March 26, 2009
Would you spike a recovering alcoholic’s drink with liquor, knowing that it would cause a relapse?
If I had never seen an alcoholic relapse in front of me, then there’s a terrible part of me that might have been tempted to consider (just consider, mind you, not say yes) this dare for a second. Now, it’s no secret that I enjoy a drink or five from time to time. Many of my friends, too, are fond of the old Mother’s Ruin, not to mention my parents (hi, Mom and Dad!). You go out (or stay in), you have a few cocktails or glasses of wine. Maybe the next night you don’t drink at all, or maybe you do. No big deal. Except what I was never able to understand at a gut level is that for some people, it’s a really big deal. I realize how idiotic that sounds, but bear with me. When I was in Europe, I had a friend who had been in AA for several years and was generally doing really well with his sobriety. Although it was obviously a daily struggle, he made it look pretty manageable. He was diligent about finding meetings and a local sponsor, and he seemed tolerant of and vaguely amused by the prodigious amounts that everyone else drank.
Then came the visit to the winery. I’m still not totally clear on what happened, but he started to drink. I remember nervously asking him if it was a good idea, and I also remember other people being delighted that he was finally “loosening up.” And loosen up he did. To this day I’ve never seen someone go from zero to hammered as quickly, nor have I seen such an immediate and almost physical change come over someone. It was some serious Jekyll and Hyde business. The kicker came the next morning, when he said, “I really wasn’t that bad, was I? I was thinking that I could probably start drinking a little bit again.” Holy shit. Although things were OK in the end, I still feel guilty to this day that I didn’t execute a flying leap across the table and kick the wineglass out of my friend’s hand. And I never want to see that happen again.
Long story short – there is no way that I would be responsible for causing someone to relapse.
Wow. This is a compelling and scary story, and it really made me stop in tracks and think about this question in a way I don’t know that I would’ve if I hadn’t read it. Drinking is all fun and games (except for the hangovers) until someone gets…hurt in a way that genuinely impacts their life, I guess. I think the guilt associated with watching someone’s demise — especially one that you not only stand by idly and watch, but facilitate and are specifically responsible for, might be too much for me. In other news, Lauren, this story is kind of amazing.