How Do You Tell Someone They Drink Too Much?

Kristi Keller

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“I have this dear friend. Even though I love her to death…..”

We all know this story. The story where you have to add a disclaimer about how wonderful the person is before you dissect what their problems are.

Why do we feel the need to do it? Possibly because we care, possibly because we also disapprove, but we don’t quite know how to relay it to the person we’re referring to.

Back to the story now, I have this dear friend. I love her to death but she drinks so much that I don’t understand how she leads a normal life.

I drink alcohol sometimes too, and I love going on the occasional bender in the name of having a good time. I’m a super happy and fun drunk, but I can count on one hand...more like one finger...the number of times I’ll get drunk in a typical year. All those times are followed up with an entire weekend of painful recovery.

I have to plan my binges according to the life I wish to live, which is not a drunk life.

Then we have my dear friend. She can’t go one single outing or get-together where she doesn’t drink and she always has a reason why.

Take last night for example. She came over just to hang out, and brought a 26 ounce bottle of Skinnygirl margarita. Her reason this time was Friday, even though she’s currently unemployed. She made a point of saying she brought the bottle because hey, it’s Friday!

She was here for three hours and the empty bottle now sits in my recycle bin. I didn’t drink one drop of it.

Is her drinking problem my business?

It becomes my business when it’s served to me as ice cold inconvenience-on-the-rocks.

She rarely comes over to my house and I suspect it’s because of drinking and her subsequent inability to get herself home. Our get-togethers always take place at her house and usually when I’m on my way over she’ll ask me to pick her up a bottle or a case of something.

In the two years I’ve lived where I live, she’s been over twice.

If we go out together we drive separately and meet up, but I always end up driving her home. I know it’s what good friends do but it feels so one-sided. I never feel like I can let loose because I’d never be able to count on her for a ride home. Not ever. Because she’d always be drunk.

We’ve gone on a few vacations together and each time we do, alcohol always manages to interrupt the flow of an easygoing holiday. If I venture out on my own she’ll text and ask me to find a liquor store on my way back. If we’re out together she needs to duck into a bar and grab “one for the road.”

It’s almost as if I feel the need to stay sober and not ever indulge just so I can cater to her indulgences. In essence, I’m curtailing my own freedom just in case she needs to be taken care of.

I wouldn’t say she’s a messy drunk but I’d definitely say she’s an emotional drunk. When she drinks it’s almost always followed by a many-hours-long onslaught of emotional upheaval about the wrongs in her past. It’s exhausting to the point where I’ve faked falling asleep just to make her stop.

The problem for me is, how do I tell an otherwise amazing friend that her drinking is an issue for me? She’s kind, caring, and generous to a fault so how do I counter that with, “I love you but you have a serious problem.”

I recognize that I enable her by not addressing it but how does one who cares about the friendship bring it up? How do I tackle it gracefully and not jeopardize our relationship?

I’ve brought it up once or twice while she’s drunk because she seems to take harsh news better under the influence. But then she doesn’t remember it after she sobers up. I’d love to bring it up in a sober heart-to-heart with her, but then I risk offending her.

Is there a right way to do this? Or do we just let the friendship run its course? Because at some point it’ll be me who ducks out on her when I’ve had enough.

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I'm an old school travel writer who's been flung into another writing world through life experience. I have a compassionate eye, a different opinion, and strong words for this world we live in. I also know a thing or two.

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