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How can I stop my friend Sue from drinking herself to death?

Today my friend Sue should be celebrating her 50th birthday, she is a real party animal and had been planning a bash. Only drink got the better of her first – or should I say the worst.

As a result she is in a vegetative-like state in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, virtually comatose, unable to recognise me or to speak, simply lying flat on her back, staring up at the ceiling, waiting for medical results about possible damage to her organs.

Tears filled her eyes as I stroked her face in sadness and disbelief at how my former fun-filled friend, generous to a fault, could have ended up like this. It doesn’t help that her husband is a tax exile and has to spend half the year out of the country, always away for Christmas and her birthday. She was distraught that many of her friends died young in recent years, but it was the grief of losing her mother that I think finally pushed her over the edge, they were inseparable.

I have watched Sue’s decline over the last few years and pleaded with her to seek professional help, to call Veronica, a reformed alcoholic who runs a clinic in Cambridge, but she never did. I called the police a few months ago when her slurring, inaudible voice tailed off on the phone and I feared the worst. It was her friend Celia who found her barely alive on the kitchen floor just before Christmas.

Sue used to be a beautician and a cordon bleu chef, she was clever and bright, witty and entertaining. Yet she ended up being shunned by friends who found her unpredictable behaviour and outbursts upsetting, she alienated herself from everyone, even my younger son found her actions scary at times.

She used to seek solace at the convent school she attended as a child, helping out with gardening and odd jobs, only the nuns banned her visits when it was noticed she was sipping vodka from her hip flask while weeding. It would be laughable, except it isn’t when it is your friend who has lost all restraint, the will to win the battle of the booze, sinking into a deeper and deeper stupor to drown out your personal sorrows and inadequacies.

My concern is that at the end of the day, Sue has nobody close by her side to help her through this, her husband is flying home from Rio de Janeiro today where he captains a ship, but it won’t be long before he is off again. He is naturally at his wits end too.

Sue is a toughie and I’m hoping she will pull through, though we don’t yet know if she will retain the full use of her faculties. It is certainly a sober warning about the vice-like grip which alcohol has. What can be done to help our lost souls like Sue?

Update: Sadly, my dear friend Sue passed away on 1st February, 2007.


13 Comments

  1. Kate Lewis

    So sorry to hear about your friend Ellee, but as many others have said there is just nothing you can do and it is painful to feel so powerless. It’s a pointless exercise to ‘compare’ addictions, I think, or to create some kind of a hierarchy of which is worse, but I guess that maybe more of us have had experience in one way or another of alcoholism than of other addictions and so know firsthand the devastating effects. All good wishes to Sue.

  2. I’m sorry to hear about that, Ellee, and I hope she pulls through. It is indeed very tragic. Let it also serve as a sober warning to myself and others I know who can be tempted to drown their sorrows when going through a hard time.

  3. Geoff, Thanks for the links, very interesting. Sue is much the same, I hope to visit again next week when I have completed my PR diploma studies.

  4. I dont think there is anything you can do either, no one can help untill she wants help,and asks for help.The sad thing is, it effects so many people close to them not just themselves…..

  5. Perhaps there isn’t anything you can do to stop her drinking herself to death, but you can continue to be there for her.

    It’s heart rending – keep being her friend is the best thing that you can do. I hope you both have a better 2007 than 2006

  6. It’s always so sad when alcohol ruins people’s lives and, of course, it has such a terrible impact on those who are close to them. Eric Berne’s book on Transactional Analysis (as Geoff says above) ‘Games people play’ is good for helping one towards an understanding of the alcoholic. In the end, the person herself has to recognise that she has a problem, no-one else can do it for her.

  7. What can i say? What can be done? its just simply tragic. :o(

  8. I wish your friend well – alcohol can be a dreadful drug and all too accessible for those who find life difficult, especially coping with their internal demons. I have a friend who is a heavy social drinker – now in his 70s, but having spent a career in PR dining and fine wining, his health suffers as a result. I try to get him to focus on being around long enough to enjoy the pleasures of life. Perhaps Sue can find something in life to hold onto rather than in needing to find solace in the booze.

  9. Ellee, you might try reading some of Eric Bernes stuff like this http://www.ericberne.com/games/games_people_play_alcoholic.htm

  10. What a tragic story. I really hope she can pull through this time. It is very hard though and I have the utmost sympathy for her and for you as her friend. Like Welshcakes I have no real advice to offer or answers, I don’t think there are ever simple answers but I really hope she can get out of this bad period in her life.

  11. I really feel for Sue and for you as her friend, Ellee. Any addiction is a sad and horrible thing and I don’t know what the answer is – I wish I did. I do think loneliness plays a major part.

  12. That’s a warning to all the people who drink consistantly. Have the increased pub hours been a factor as well.

    My good wishes to Sue, and hope she will come through fully recovered.

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