I knew Arnie first. We had similar interests and became friends – not close friends but close enough to hang out every couple of months or so. Both of us enjoyed a gin and tonic and would be part of the evening. More often than not, Arnie, who lived out of the city, would drive home and was always careful to stay within limits.
After a while, Arnie met a new partner and life did a hundred and eighty-degree turn for him. The new partner Sue had two children from a previous marriage but things could not have been better. If I am honest, I almost preferred Sue to Arnie. She was less prickly, less censorious and took everything a lot less seriously. We stayed friends, but now it was the three of us. Nothing really changed. We’d have dinner every once in a while. Chat and catch up and then leave things alone for a while.
A bolt from the blue
I wonder what my expression was when Arnie told me. They were at my house for dinner and I was offering drinks. Arnie mentioned quite casually that he’d have the tonic thanks but no gin, he didn’t drink anymore.
I did ask was he ok? My worry was some sort of diagnosis that meant no alcohol. But no he said, he was not drinking anymore. And from that day I have never seen him drink at all.
Sue was the catalyst
It was years later when somehow the topic came up in a conversation between Sue and me. She explained that Arnie had been a nasty drunk; mean when he was drunk, not violent, but he said hurtful spiteful things. The following morning, he would not remember them at all and would have little idea why Sue was mad at him.
The things he said were sufficiently nasty that he didn’t believe he’d said them when she pointed them out. He flat out denied them. The final straw, as it were, being the sneak drinking and Arnie’s trying to cover it up. How many times can you take the dog out, or go round to the neighbor’s for something? Or have another project in the basement.
Finally, Sue had the courage of her convictions and explained that it was one or the other. Arnie made the smart choice.
I told her that I had no idea. I had never seen the suggestion or even a clue that there was a problem. I think it was much the same for all his friends. I don’t think any of us knew.
I believe that the shock that he’d lose Sue was big enough for Arnie to stop on a dime and he has not gone back. I don’t think there were AA meetings, although they are both smart enough to get help if it was needed.
I must hand it to both Arnie and Sue. This was adulting at its very highest – from both of them.