Friend with a drinking problem

Well, sort of a standard issue. When I get around to it I think I’ll give AA a call, but I may as well ask the opinions of the teeming masses.

A friend of mine has a drinking problem. The problem is that he’s in denial about it, mostly due to the fact that he can’t remember what happened. Also, I guess that he’s rationalized that ending up on the wrong side of town all alone without his wallet or keys in the middle of the night is standard fare for most people.

Anyway, his issue isn’t chronic, simply the fact that about 50% of the time when he drinks he gets bad mood swings, borders on violent and blacks out. We’ve tried lifting this issue with him, but he always manages to rationalize whatever happened in the previous evening. Until further notice we’re diluting his drinks and generally keeping an eye on him, but that’s not a permanent solution. Telling him to cut off the drink is the rational solution, but naturally that will be met with a blank stare.

So teeming masses, what do you think?

Short answer is, people who don’t want to be helped can’t be forced into it. It doesn’t sound like he’s hit his personal rock bottom yet and you can’t change that. Maybe a few arrests for disorderly conduct and assault? Not that I’m saying you should call the police on him, but it sounds like it’s inevitable.

I don’t think this is a good idea. Leaving aside the moral questions about tampering with his drink without his knowledge, it will make him think that he can drink more than he can. When he’s out without you he’ll be in serious danger of getting even drunker than usual.

I used to go to Al-Anon to learn how to cope with my alcoholic family members. The most important thing I learned/realized through that experience is that you can not force a person to stop being an alcoholic. You can not force a person to stop drinking. If they’re deep into it they will not care about compromises, pleading, or ultimatums. Only they can decide when/if they have a problem. They need to hit their own personal rock bottom and then decide to make that change and, for some people, that rock bottom moment just never happens.
It seems like your friend hasn’t made that realization on his own and isn’t ready to make the changes in his drinking habits.

Problem is that this particular person will never end up on top of any argument for physical reasons, and nobody would believe that he’d pick a fight he’d so obviously lose. And he always can rationalize that the other guy started it.

Bottom line is that this is a friend, not a family member. My advice would be the same, regardless, but it should be easier to follow with a friend. The advice? If their drinking and behaviour bothers you, distance yourself from them, and let them know why.

If enough of their friends distance themselves like this, they might put two and two together. Don’t count on it, but it’s the only thing you can do to ‘help’. A drinker will not change their behaviour unless they want to, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Oh, and it’s not your responsibility, even if they are a good friend.

Sorry, maybe you wanted some more ‘productive’ advice. Problem is, too many of us on here have had to learn these lessons the hard way with family, and the only thing you can really do is save yourself from them. It’s harder with family, believe me.

Echoing the “you can’t fix it.” You can, at some point, help stage an intervention, but interventions are generally the first step, and not always a successful first step.

You also say he isn’t chronic. Which may just mean he is poor heavy drinker and not an alcoholic.

I agree with Neeps, distance yourself and tell him why. Leave when the alcohol comes out if he is there. Maybe even make the occasions you do get together dry - for everyone.

I’m not sure I’ve ever liked the “He/she must hit their personal rock bottom first” approach, because for too many people their rock bottom is death. Don’t water down the drinks, because he’s not drinking socially-he’s drinking to acheive a certain effect, and he’ll keep drinking until he gets there. Cut him off, refuse to serve him, and tell him why directly. Tell him that his friends are actually afraid for him when he blacks out, so that if he doesn’t cut back just for himself, he should do it for his friends and family.
Do not wait for some arbitrary “rock bottom” before doing this, please.

Aren’t blackouts generally considered to be a really bad sign, even if the drinker isn’t doing it every day?

I have no particular advice, but he sounds like he’s in trouble. I guess I’d just say “Dude, I can’t let you drink or be around when you do. You have a serious problem and you need to do something about it.” Over and over.

Yeah, blackouts are generally considered a really bad sign. But I’m not about to diagnose someone as a alcoholic without a medical degree based on what the drinker’s friend tells me over the internet. Took my sister years to get a diagnosis of alcoholic from medical professionals who actually saw her to diagnose her, and she blacked out.

I think “rock bottom” may be a bit extreme, but rather “recognizing something is wrong” may be more apt.

For example, one of my college roommates would always drink to excess when he drank. He never failed to drink until he puked his guts out and ended up passed out, drooling, on the bathroom floor (one time with soiled pants).

At the time, there were four of us guys sharing a small house. He once asked us “how come you guys are never sick in the morning?” He thought we had some magical hangover trick. It had never occurred to him that his experience was not normal. He thought ending up half-dead from Friday night’s libations was something that happened to everyone. I don’t think he actually had a clue what normal drinking was. To find out that none of us had ever suffered a blackout was a shocker for him.

At some point toward the end of the spring term, he did go to counseling services on campus. There was no “rock bottom” or any catastrophic event, he just came to the conclusion that they way he drank just wasn’t normal. I think the tipping point was someone had told him he smelled like gin. He hadn’t been drinking that day, but it was in his pores or something. He often just smelled boozy.

It sounds like the OP’s friend is kind of in that same boat, either from ignorance or denial. End up on lost on the wrong side of town with no keys? Ha, that’s the kind of silly adventure everyone gets into once and awhile. All part of being social, right? Happens to us all. Like drunk driving. Everyone has done it, right?

IIRC, my roommate took a term or a year off from school to get his act together. I didn’t live with him again after that, but I ran into him plenty in bars and he was definitely a totally different guy. He would have a beer in his hand, but he wasn’t the slurring, drooling wreck that I was used to seeing.

Stop rescuing him, and enlist mutual friends in the pact. Waking up penniless on the wrong side of town is much less fun when your friends all declare that they will NOT come get you this time.

The trouble with alcohol is that it makes you remember that you had a good time, regardless of whether you really did. It is a substitute for actual fun.

If one of you has a video camera, it can be instructive to get video of him being an @$$. One of my friends did this for another friend and it was eye-opening. He got footage from several different evenings, and put them together into a montage of awfulness that was undeniable. Friend2 said it was a big part of him realizing he had a real problem.

And by all means, begin telling him anytime he is being a jerk. Tell him again the next day, “you were a real jerk last night, I’m not sure I can hang out with you anymore.” The day will come when you stop taking his calls, and he will be unable to deny the reason. This is much more effective than just walking away because he can rationalize a single instance, an established pattern is more difficult to deny.

And keep yourself safe. Don’t rely on him for anything, or lend him money (ever) or let him drive, even if he seems sober. That might seem to go without saying, but just in case . . .

I think you should tell your friend, “You are no fun to be with when you drink too much. When you start getting violent or acting like an asshole, I’m going to leave.” and then do so. He can rationalize it any way he likes, but the bottom line is you leave when he drinks too much and gets stupid. If he wants you to stick around, he needs to drink less.

Grab him and start punching him until he agrees to listen