When Lenny finally admitted he had a problem it was not a surprise to anyone. We had all seen the effects of his drinking. We had tried the tricks, we hid the booze and made only limited quantities available when he came to dinner figuring that if there was no more he would leave.
He did, but it was always unpleasant to him knowing that we were refusing him more, and he knew we were lying to him. It was an odd feeling, to be honest. When a friend comes over for dinner you put out food and drink. With food, you eat and that’s that. No one would dream of expecting to stay for the next meal or get up and look in the cupboards for a cookie.
But with booze and Lenny, it was different. He had no worries asking for more and was offended when we said no.
We also noticed that he would top off his glass before it was empty; no matter what size glass, he would fill it. I started using smaller glasses and noticed pretty quickly that other friends did too. We also changed the cost of the bottles we put on the table. What was the point in having lovely, expensive wine when it had to be guzzled to keep up with Lenny?
Suggesting help didn’t help
Anyone who was bold enough to suggest to Lenny there was a problem was treated to a stream of abuse and vitriol. It got to the point where it was unpleasant and we were all changing behaviour. We stopped meeting at each other’s houses because Lenny would always drink too much and then need to stay overnight. When it happened every time it got too much.
We started meeting out. Everyone had to go home. But Lenny would just go ahead and drink two to everyone else’s one, and then pick on a friend who was nicer than everyone else and plead “I can’t drive like this can I stay?” I know Lenny slept a couple of hours in the car and then drove home more than once.
Everyone felt bad, but we had been taken for granted for too long, and finally, the goodwill wore off. For me, it was the day when Lenny’s wife called to see if he’d stayed with me the night before. I knew I was done.
I stopped. I stopped the invites and I stopped going to events where I knew Lenny would be. I suppose in some ways it was passive-aggressive, especially as I noticed other people did too.
When the time came
Perhaps it was his wife, who had finally had enough, or Lenny realized friends were drifting but nothing changed until he finally decided he had a problem. It was Lenny’s decision and I think his alone, but he made it.
None of us is as close as we were, there’s still contact of course. But it isn’t like it was.