with her if she continued drinking - done - I wouldn't be spending any more time with her. She knew I was serious and perhaps because she was quite dependent on me for basic life necessities, she did not ever drink again after that. I guess that is what is referred to as tough love. It made for some much nicer times for both of us in her final years.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2007 at 4:35PM
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You are a very kind friend, but for the safety and well being of your children, you will have to start setting some firm limits. She could easily do something that could end up injuring or killing your children. Once she's out of rehab, allowing your relationship to go back to what it was is just enabling her, and she will probably start drinking again fairly soon. She needs to understand that there are serious consequences to her behavior, and the loss of your support is one of those consequences.

My father in law was an alcoholic and it finally killed him. It was such a sad thing to watch. We never, never let him be around our kids unless he was at our house, and would never let him drive with the kids. His (grown) children eventually cut off contact with him because all he wanted was for them to rescue him, dry him out and let him drink again, and again, and again.

Good luck and stay safe.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2007 at 8:23PM
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From my expereince, addicts lie.
They lie about things that don't even matter.

I agree, you can't leave your kids with her, but that does not mean you have to cease all contact.

Trust is earned and at some point you will decide if she has earned the trust of your friendship again. Good luck with this - an unfortunate example of how addiction hurts everyone involved, not just the addict.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 11:12AM
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Some years ago word came on a Sat morning that my best friends had been killed in an auto accident. I rushed to their home w/key they'd given me to make sure things were in order before their out of town families arrived and tried to cope with putting away the children's new school supplies and clothes they'd rushed over to show me the night before.

The next day I stood over the caskets of the parent and two of their three children, then went to bedside of the 12 yr old daughter, seriously injured, who kept asking me why God took her family.

Same weekend, an acquaintance lost her 2 sons. All 6 of those lives were lost because of drunks!

We have an alcoholic son & despite years of trying to help, we finally told him regardless of how much we loved him, no more drunken phone calls, help or contact until he got & stayed sober. It was the hardest thing we ever had to do and kept us on our knees many hours.

He has now been sober for over 18 years. He & his wife have a beautiful relationship & have raised 2 fine sons. He tells us that our hard stand shook him to his very foundation & how thankful he is that we had the courage to do it.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 7:41AM
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I've posted on here before about a friend of mine who was the same way. I met her when she lived across the street from me (she later moved) and she was even more needy then. About a year ago she wanted me to allow her to be a partner in my new business, and I said no for various reasons, and she was devastated. Our friendship suffered after that. (I posted on here about that too)

Unfortunately, on December 26, she died from an accidental drug overdose. She was addicted to prescription drugs. Apparently it was a huge dose of Xanax, Vicodin, and the MS drugs she also took.

Tell your friend that a condition of your friendship is that she gets help. I wish I had done that. My friend is now gone.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 9:05PM
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you owe it to your friend to be honest with her. She DOES deserve to go to jail no matter how sweet she is if that is what it takes for her to stop endangering the innocent people she shares the road with. If you are soft with her, you are enabeling her. Please take the advise of others...get involved with Al-anon.

Regarding your kids....their age will dictate how much of the truth they are told. They do not, under any circumstances need to go to any more sleepovers with your friend until she is clean and sober. Suppose she stays sober until the kiddos go to bed....and then she decides it's OK now, since the kids are sleeping....and she accidently catches the house on fire. She may be passed out asleep and not available to help your children escape. Or what if she has been drinking and decides to take the kids out for ice cream and kills them all in her car. Or if one child wakes up in the night sick and she is too drunk to help them. TOO much can happen. Keep your kids home with you until she can help herself.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 11:43AM
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