I had an interesting experience a few nights ago, and my reaction to it was even more interesting. My husband Herman and I invited three couples over for a dinner/pool party. We began by mixing cocktails and chatting in the living room for the first hour or so, and then people migrated to the pool for a swim before dinner.
One person, I’ll call him John, I didn’t know all that well. I’d talked to him several time prior, and during those times he usually seemed three-sheets-to-the-wind. While a lively conversation held everyone’s attention, John sat silently drinking his vodka-rocks twice as fast as everyone else. He kept getting up to pour his own refills, and even asked for a plastic cup so that he could take a drink into the pool.
Long story short, he sat there drinking himself into a stupor. I was one of the two non-drinkers at the party, and I found that I was very much bothered by John’s behavior, although everyone else seemed oblivious.
Frankly, I didn’t know what to do. I felt sorry for him, but I also didn’t want to contribute to that behavior. During dinner, everyone except John switched to red wine. John continued to knock back vodkas. He hardly ate anything. It was clear he was there for one reason. The longer this went on, the more compelled I became to do something, but I had no idea what. How do you tell an alcoholic that his behavior is unacceptable? I didn’t feel I had that right to even judge him, let alone complain.
As dinner wound down, everyone moved to the patio, and some when back into the pool. I stayed behind to clear the table and clean up. The first thing I did was put the liquor bottles back into the cabinet.
The funny thing was, everyone except John seemed nonplused by my closing the bar, and it was not long after that the couples began to leave. John took it in stride. Of course, he was drunk enough by then that nothing would have surprised him.
It actually wasn’t until the next day that I realized why I had such a strong reaction to John’s alcoholism. Before I learned to control my drinking habits, I occasionally (not often) acted in that same way. I was really judging my own behavior, my own demons. Now I can only be grateful that I no longer allow myself that vice.
I wish there were something I could do for John.