The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done?

I gave a eulogy at my dad’s funeral.

And at my brother’s.

And at my grandmother’s.

I held my wife’s hand during a procedure no woman should go through once, let alone twice.

Yet, last week, I may have done one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I walked away from a friend.

A friend I’ve known for 20 years. A friend who stood up in my wedding. A friend who I’ve been on many trips with and have shared many great times with over those 20 years. A friend who might be the smartest person I know.

A friend who is fighting alcoholism — and losing. Badly. Very badly. Yet, he continues to believe he’s in control. And he continues to believe he can just go cold turkey. And he’s right. He can do that — for about three hours. Until the shakes start.

When I first knew him, there was no question he enjoyed a drink. Heck, we were young. We all enjoyed a drink. He had alcoholism in his family, but I never thought it would get to where it is today. Maybe I’m naive. And if I am, so be it. But even if he did drink more back then, nobody could be prepared for what is happening now.

It’s hard for me to even tell the story. But I have to. It’s consumed so much of me in the last few months that I need this outlet. Again, this is for me. Not for you.

I knew about a year ago that my friend was struggling. But I also knew he was strong. He could stay in control. Or so I thought. We talked regularly. Emailed regularly. Saw each other a few times. Only on one of those occasions did I start to seriously suspect a problem. A problem which had been going on, apparently, for almost a year. He just hid it from those closest to him well.

The lies were becoming more regular, as well as the defiance. He had it under control. He could handle it his way. He could just get to a point where he’d sober up and then be able to enjoy a drink now and then.

In the last 50 days, he’s been in and out of detox twice — each time getting cleaned up yet refusing to go to a long-term treatment facility. And each time, lasting barely a week or two before falling. Again.

Just as two friends and I were planning an intervention, the call came. My friend was in a car accident. In fact, he was the cause of a five-car pile up because he couldn’t tell the other four cars were stopped at a light. He was in a town he doesn’t know why he was in. Oh, and it was at 9:30 — a.m.

Thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt. But maybe this would be the wake up call that he needed. If only that were true.

My friend got DUI, and I found out that he beat one a few months earlier by talking his way out of it.

I went to his house with another friend and we convinced him he had to go to the ER – which was mostly a ploy to buy more time to convince him to stay in the hospital and detox before going to the long-term facility.

It almost worked. But he refused to go back to detox. They don’t know what they are doing, he told me. I can do this on my own, Mike. Just give me the chance. I can do this my way.

I told him that his way already failed — twice. It was time. Again, refusal.

I tried the soft approach. I tried the hard approach. I tried everything I could possibly try to help my friend.

After I took him home from the hospital, he actually had the nerve to ask me to drive him to the liquor store. “You know I’m going,” he said. “Why not just bring me and save me the walk?”

I didn’t even know how to respond, but I found these words.

“You can enable yourself. I am not going to enable you. I am not going to help kill you.”

And it literally is killing him. His liver is damaged. He’s not creating platelets. He’s a mess. He’s a shell of what he used to be.

This is a disease. I have no doubt about that. It has taken one of the smartest people I know and just broken him. Completely broken him.

And the problem is, it’s breaking all those around him who love him. Yet he doesn’t see that. All he sees is a need. A need for alcohol.

I’ve lost sleep over this. I haven’t been able to concentrate on things because of this. I’ve spent so much time on the phone and written so many emails. None of it has worked. None of it. I’m actually debating about going to an Al-Anon meeting. I never thought that could be possible, but I’m thinking about it. But that’s where my mind goes when I think about my friend being dead by the time he’s 40 — which is a possibility if he keeps going at the pace he’s on. I think of reunions he won’t be at, if that’s the case. I think of all the common ground we share and now know that we may never share that again — either because this disease beats him, or, worse, he lets it beat him.

When I was with him at the hospital the other day, I said the following. I couldn’t stop myself from saying it, not after seeing him physically beaten up and mentally beaten up, yet still convinced he was in control:

“Friend, I love you like a brother. You may think everything is fine. It’s not. It hasn’t been. You were drunk at my brother’s wake. You’ve lied to me and to others. You’ve admitted that this has beaten you, yet you won’t fight back. At all. You’ve always been a man of your word, and you said you’d go in long term if your way didn’t work. Well, it hasn’t worked twice, so now’s the time to step up. To get cleaned up and to get in for long term help. And that’s the biggest point, friend, not once have you asked for help. And until you do, until you call me from either detox or the long term facility or until you call me and tell me you need help getting to either of those places, then I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. It’s affecting me in a way I never would have thought. And I can’t do that any more. Not to myself. I’ve spoken at too many funerals, friend. I don’t want to speak at another one any time soon. Call me when you’re ready to ask for help, otherwise, good luck.”

And with that, I walked out the door.

I have the desire to help him. But he doesn’t want help. The only thing he wants is a drink.

23 Comments on “The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done?”

  1. Stormy says:

    Geez man, that’s rough. Goodness. I hope he gets the help he needs fast.

  2. Stephanie says:

    This sounds so tough. But you are a good friend and have done the right thing. Hopefully it doesn’t take something even more scary than a car crash to get him the help he needs.

  3. Fritz says:

    i have totally been there mike! you did the right thing, the only way your friend can get better is if he wants to get better, alcoholics are very selfish people and until they realize how selfish they are they never seem to really get better, good luck, my thoughts are with you!

  4. cdp says:

    I understand this in ways I can’t articulate. All I can manage to say right now is that I am absolutely sure you did the right thing. For you, and for him.

    I’m thinking of you, friend. And wishing you strength and peace.

  5. Pessimistic Redhead says:

    I’m sending you and your friend good vibes. Good luck.

  6. Melissa says:

    I am so sorry for your pain. Please stay strong – for you, and for him. I hope he calls you.

  7. Barb says:

    I am so sorry that you are having to go through this. You did the right thing though. When he wants help he needs to be the one to ask for it, and you have told him that you would be there. I just pray that he doesn’t wait too long

  8. penelope says:

    Sorry that you have to go through that. You refuse to love your friend to death and that’s important.

    He and you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  9. Anna says:

    You did the right thing. The hardest thing, but the right thing.

  10. Jennie says:

    I’m so sorry, Mike. Thanks for being such a great example for those of us who may encounter an experience like this in the future. I’m positive you did the right thing.

  11. Sara says:

    I am so sorry you are going through this – I cannot even begin to imagine the pain you are feeling.
    Take comfort in knowing that you’ve done the best thing – for yourself and your friend. He has to want to get better for himself, not anyone else, and until he realizes that, there isn’t anything anyone else can do.
    Prayers of strength to both of you.

  12. Molly says:

    Even though it was one of the hardest things you’ve had to do, it was the right thing. Praying he finds his way…

  13. JenBun says:

    Mike, you are one of the strongest people I can think of… my thoughts are with you, both of you.

    You are doing a good, if unimaginably difficult, thing.

  14. Sara says:

    He knows you will be there for him when he is ready, but you can’t help him until he wants to help himself. It is a cliche but it’s true. Go the the Al-Anon meeting… I promise it will help.

  15. tia says:

    this gave me the chills.

    kudos to you for recognizing when someone needs help, they have to be the one to ask for it, and taking a step back.

    takes courage. your friend is lucky to have you. hopefully he’ll realize it, but if not, you did the right thing. the only thing.

  16. elizabethews says:

    You are a good friend. I know from experience. You did the right thing – for you, for him, for everyone around. It is tough – I can tell by your words – but selfless people (such as yourself) need to put themselves first. Big hug (E’s version of a Moaf hug).

  17. L B says:

    he needed that. you did not—that sucks Mike. even though you said that i doubt much weight has been lifted off your shoulders, that’s just the kind of guy you are. A great friend.

  18. JC says:

    tough love

    it sux

    go to al-anon

  19. pie says:

    You and your friend are in my prayers. As previous posters have said, you did the right thing. It hurts like hell now, and will for a while but just trust that you did the right thing. because you did.

  20. WOW, I am sorry. Sometimes doing the right thing hurts. I too hope he calls for help. i know you would be a great friend when he does reach out. be well.

  21. Randy says:

    18 years sober. Been him. Been you. Welcome to powerlessness. Recovery is possible but he has to surrender. It seems you did. Go to Al- ANON. It will help.

  22. birdpress says:

    Just surfed here from another friend’s blog and this post really hit me. I’m so sorry about your friend and the toll it has taken on you. You are doing the right thing by refusing to enable him. Unless he will take that first step there is nothing you can do. I hope for both of your sakes that he will get help. It isn’t his fault that he needs to drink, but it is his responsibility to get help so he can stop. I agree with those who said you should go to al-anon. My mom went to al-anon while I was in rehab and it helped her a lot.

  23. Terri Steel says:

    What you did was difficult and brave. I lost my brother in the same manner. He was 38 when he passed on. I still wonder if my decision of tough love was for the best. I guess I will never really know, but what I do know is this. I always loved him, and he always knew that. I kept myself, and my family healthy, and my niece and nephew are amazing young adults. Sometimes all we can do is love. Like I said, I still don’t know if I should have done more, but the truth is, I would make the same choices again. God Bless.

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