Characters: Louise, visitor; Clyde, boat owner
Sitting on a bow chair with computer on my lap, I immersed myself in replying to email and commenting on Facebook confessions, and Instagram photos. Even though the lake transported me into a Neverland type of ambiance, I wanted to stay in touch with the world, from a distance.
Louise’s voice, “Are you busy?” jolts me from the revelry of interacting with distant friends that I have known from afar since elementary school. “Some people never change,” my mind concludes. I wonder if I had.
“You snuck up on me,” I smile.
“Do you have time to talk. I’d like your advice.”
“Me, give advice?” I ask.
“Well, I heard you are a psychologist and who better to talk to about problems with a boyfriend,” she espouses.
“Who told you that I am a psychologist?” I inquire, puzzled because I have told no one here of my profession.
“Everyone knows everything about all of us on this marina. Word gets around. Someone probably googled you,” she grins as if she caught me in a fib.
“What can I help you with? Please know that whatever we discuss will be completely confidential.”
“Where to begin?”
“That’s up to you.”
“Clyde is a great guy. Very generous and a lot of fun.”
“And then?” I ask, waiting for the bombshell.
“I’ll give you an example. Yesterday morning, we took his boat out early. We fished, caught a few catfish, and put them in the live well. I was looking forward to frying fish and eggs for breakfast back at the dock. By that time, Clyde had drunk a six-pack.
“‘Let’s explore,’ he yelled as he started the motor and put the runabout in high gear. We raced across the lake, bouncing into the air over waves from other, bigger boats. I was afraid we’d flip. He saw fear on my face and laughed. ‘Relax. Have fun. Don’t worry.’ He suddenly changed directions and a cruiser honked a warning. I saw the pilot waving his fist threateningly as we passed very close to his bow. Finally, I cried, ‘Slow down. You’ll kill us.’ He guffawed even louder.”
“You are describing a change in personality due to alcohol. Is that correct?” I ask.
“That’s it! He became a different person, fool-hardy, and scary. He seemed out of control and I could do nothing about it.”
“I don’t know Clyde. But from my experience, a person who undergoes a personality change after drinking alcohol means there is a drinking problem.”
“But he only had beer.”
“Regardless, as the disease of alcoholism progresses, the person becomes intoxicated with fewer drinks. Sad but true.”
“What should I do?”
“Decide whether you want to date an alcoholic. You will not change him. He has to want to give up alcohol which to him right now seems impossible. Drinking is a central part of our society. Many of us drink alcohol to belong. It is a huge struggle to stop drinking. He might have withdrawal symptoms. And he has to convince himself that he cannot drink alcohol ever again, not even one drink.”
“I was hoping you would give me advice about what I could do to help him.”
“I’ve had a number experiences with alcoholics, personally and professionally. I have learned that leaving someone you care about may motivate that person to face his behaviors and seek help. But often, that person needs to lose everything before he can face the truth. It is an extremely complicated, difficult disease that relies completely on the person to decide he or she needs to change. You could ask him to attend an AA meeting, which will probably make him angry. He does not seem to be in the space to admit his addiction. Denial is the dominant defense for addicts. ‘That’s not me,’ they insist, even when drinking another whiskey or taking another snort.”
“Thank you for your input but I don’t think he is as bad off as you make him out to be. He has a gentle core. He’s a good guy. I can’t leave him. I want to help him.”
“I’m sorry if I came across as being negative. I’m being honest to protect you from being hurt even more. But I’m here if you want to talk more.”