good friend "fell off the wagon", advice please (long)

So one of my good friends (OK, ex-fiance which he ended badly by letter, but we are good friends now) had been sober ever since a drunk driving arrest in November (didn’t crash, was going the wrong way and blew through a stop sign- he was .21, and he’s 6’5" and 250). The arrest really seemed to a wakeup call and I sincerely thought that he would stay sober (he admitted his problem in May of 05), divorce his wife (it’s the most dysfunctional relationship I’ve ever seen, he admits he doesn’t love her- he married her to save her from her dysfunctional family), and get his life together. That was until this morning.

He just got back from visiting his parents up North, so I didn’t think it was a big deal that he didn’t call me or send me an ecard for my birthday yesterday. He called me this morning and hung up. He called again a few hours later, informed me he drank yesterday, and proceeded to hang up again before answering my “why” question. Background info about the incident back in November: he kept calling me and telling me he drank but his sponsor was with him and everything was fine and hanging up only to call back and tell me the same thing over and over.

So I proceed to call him back and I get answering machine at home, and voicemail on the cell. I then called a mutual friend and asked her to call him, figuring that he wasn’t picking up because he recognized my number. He hung up on her too. I then called his Dad, explained the situation, and asked if he wanted me to go to his home. He thanked me for my concern but that his wife could handle it (I immediately thought “if she could, then why wasn’t she home with him?!”).

He does attend AA, so I decide to try that route. I wasn’t successful because I don’t know where his meetings are or the name of his sponsor. IMHO, they weren’t very helpful. So, I decided to call another mutual friend that he works with. She informed me she thought he was tipsy at work yesterday, but also thought he might have been tired from flying home. She has the AA info, but it’s at home and she’s at work. At this point we decide that even though it would probably violate his probation, we need to call the cops and have them check on him. Since she was at work, I said I would do it.

I called the cops, explained that he’s a recovering alcoholic and that he has been exhibiting behavior similar to his drinking behavior, and asked if they could check on him since several friends are concerned. They take my name and number, tell me they will check and get back with me. THREE HOURS LATER I called back only to be informed that when they went to his place they couldn’t get anyone to answer the door, so they left.

I’m out of options. He’s still not answering his phone (home or cell), and he’s not online. I’ve been texting him constantly to no avail too. I don’t think he’s trying to kill himself, but I’m afraid that he might accidentally drink himself to death or will get behind the wheel of a car and kill others and possibly himself.

What do I do?

Hope for the best.

Relapse is common, especially since it sounds like this is his first attempt at sobriety. And his first admission to anyone that he is an alcoholic.

If you get a hold of him, let him know you’ll be there for him when he’s sober. There is nothing you can do for him if he’s still drinking.

I think you’ll do better being strong than being worried.

I wouldn’t worry too much that he’ll try driving somewhere. He’s probably feeling a good bit ashamed of himself, so if anything he’s probably closed up in some room with the shades pulled and not going anywhere.

You’ll have a chance to talk to him again. And then is when you are needed. And the goal is to be strong, supporting, and making it known that you’ll kick his ass if he does it again. Appearing worried, or overly “trying to help” I don’t think are very good–they just make him feel like more of a helpless loser, which leads to more drinking. I.e. friend, not parent.

Anyhoo, I’m saying that mostly on what I do. I can’t say that I have had a chance to test it, but if it sounds like it makes sense to you then I hope it serves you well.

It’s not his first relapse. He went on a bender May of last year when he lost a job. At that time he called me, apologized for ending the relationship the way he did many years ago and asked for my forgiveness (I had forgiven him a long time ago). He also admitted his problem (I was one of the first people he told) and asked for my support. I told him I would support him.

He had some minor slips over the Summer of 05, but recovered quickly. In November his wife (who used to be my roommate in college and for some reason can’t stand me now) messed up the finances (his family won’t let him have control of the finances because of the drinking). He turned to the bottle, started calling me, then told me his sponsor was with him (which he was not), and then proceeded to drive, which is when he got arrested.

Things had been going well (got a job with a mutual friend, got the court thing taken care of, continued attending AA) until this morning. I don’t know what caused this latest incident, but I would be willing to bet that his wife has something to do with it.

Why did he relapse?

Basically because he’s an alcoholic who’s not working a strong enough recovery program to keep his alcoholism in remission.

Unfortunately there’s not much you can do except detach, let him know you support his efforts to get sober and you’ll be there when he’s not drinking, and encourage him to get with his recovery program and/or a decent counselor/therapist/doctor who’s knowledgeable about alcoholism.

I grew up with an alcoholic aunt, so I know what you are telling me is what I should do. The problem is, I can’t help but feel like I’m the catalyst for all this. His problematic drinking started after he broke things up. I didn’t take it well (thanks to my Mom, I’m here right now), and I know that made him feel bad (as evidenced by the fact that he was sobbing and asked for my forgiveness 10 years after the fact). I honestly wonder if he started drinking because of that. Add to the fact that this time he relapsed on my birthday and I just feel like poo right now.

You can’t control other people’s reactions to events. Most people do not become alcoholics after relationships end. And yes, I know that you know this, but you have to keep reminding yourself of this.

You didn’t make him drink – and you can’t make him get sober. These are his choices. He’s making poor choices right now because he’s an active alcoholic, but they are his choices and he has to deal with the consequences of them.

Sorry – you are, in fact, not the center of the universe.

I never said I was.

You’re not that powerful. No human is.

If you really think you’re responsible for someone else’s alcoholism, I suggest you try Al-Anon.

They’ll share their experiences, strength and hope. AND help get you to understand that you didn’t cause his drinking, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.

The logical part of me knows all this. I don’t know why I feel this way, other than a small piece of my mind that keeps saying “what if things had turned out differently?”. Not that I don’t love my husband or like my life the way it is, I just can’t help but wonder.

Odds are you’d then be married to a relapsing alcoholic, which is not a happy situation. I can send Mrs. Mercotan over to tell you about it, if you like. She’ll offer to take you to an Al-Anon meeting, I’m sure. :wink:

Fortunately I finally got sober about 16 years ago, after relapsing waaaay too many times. But part of the reason for my getting sober was everyone around me essentially pulling away from me and saying “we care about you but you need to go and get well now. We’ll welcome you back when you’re sober”.

I think that even if everything else in his life had gone perfectly he would still have a tendency towards alcoholism.

Almost every drug addict and alcoholic I know relapses at least once in their struggle for sobriety. To repeat what everyone else has been saying: You can’t help him, so instead of being worried, be hopeful. And don’t enable him, which is what my mom did with my dad. Don’t “help” him when it might actually hurt him - help him only if he only needs help getting sober. What I mean is say he gets fired for being drunk at work. Don’t give him rent money every month. Extreme example, but it gets the point across.

Also, might wanna check out the Alanon meetings mentioned above. They do wonders, and no one expects you to say anything, you can just listen. And most of them have free coffee.


I just got off the phone with him. We talked for about a half hour. He says he is so ashamed of letting everyone down and that he just wants to die. I told him that we care and we don’t expect him to be perfect, but we do expect him to reach out and get help when he feels like drinking. He agreed and said he would get back on the AntAbuse and go to a meeting today (it’s at 10). I made him promise me to call me after the meeting.

Or he’s just decided he wants to drink and made the conscious choice to do it. AA doesn’t work for everyone, and if he’s going just because of family or the law, then it definitely won’t work for him.

I’ve found that you have to have a continuing strong desire to stop before you can actually stay on the wagon for a prolonged time. I’m guessing his desire to drink has outweighed his desire for sobriety (if he ever desired it at all).

This is a sad situation.

But your husband must be one understanding guy.

This guy is not your responsibility. You have your own life and your own family. I’m reading things like:


Yeah, well what about it? Others have said it better than me. You aren’t responsible, and you aren’t all powerful. It sounds like someone is still burning a candle for someone else and is staying involved in a life that should have been in your rearview mirror a long time ago.

You say:

He ended it badly by letter. You had trouble getting over it.

What does that mean? You were suicidal? That’s not good. But I’m glad you got your life turned around. But this joker is going to drag you down if you let him.

Give your husband a hug and thank your lucky stars for him. And move on. For everyone’s sake.
Sorry to be such a downer, but you need some cold water. My wife’s friend had a son that sounds similar to your “friend”. Guess what? He drank himself to death. He apparently fell in the driveway trying to get into the house, hit his head, and bled to death before anyone found him. Tragic? You bet. Avoidable? Don’t know. Some people just can’t get it right. And this guy pulled a lot of people down with him emotionally. Including a wife and three kids.

So what happens if your ex-fiancee dies? Is it your fault? Would he be alive if you married him? Please. You’d be a widow making funeral plans.

Enjoy your life. It’s the only one you get. And it sounds like you have some wonderful people around you.

Read twickster’s response again. It wasn’t as harsh as you think.

And in my (limited) experience, addicts LOVE to blame anyone but themselves for their addiction. Don’t make that easy, because if he can blame you, he won’t get sober - he’ll always have this convienent excuse.

Sorry I didn’t respond all weekend, but my husband and I went out of town (we had this trip planned for months).
He never called me after the meeting, which worried me. He finally called and left me a voicemail Saturday night. He is in the hospital drying out. At least I know he is safe.