It started out fun. He worked at a bar, so he’d call me when he got off work in the early hours of the morning. I’d come over, have a drink, and lay in bed with him until the sun came up, talking about his shift and all the crazy things that happened. The clinking of ice against his glass as he took a sip became the soundtrack to our nights.
We’d take turns taking huge gulps of soda in the movie theatre, trying to clear room in the cup to add a mickey of rum. Halfway through the film, he’d pick up the cup and offer it to me, pretending to push the straw up my nose. Making me laugh. Even just dinner and a movie was a party, and we left buzzed. I would be full of giggles and could barely walk straight.
He always had a bottle of wine for me, since I wasn’t a fan of bourbon like he was. Nice wine, not just the cheap stuff— though my palate is not refined enough to tell the difference. He’d point out that the wine came from France, bottled ten years ago. “Think about what you were doing ten years ago. Think about who you were, and what was happening around you. Right now, you’re drinking history. Ten years ago, in a vineyard in France, this was someone’s life.” He took a sip of his bourbon as I contemplated my wine, the ice clinking against the side of his glass. He always had a way of putting things so eloquently— one of many reasons why I fell for him.
I could tell that he was tired. When most of us go out and get crazy on weekends, or once a month, we don’t often consider the people who do this multiple nights a week for their job. He is the bartender who does a shot with you in the middle of your wild night out. It is just one shot to you, but he does that same shot multiple times, multiple nights per week. You go home and pass out after you’ve had a few, but he goes home after just another night of work— often sleeping until the late afternoon to get ready to do it all over again.
It was often hard for him to get out of bed. He’d lay there with no motivation, texting me about how he doesn’t want to leave. He can’t get up. He can’t make it to the gym. He can’t do anything.
The bar he works at is one of the most popular bars in our city, and they have a large following on social media. Every night, it’s the same thing on repeat. Something about how beautiful the women are who are out tonight. Something about how it’s time to make bad decisions. Something about apologizing in advance to your boss tomorrow. If you use their hashtag, your photos or tweets will show up on their TVs. Numerous drunken selfies flood their timeline. What is it like to be constantly submerged into a culture of poor decision making, and drinking to a point of stupor? While it can be fun to let go every once and a while, how can it be healthy to do it long term?
I met up with him for dinner the other night and minutes into our conversation he made a rather aggressive remark. “Ouuf! Someone’s feisty tonight!” I retorted, laughing it off. “It’s because I haven’t had a drink yet today,” he replied, and I knew that he was only half joking. Within a few minutes, the sound of the ice clinking against the side of his glass once again punctuated our conversation.
He knows the effects of alcohol. He knows that it is a depressant. He knows what it does to your body. He knows it is dangerous. He is by no means ignorant. He is one of the most intelligent and insightful people that I know, but he is drowning. We’ve talked about it and he is aware of what is happening, but seems helpless to the situation.
“You don’t deserve this,” my best friend’s voice rings in my ears every time he takes it too far. “Do you really want to be with someone like that?” I avoid talking about it to my friends now because they don’t understand. If you find out that your perfect partner has an illness, like cancer for example, you’d be an asshole for leaving them. But alcoholism is so highly stigmatized that it almost becomes the acceptable thing to do. I know that he is not his alcoholism, it is the alcoholism that is consuming him.
I am not a psychologist or a doctor. There is very little that I can do for him, and ultimately, only he can make the change for himself. I can only be there for him. It is frustrating at times, because we both know what is wrong but neither of us has what it takes to change it. I can’t stop loving him, and I feel like all I can do is sit here listening to the sound of the ice clinking against the side of his glass.