When a friend reveals painful personal information......

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 25, 2009 5:55 PM GMT
    A friend of mine that I have known for more than a dozen years, is also my Hairstylist. I saw him on Friday for a haircut. As we were chatting, and he is cutting my hair, he informs me that he has come to the realization that he is having a "severe drinking problem" and that it is now having "negative effects" on his health. He was telling me about how his Dr. did blood work and told him of highly elevated levels indicating liver damage and precursors of cirrhosis and other organ damage. He was also telling me of his first AA meeting that he attended in the last week. "Chris" is 45 and is a fantastic guy....very personable and very functional...you would never know he was having a problem with drinking. He is never "late" and has never "called off sick" from anything, he is not "violent" has a "clean" driving record, is a great manager and planner of money and activities, etc....
    I am unsure why I was told and I am now unsure what to do with the information and how to best support and help my friend. Does he want or expect my help? I have never been in a situation with him where drinking was an option..that's just not the nature of our friendship.
    "ADDICTIONS" of any type have similar generic treatments....I don't know enough about the "AA model" for helping an Alcoholic. I know that when I tried OA (Overeaters Anonymous) it was more of a "spiritual approach" to accept your illness and to actively make a choice to delay feeding your craving until someday in the future...and that day would always be "tomorrow".....it didn't work for me. I am afraid that AA would be the same as OA and not be enough help for my friend. I guess I am wondering what to do?
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    Jul 26, 2009 3:34 AM GMT
    I believe each person's addiction is different, but I think it's wonderful when they admit to being an addict and needing help. One of my best friends is an addict and alcoholic, and in recovery from both. When he told me he started seeking help, I was so proud of him. And, though he fell off the wagon a few times, I'd be supportive every time he'd go back to AA.

    I recommend that you be as supportive as possible (and as supportive as you're comfortable with) and even offer to go to a meeting with your friend, if you're close.

    I went to a CDMA meeting with my friend and it was one of the most enriching events I've ever attended. One of the members got up and told the group his life story - it was far sadder than any story/plot you could ever imagine. But, to see this man admitting, and owning, that he'd been beaten, abused, molested, and every other horrid thing - and he was still alive, and fighting to stay sober, was just incredible. And, seeing so many people support him, was an excellent example of the strength of a community - whether it's a GLBT community, or a community of people in recovery.

    I'd say tell him you're proud of him and that you support him fully.
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    Jul 26, 2009 3:49 AM GMT
    I'm not sure how valuable this friendship is in terms of how serious you want to get w/ dealing with his private life. Obviously he has made some connection with you to divulge personal and painful information, However it could have been no more than him venting as patrons do when they drink at a bar and unleash the events of their day to a bartender. Some people might not think it's so intimate but considering how some feel about there hair, your stylist/barber etc can be a very intimate experience. I can imagine it's very similar as for a small time you engage on many levels. Some being personal while at other times simply bullshitting. A friend is there for a friend and maybe your best bet is to tell him if he needs or if you can do anything that your there for him. This leaves him having the option to call upon you as requested but only do this if you plan to follow thru as it might be a hard process for you as well, to watch the destruction of this type of illness.

    Best of Luck...
  • danisnotstr8

    Posts: 2579

    Jul 26, 2009 3:52 AM GMT
    This is a very dear and caring post. I truly do think you are a special person for seeking advice here. And, may I add: the reason your hairstylist told you all this is because he knows all that about you. He has been cutting your hair for many years, and he knows that in the most basic way, he truly loves you as a person.

    I'm going to have to agree with the previous poster. Go with him to a meeting. If he doesn't want that, or tries to avoid it, then show up anyway. He'll be overjoyed.

    I recently read "Dry" by Augusten Burroughs. It's one of the most touching stories I've ever read, and it's also a comedy, and it will make you both laugh out loud and cry. "Dry" is Burroughs' exaggerated memoir about going away to a gay alcoholic recovery house in Minnesota, and then returning to New York City and trying to deal with the addiction. There is a love story built in. And a particularly funny rant about Sally Struthers, which you might really appreciate. I think you should both read it and share your thoughts with each other.

    If any of that sounds outlandish, I'm sorry!
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    Jul 26, 2009 3:56 AM GMT
    In my experience when someone tells you something like this, they have gotten to a point where they are very concerned about their habit and are looking for support.

    So that means, give him support. In whatever form that has to be. And ask him what kind of support he needs from you. He's opened that door, so these kinds of questions aren't probing. You're being called upon to be his support.

    I don't have much advice beyond that, but in dealing with a close friend who had an addiction problem, this is what I learned. Thankfully, he's now sober.
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    Jul 26, 2009 4:27 AM GMT
    How many of us out there know someone who has had some kind of problem, and for us to say after the fact "I wish I had known, I would have done something"?

    I think it was very courageous of this guy to talk to you about this issue he is having. It's not easy to admit when you have a substance use problem, especially with alcohol, as people see it as a legal drug and are sometimes less willing to admit having these problems.

    You obviously seem like a very caring person. I'd maybe approach him and ask if he wants to talk about it more, if there is anything you can do to help. If his doctor has pointed out all these problems, I would assume (naively, possibly) that the doctor has given him some referals to people or places that can help him? He's going to AA, and that's a good start (I dislike the self-help model because it becomes a crutch people don't want to move off from) but at least he's doing something.

    You're now going to have to modify your behaviour around him, especially in social circumstances. If he's trying to quit alcohol he needs to change his life, but you can help. Organise things away from bars or where alcohol doesn't need to be consumed, or where everyone agrees not to drink. He needs to learn coping mechanisms but in the mean time he cant have alcohol waved in his face.

    Good luck with it.
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    Jul 26, 2009 5:03 AM GMT
    While the AA model may not be perfect, it has the highest long term success rate. (Long term being the most important aspect.)

    If he's going to meetings, don't go with him particularly if he asks you not to.

    Your support is admirable and I'm sure that just telling him that you support him is the best thing you can do at the moment. While your experience with O.A, may have been not sufficient to you. There are two issues to consider.
    First, every AA meeting is different - some may focus on one aspect more than another.
    Secondly, there is a difference between AA and OA in the sense that alcoholism is not just a behavioral issue, it is in fact a drug that affects body chemistry and function and has to be totally eliminated and not 'controlled' as you would food which is necessary to live. In the case of alcoholism, alcohol must be totally abstained from in order to survive.
    The last note I'd make is that there are plenty of people who successfully remain sober via AA who are atheists. You don't have to be spiritual for the AA program to be effective.

    You shouldn't have to modify your behavior unless you wish to, as that is up to him to do.
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    Jul 26, 2009 5:08 AM GMT
    danisnotstr8 saidIf any of that sounds outlandish, I'm sorry!

    I don't think any of what anyone has written sounds outlandish (and I'm going to go to Borders and get Dry tomorrow...I need a good book).

    In my own life I have made a daily decision not to use for over 25 years. Recovery is a life long process and a personal decision I have to make every day. It may not be a conscious decision anymore now that the obsession is gone - but my disease is waiting for me to let my guard down so it can strike again. The tools of AA help me keep it at bay.

    I went to an outpatient treatment program where I learned the tools (steps) of recovery and learned in AA and NA meetings how to put those tools (steps) into practice in my daily life.

    Just as my addiction touched EVERY aspect of my life - so must my recovery. Part of his recovery will be seeing the success and struggles of other alcoholics/addicts dealing with life's ups and downs while remaining sober. I found an excuse to use and drink for every and any reason: when it was sunny or rainy and or to celebrate a success or to drown my sorrow. I got sober and gasp!...it still rained and it was still sunny and I was still disappointed and I was still happy...and learned how to experience those things without being anesthetized. He will too, in time. icon_biggrin.gif

    Part of the "meeting" process is learning from other recovering addicts. Sharing our own personal struggles, shortcomings and success and supporting each other through the process. While I don't go to meetings regularly anymore - my sobriety is still just as strong. One of the slogans is "to keep it - we have to give it away"...and that's what I do by living a sober life - not just a dry life.

    Sporty, absolutely be his friend and support him with all your being ... and encourage him to seek the support and wisdom of meetings as well. If he doesn't like one meeting...guess what, there are 20 other ones he can try.

    That's all I got...take what you want and throw the rest away!
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    Jul 26, 2009 5:15 AM GMT

  • Webster666

    Posts: 9217

    Jul 26, 2009 6:12 AM GMT
    Perhaps he just needed to tell somebody. You obviously care about him, so just be there as a friend. Give him encouragement. That he realizes and admits that he has a problem, is a great first step. And, it appears that he wants to do something about it. That's another great step. Just keep on being his friend. You don't have to do anything else. And, I don't think that he expects anything more from you.
  • Halfstep

    Posts: 859

    Jul 26, 2009 1:38 PM GMT
    I've had really bad experiences with people with substance abuse issues. Because of that, I am a bit more pessimistic than a lot of other people.

    For me, I wouldn't have the patience at all. I wouldn't dare try because I'm so use to being faced with the mixtures of apathy, ambivalence and avoidance and sometimes it can just be too much to deal with.

    I believe sometimes people just need to talk, during some moment of epiphany perhaps, people just need to vocalize a thought, a realization. It does not always mean that they are crying out for help.

    This is what I had to realize trying to assist a friend of mine. That whereas he needed someone to confide in regularly, he had no true intentions of changing, stopping even, and that just led me to feel like a failure when I got him into a rehab program and he left to do the same thing all over again.

    I say take it for what its worth. He needed to vent about a problem. Travel cautiously as you decide to take whatever steps to help him that you may be considering. And be sure not to develop any co-depency issues along the way.