Whitesburg KY

The last drink



I have a friend. Let’s call him B. He is like a brother to me.

He is drinking himself to death. And I am watching.

I am not the only one, of course. His wife is watching. His teenage son is watching. They’ve tried to stop him, tried everything they could think of, and his response was to move out.

That’s how he is.

If only he got really scared, you think. But he did. He nearly died a few years ago from a hidden heart defect made worse by his weight, his inactivity, his drinking. It was only because he got to the right hospital in time, had a great doctor and I think some help from God that he survived. This is my second chance, he said then. I’m not going to blow it.

But he is.

The doctor told him he’d be dead in two years if he didn’t change his “lifestyle.” Changing his lifestyle means losing weight, getting exercise and getting off the booze.

That was two years ago. He is 30 pounds heavier now – and hitting the bottle with the new woman in his life, who encourages him to have just one, knowing (she has to know) that never in his life has he had just one.

I’ve always helped him, but I told him I wouldn’t, not anymore, unless he quit drinking. He told me he didn’t want my help. He didn’t talk to me for months.

I used to drink with him, and so did his wife. But we both quit drinking because it’s hard to enjoy a drink when someone you care about is drinking himself to death. Maybe we thought the example would show him something. She feels better. I feel better. He feels terrible.

But it doesn’t matter. He drinks when he feels terrible. He drinks when he feels better. He drinks alone if no one will drink with him.

You can’t do an intervention when someone has made clear that they’d rather lose everyone than their best friend the bottle.

I lie in bed at night sometimes and imagine how I will sue the new woman in his life on his son’s behalf, saying she fed him booze, enabled his drinking, contributed to his death and owes the son he will leave behind for it. But she doesn’t have any money, and besides, what good would it do?

When there is even a glimmer of hope, when he says to the doctor that maybe he’s ready to get help, we spring into action. We do all the research: find the best places, check to make sure they take his insurance, take notes about the procedures for admission. Old friends do everything possible, but that’s not how it works. He has to do it. He has to make the call. He has to ask for help, go to the emergency room, look in the mirror.

And he won’t.

“How can you do this to your son?” I rail. He lost his own father as a teenager. He was devastated, maybe still is. And now he’s doing the same thing to the person he loves most in the world.

“Do what?” he says, and spouts the alcoholic’s BS: He’d rather do it himself. He’s going to try to cut back. He can’t afford the time off. He’ll get it under control.

He can cure the cancer on his own.

I know alcoholism is a dis- not a choice. I know no one can help a person who doesn’t want help and no one can make a person want help. I know in the end we are each responsible for ourselves. We are not our brothers’ keepers.

But sometimes doing nothing is the hardest thing in the world to do.

I keep a black suit clean for when the phone rings, as I know it will, to tell me he’s had his last drink.

©2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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