All Seemed Rosy

It’s a beautiful Monday morning here. I’m sitting here with my morning coffee and enjoying my favourite time of day, as I always do in the mornings. A bit of course work to finish and I need to get back on the job search too, but right now I’m quite preoccupied with my worry over my friend Poppy.

I guess a bit of a background summary is needed as it’s been a while since I talked about her…

We met when we worked for the same company roughly ten years ago. Poppy was Head of Business Administration, a great position that she did incredibly well, and I was PA to the director of the company. Given our roles were similar, there was a lot of overlap and through working together we got to know each other well. We clicked, and in no small part this was because we were birds of a feather. My drinking at this point of my life was at its absolute worst – it was around this time I sniffed around morning drinking and I was barely functioning. There were times when I’d rush off for my lunch break and head to the pub around the corner from the office, order a pint of lager (because it’s easier to gulp down quickly than e.g. wine) and throw this down my neck in a desperate attempt to keep at bay what felt like (and probably was) an impending fit or just collapsing. These were the days of holding the pint glass with both hands because I was shaking so hard I worried I’d knock and break off a tooth or something with the glass. It was hell.

Poppy and I became fast friends and the times we went for drinks after work were to my mind The Best. Here was someone who drank like I did and we’d normally, over the course of just a couple of hours, polish off four bottles of wine between us. I’d then head home and drink even more. Figuring out the next day how I’d got home and what I’d had to eat usually consisted of checking my phone and bag and the rubbish bin for clues.

It’s not my business to diagnose anyone, but I always saw in Poppy what is in me too. I’m sure it was also a way of projecting my own shit in order to avoid dealing with it for myself, but I know in my heart that she’s in a much worse way than she now would have me believe.

And what’s that?

Well. Poppy has taken quite some fall and the trajectory has been very steep indeed.

The company went bust and closed the office. I had since moved on to another job so it didn’t affect me, and actually for Poppy it meant a huge improvement. With the office closed but the company still maintaining a smaller operation in the UK, she was allowed to do the same job but working from home and on the same salary. Poppy moved into a lovely seafront apartment down on the coast and all seemed rosy.

First came all the injuries. She ended up falling over drunk and really hurting herself, including black eyes, at one point broke her foot, other times breaking a wrist and I believe once fracturing her ribs. Then came all the Bad People. She ended up associating with these really horrible characters who treated her poorly and abusively, but for whatever reason her self worth had plummeted to a level where she believed this was all OK. Poppy dated the sort of men you might see on the Jeremy Kyle show – I hate to sound like a snob and God knows I’m not trying to say I was ever any better, but these guys were real low lives. Scum, in fact. For whatever reason, Poppy was like a moth to the flame though, and would pursue these shit bags. And that’s when the really shitty stuff began to happen.

It coincided with the company she’d worked for from home on a great salary folded completely. Poppy had struggled for some time with depression and anxiety and ended up on medication. Her drinking was getting out of control and she was in a bad way – her son and his girlfriend (who shared the apartment with Poppy) were desperately worried and the girlfriend confided in me that they wanted to stage an intervention because they didn’t think she’d survive. I was on board (busy projecting too!) but of course it all backfired and Poppy was FURIOUS with us for suggesting there was a problem with her drinking. She read us the riot act and we shut our mouths after that.

Poppy, one of the most caring and giving people I know, pursued support worker roles and ended up taking a carer’s position as well as volunteering at a Samaritans call centre. At the call centre she got mixed up with more low level scumbags. These people make the crazies who used to appear on the Jerry Springer show appear pillars of society. Amongst them a guy she ended up hooking up with, despite how he was also sleeping with the rest of the team of women at this call centre. The first low point was a furious row where Poppy ended up slapping him across the face and he called the police. She was promptly arrested and spent the night in a cell. Everything took a real nose dive from there.

Things just seemed to go really badly in all respects and about a year ago, Poppy got caught drink driving – three times over the limit. In the morning. And she lost her job, the carer’s position for which she needed to drive. Her licence was revoked and it ended up in the local papers as these court things do, i.e. her name and her offence. Her humiliation was complete. By this point, her son and his girlfriend had moved to a different part of the country, and she decided to follow them to get away from the toxic cliques of people she’d got so entangled with and get a chance to heal.

Where she is now, the health care is better and she has better support, but Poppy is unable to work because her mental health is at rock bottom and she’s on multiple medications including antipsychotic pills. When I spoke with her yesterday, she was slurring (it was around lunchtime), kept losing her train of thought, seemed very confused, got emotional several times interspersed with giggling happily one minute and getting angry the next. She is on benefits and going bankrupt. She has no one around except her two cats because her son and girlfriend have moved out. Are they busy trying to escape aka self preserve? She is feuding with her neighbours, aggressive and nasty things happening all the time (they’re throwing dirty nappies into her garden, overturning her rubbish bin etc etc). Poppy tells me she suffers hallucinations, sees people outside her window and at the door, and recently fell out of bed because she woke up in the middle of the night because “this woman was lunging at me and I fell out of my bed as I tried to get away from her“. She has a community psychiatric nurse who comes to see her, following a crisis where her son had to wrestle her to stop her taking a bunch of pills to kill herself. Poppy is in a bad, bad way. The worst I’ve seen.

What I want to believe: the medications she’s on are doing this. It’s her fragile state of mind that’s breaking her down to this. It’s depression, anxiety and PTSD. Poppy has been through some really shitty stuff and she just needs to heal.

What I know in my gut: it’s the alcohol and everything else is a smoke screen. There has been some bad things and she’s had bad luck, but it’s the booze that’s taken her to this awful point.

It’s a long, long fall. Poppy has lost literally everything. She is frail and fragile, both mentally and physically. I’m so worried and sad for her that it breaks my heart.

What do I do? Do I accept she can only stop when she’s ready or will I sit here not too long from now and bitterly regret that I didn’t do anything to help? It’s so hard when you gently suggest removing the booze might be a good thing when Poppy is adamant that she hardly drinks at all now due to the meds. I know in my heart this isn’t true. This is at the very crux of what I’m trying to dedicate my life to now and perhaps it’s important that I’m facing this impossible situation. And it seems clearer than ever that nothing I say or do will make a difference until Poppy herself decides she’s had enough and wants to make a change.

Alcohol is a cruel fucking beast.

Today I’m not going to drink.

17 thoughts on “All Seemed Rosy

  1. Do you know of anywhere that you can ask to do a welfare check on her? It just seems to me that she really needs it, she probably won’t like it nor appreciate you doing it but how will you feel if this ends badly and you have that spark of I wish I’d tried this? I’m not saying this is all your problem but I can tell that you care and what if someone can help her and what she really needs is that help because she doesn’t have the energy to do it on her own? If she totally rejects that help then that is okay it’s totally her choice but at least then you won’t have any what if moments.

    It’s a tough one my Soul Sister and I’m not saying that you have to do the above because that is your choice. Almost feel mean now putting that sort of pressure but you don’t have to do anything more than contact somewhere to ask them to check up on her as you are concerned. xox

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    1. You’re right. She already gets visits from a psychiatric nurse given her fragile mental state and heavy medication. But I guess even if they suspect she drinks, it’s ultimately her word they’ll have to accept. It’s really, really shitty. Xxxxx

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  2. What a terribly sad and distressing situation. When you have given up alcohol and seen the impact it has from the other side it can be a scary view. It sounds like you did a great job allowing her to talk about everything the other day. You are in an extremely difficult situation and I’m afraid I wouldn’t be confident in advising what the best way to manage this is. Such a tough balance between support, help and pushing someone away. I wish there was some way of showing others exactly how poisonous and toxic alcohol is and that removing it is tough but can change everything.
    Sending love 💕 and hugs 🤗
    Claire xx

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  3. Plant seeds. That’s what we do in these situations. “It doesn’t have to be this way” “You’re telling lies only you believe” (when she says she’s barely drinking), “There is a way out for you when you’re ready” “You don’t have to live in this misery if you choose not to”… things like that. The faster she reaches her bottom at this point, the better. Help her see it.

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    1. Thank you. You’re right, and that’s what I’m trying to do. Sent her a message this morning telling her I love her, how important she is to me and how she can always turn to me without fear of judgement. I said how I want to support her to get the help she needs. I didn’t say alcohol straight out but just reiterated how my life has changed so much for the better, said I’m not trying to pry or get in her business, just that I’m so worried and sad for her. It’s such a devastating fall and at this point I’m scared she might die before reaching a rock bottom she won’t leave in a coffin. It’s watching a terrible thing happen right before my eyes. And it could so easily have been me, her situation now is where I was heading rapidly. I pray she finds the hope and will to find her way out before it’s too late. If she was in better shape physically it might not feel quite as urgent but she has deteriorated really fast over the past two-three years – aged decades, gone from a little chubby to painfully skinny and frail, unsteady and shaky etc etc. Thanks for the advice, I’ll keep on trying to balance kindness, honesty and that I love her. 😞

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      1. bgddyjim is always The Voice of Reason. We may not always see things exactly the same way, but he always talks sense and puts things across that makes things clearer and he does it in a way that never feels abrasive even when I (initially) don’t feel ready to accept the truth or what he’s saying. That’s a rare and much needed skill. I sometimes imagine him rolling his eyes at my latest rant, then chuckling good naturedly before patiently guiding me to whatever it is I’m trying to see/understand. The man is gold! 😊🙌

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  4. Oh Anna, I feel so sad for her. On my checkout I see many people who degenerate before my eyes. Once the decline’s begun, it escalates quite quickly. But I’ve seen some get better. One of my best friends in the world is going through something just like this with a loved one. She feels helpless and so do I. I’m not qualified to suggest or advise. You’re always going to be such a good friend in whatever you choose to do. But take care of yourself too. Love to you and to Poppy. Xxx

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  5. I lost a friend a couple of years ago, who was a great deal like Poppy. She was a brilliant lawyer, married to one, as well. She had a beautiful son, two fine cats, and a big, quirky old Victorian house filled with books, art, and half-dead houseplants. She had many talents, but keeping things alive was not one of them.

    Sobriety wasn’t a talent of hers, either. She, in fact, was the person I used, complacently, for several years—as my “well, at least I’m nowhere near as bad as HER!” person. I suppose all drunks have one of those, a sort of aide-de-camp in our Grand Denial Campaign. Her dual poisons of choice were vodka and good Kentucky bourbon whiskey, not wine, which also reassured me, for some cockamamie reason. My preferred tipple, by contrast, seemed downright innocent.

    Years ago, she went to a very expensive, luxurious rehab, replete with spa services, massages, Michelin-star-quality food, and even horseback riding! She came back glowing, and said she wished she could live there. Of course, she relapsed almost immediately, and her next few rehabs (I think she went in six times, total) were in progressively less-fancy places, until her final one in a state-run institution that also served as an all-purpose loony bin for our state’s poor.

    What should have been her rock bottom, what should, in fact, have killed her, was the time she ran her husband’s prized vintage sports car into a neighbor’s house. She plowed right through a plate glass window, scattering bricks, timber and glass, and came to rest with the entire vehicle inside what had once been a cozy library. Fortunately , no books were harmed, and she sustained only a broken collarbone and some cracked ribs. I went to take her some flowers soon after, and I give you my word she remembered absolutely nothing about the accident.

    At the time, I was temporarily sober, and toying with the idea of giving up alcohol forever (spoiler alert: didn’t happen), so I was all full of crusading zeal and you-can-do-it-too obnoxiousness. I told her about praying to St. Monica (mother of ex-dissolute St. Augustine) for intercession and help. She was also a Catholic, and loved this idea, but mostly for the ritual charm of it. And just before I. got up to take my leave, she said something that riveted me.

    “You know, Emma, the thing is, people all assume I am miserable and desperate to change…but truthfully? There is absolutely not one tiny part of me that wants to quit.”

    And there you have it. Poppy’s story, the story of us all, is the same: until one WANTS to stop, one…won’t. The abysmal single-digit “success” rates of rehabs in general certainly bear this out. And even those successes, I suspect, owe less to the efficacy of the counseling than to the core determination of the client, who, like as not, would have conquered the demon without some expensive program, because he/she…wanted to, at last.

    Well, no point pretending there’s any mystery about my friend; my use of the past tense tells you that she died. I think—no, I’m sure—she preferred death to sobriety. And so, she got her wish.

    You are obviously a good person, and your burning desire to help others is nothing but laudable. But you just can’t, until the help-ee is so desirous of change that…they could do it without help.

    (Lest you wonder: I’m doing okay. Staying the course, trying it without the crutch of disulfiram, and so far, so good. Still not familiar with the much-vaunted pink cloud, but not wallowing in the grey mire, either, so I can live with that, I suppose.)

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