For the last I don't know how many years I have spent New Year's Eve with an old, old friend of mine. We went to Jr. high and high school together. He lived in NYC the same years I did. While we are not too great about staying in touch all year long, during the holidays when he is home to visit his family, we hook up, and it's like no time has passed.
I saw my OF (old friend) in October while in NYC on business, and we confirmed that yes, New Year's Eve was on. But as Christmas came and went I hadn't heard from him, even to say he had arrived in California safely. Finally I called him on Wednesday evening.
Yes, he was home, but he was in a funk and feeling very depressed and hadn't really been seeing anyone. Moreover, he had planned to go back to NYC on Friday night before New Year's Eve. We talked further, and he sounded in a really bad way. When you start hearing phrases like "life is crumbling around me" you know things ain't good. OF has always been prone to being highly stressed and no edge, but he was sounding more so than usual.
Now, I had something I wanted to suggest to OF...something I had been thinking for a while. But it's not the kind of thing you blithely offer as advice or commentary. And I hesitated, but finally plunged in...
See, OF, perhaps 2 decades ago, had an addiction issue. And he only kicked it by going full-on 12-step and full-on sober. Even though his drug of choice wasn't alcohol he eventually came to realize that alcohol lowered his resistance to stay clean, so he went 100%. And he did that for years. Not only that, but the 12-step program was a big part of his foundation and structure.
During those years he got it together and went to college as an adult, working his way part-time until he got a Bachelor's Degree with a 4.0 average. This from a guy who had never done particularly well in school as a child or adolescent. He had his struggles in school. I think he could be defined as a kinesthetic learner. They're the most unusual kind (auditory and visual learners are more common) and they sometimes have trouble in school because they learn by doing, and they often think in whole concepts or images, and have trouble breaking those down into structured forms, like papers, for example.
OF went on to graduate school, earning his masters, and finishing his course work for his PhD. The dissertation still hangs over his head to be completed, some two years later, and I imagine that's a huge stress. His father died a year and a half ago, he moved cross country, and a long-term relationship ended too. So, yeah, he has gone through every "major life change that causes stress" that you can think of.
But something else happened too: he stopped going to 12-step meetings, and he started drinking again. Oh, not problem drinking...alcohol had never been the substance he abused. And he wasn't using any other substance.
But I felt I had to point out to him that the last two years, his ability to cope with all of these stresses might have been adversely affected by his return to drinking, even socially, and his discontinuation of what had been a stabilizing force in his life: the 12-step program.
Even after knowing a guy for 30 years it's hard to tell him something like that. I honestly didn't know quite what he would say.
But what he thoughtfully said is that I might be right. And that the decline in his feeling like he had the ability to cope did seem to coincide with about the time he had decided to drink again. And that he would think about it.
Now, we'll see what happens.