You probably first met her when you were in high school or, maybe even earlier. Chances are she did not make a very good first impression. Anyway, her reputation may have preceded your meeting. Just not my taste, you might have thought. But your friends urged you to give her a chance (C’mon, everyone hangs out with her!) and soon you changed your mind; she was interesting and fun and had a way of making you feel grown up, confident and relaxed. Soon, you were spending more time with her. She was a predictable and reliable friend; she always made you feel good whether you were dealing with a bad break up, your parents’ divorce or that unfair grade from your history teacher.
She was simply great. You got along so well! In time, she moves in and officially becomes your best friend and roommate. As the years go by, you pretty much do everything together. You have a blast! You go to parties together and you feel so popular! If work is stressful, you meet her for a happy hour or even for a quick lunch. As the years go by, she helps when your husband or kids are driving you crazy. She will sit with you in the kitchen for hours. She helps you cope with everything!
Then you begin to notice that she can also be problematic. Sometimes, she makes you late for work or throws up on your favorite sweater. She’s a lousy driver. She often keeps you out much too late and convinces you do to things you would never do without her coaxing. Your friends and family may start to hint that she is not such a good friend. But you are loyal and love her and so you make excuses for her, promising she will be less problematic. However, your attempts to control her behavior do not work. When she continues to annoy everyone in your life and embarrass you, you begin to meet with her in secret. She has been your best friend for years; you cannot imagine breaking it off! No one understands you like she does.
Messes and chaos escalate; she can get so out of control! So you again attempt to control/manage/limit her. You beg, plead, and bargain. You spend many hours trying to figure out how to keep your relationship with her going without her wrecking your life. Once, Alcohol never gave you ultimatums and never required anything from you. She simply adored you. But lately, she is so much more demanding, wanting you to spend more and more time with her. Forget your friends, your family and work- just be with me, she whispers.
Even when she wrecks your car, your boss gives you a warning slip, and your partner is threatening to leave, you hang in there. You beg her to behave and you again attempt to set limits. She breaks them over and over.
You HATE her.
You LOVE her.
You cannot imagine life without her.
And now, it is her favorite time of year! She LOVES celebrations and any excuse to party. She panics when you tell her you are considering leaving her off the party list this year. So she gets mean and tells you that you are not worth anything without her. She demands you include her in all festivities. She reminds you that it is because of her that you were popular in high school and college and it was because of her you can relax and have fun. She scares you and confuses you and so you concede to take her along if she promises to behave herself.
And maybe she does behave- at that get together with friends or the progressive neighborhood dinner but then, when you think you have her under control, she gets crazy at the office party and knocks over a chair and spills red wine on your boss’s white silk shirt. Please, she pleads, just don’t dump me during the holidays, I’ll be good. I love the holidays! I love to party! You know I love a good time. I promise to be good. Please, please, please.
Then, there is a moment of clarity and you realize there is simply no good time to end a bad relationship. You know there will always be a reason to put it off-a wedding, a vacation, a birthday, a funeral, a promotion and so you end it now. The holidays will be hard without her and maybe you’ll feel sad and anxious but your life will begin to be chaos free, predictable and calm. You grieve, but you let Alcohol go because you accept your life has become unmanageable because she is in it. You accept life will only get worse if you don’t stop the relationship. You accept you cannot control her. You start your New Year Alcohol-free and watch how quickly your self-esteem improves and your relationships grow healthier.
Alcohol has moved into the lives of many posing as a great friend: charismatic and charming at first but a growing nightmare as time goes on. You are not the only one who has trouble kicking her OUT. It is a struggle to leave an abusive relationship with Alcohol and it takes support. Get help-from a therapist, an alcohol and drug counselor, a treatment program or AA. And although Alcohol has you believing differently, there is no shame in seeking help.
***Pay attention to the company you keep- some other friends that can go bad: Drugs–both illegal and prescribed, Gambling, Shopping, the Internet and even Food. All start out making you feel good but can turn on you, sometimes with tragic results.
© 2014 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist and alcohol and drug abuse counselor in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986.She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format as well as in paperback.