Posts Tagged ‘drinking


stop calling

Reader S.N. writes:

A friend of mine keeps calling me late at night, drunk and crying because her dad is really sick. I want to be a good friend and help her through her problems, but I go to work really early in the morning and her late night convos are starting to take a toll on my work life. To add to the difficulty, I can’t turn my phone off because I’m often on-call overnight. What can I do?

Dear S.N.:

Being sad sucks, and your friend is definitely lucky to have a friend like you who is willing to put up with her behavior while she’s going through such a rough time. Of course, you’ve got to take care of yourself, too, and you can’t feel guilty for not being available 24/7.

Your goal in this situation is to preserve the friendship and offer help while also balancing your own needs. You have a few options depending on how confrontational you want to be.

the dreaded phone

Image: Suat Eman /

1. When she calls, tell her you’ve got to sleep and you can’t talk. I’ve found that people who are crying while drunk are generally very apologetic about it. It’s part of the depression caused by the booze, I guess. She’ll probably feel really badly about this, so be ready to hear a lot more crying. You can encourage her to call another friend, but stay firm and if she keeps talking, just hang up. This is a very direct approach, and perhaps not the most helpful. It may send her into a spiral of depression, nobody loves her, life’s terrible right now, etc. And you may not be as gentle with her in the middle of the night as you probably should be. But it will get the point across.

2. Call her right now and tell her that she needs not to call you in the middle of the night anymore. Explain to her that you love her, but you’ve got to work early and you can’t answer her calls anymore. Another thing about drunk people is that they tend to be oblivious to other peoples’ responses or body language, so she may not notice your more subtle attempts to get her off the phone when she’s wasted. Telling her when she’s sober is a better idea, although she may not remember the conversation the next time she’s drunk. You could help her out by getting her one of those drunk dialing apps that will keep her from calling you. This may be the best option if you’re going to confront her about it, as you’ll both be in a better headspace than you would be in the middle of the night, and you can be gentle.

3. Send her calls directly to voicemail. This is my favorite solution. Most phones these days have an option where you can select to send certain peoples’ calls to voicemail. This way your phone won’t ring if she calls you late at night, and she’ll just assume your phone is off. If you want to receive calls from her during the day, you’ll have to turn this option off again in the morning, and remember to turn it back on at night. Of course, if you only have a landline, you may not necessarily have this option. Many phone service providers offer a blocked number function, which may not be as p0lite as sending her calls to voicemail, but will at least allow you to sleep through the night. If you do have to resort to blocking her number, make sure you warn her, or she’ll be extra mad. You may have to block her number if she forgets that you asked her not to call you, anyway, so just give her fair warning that you mean to sleep through the night, and if you have to take extreme measures, you will.

4. Ask another friend to hang out with her and take care of her at night. If she’s got a friend over at her house already, she probably won’t need to call you. Unless, of course, that friend goes home. This doesn’t really solve the problem in its entirety, but if you have a friend who is willing to hang out with the late night caller (and maybe help keep her from getting so drunk in the first place), it could at least put your mind at ease to some extent. You’ll know she’s got someone to talk to, and you’ll know that you can sleep. True, it’s hard to find people who actually want to hang out with a drunk, sad person, but hopefully you’ve got a group of friends who are willing to share the load (and don’t have the same work schedule you do).

As an aside, you might help her out by convincing her to go see a therapist to talk to. Also, if you think she’s got a drinking problem, you should have her seek help. We all know we’re not supposed to turn to alcohol to deal with our problems, but many of us still have a glass of wine or two when we’re down. If she’s drunk every night, this is a problem that extends beyond the fact that she’s calling you to complain and keeping you awake. Being drunk and sad is an especially bad combination if she’s ever had suicidal tendencies, so keep an eye on her for that.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you remind her that it’s not because you don’t love her or don’t want to be there for her, it’s just that you’re human and you can’t stay up all night the way she can. I think being direct is a much better approach than being indirect, but you may have to resort to other measures if she forgets herself when she’s been drinking.


how not to drink

Reader B. L. writes:

I’ve been drinking too much booze lately. I’m starting to think it’s affecting my health, and I want to stop drinking, or at least cut back a lot. However, the holiday season is upon us, and I have quite the social calendar. Social calendar usually means free booze. What can I do to cut my alcohol consumption while still making merry?

Dear B.L.:

In most western cultures, imbibing the punch is such a natural part of our day-to-day lives, going without seems almost sacrilegious, especially at the holidays. But there are ways to navigate the happy hours and holiday parties while keeping your liver in tact, if you decide you must. (And way to go on being in touch with your body, buddy. Seriously.)

Decide on your level of wagon-riding.

Are you totally giving up booze this season, or just limiting your intake? Apparently, it’s easier to stay on the wagon if you go with the drinking-less option than the no-drinks-at-all option. Of course, it’s a lot easier to say yes to more drinks once you’ve broken the seal with the first one. But cutting back does not have to mean cutting off, and if you can handle having a single beer at the holiday party, you won’t have to beat yourself up for going cold turkey. Regardless of your goals, set them, write them down, and decide what your punishment is for failing. (More on that below.) You’ve got to decide if this is going to be a lifelong change, or just something you’re trying for a few weeks or months. Sometimes smaller goals are easier to accomplish and can lead to bigger goals. Just know what you’re allowed to let slip and when. Planning a single night during the month where you’re allowed to take part in the mulled wine gives you something to look forward to and will make it that much easier to stick to your plan.

Be the DD.

The number one way to limit your gin intake is to make sure everyone else has a stake in it. And the number one way to do that is to be their ride home. Volunteer to be the sober skipper for every party you possibly can. When anyone at the party asks if they can fill up your champagne glass, you just tell ’em you’re the safe ride home, and they’ll probably honor you somehow and bow to your will power.

keep these empty

It's hard to keep these empty during the holidays. Image: Paul /

Enlist a buddy who’s also not drinking.

This is why AA works. If you have someone else whose sobriety is as important to you as yours is to them, it’s easier to stay on course. Ideally, they should attend the parties you go to with you, but in the end, you can probably just have an accountability partner that you call after the parties to swap stories about how little you drank. In fact, why not try You get a “commitment contract” that will force you to pay money to a friend or charity if you don’t meet your goals. It’s like betting on yourself to win. Set a goal of not drinking for a certain amount of time, and voilà. Roll with it.

Advertise to friends and family that you’re not drinking.

This goes along with finding an accountability partner, but people need to know why you’re skipping out on happy hour after work sometimes. Probably your parents will be relieved. Sometimes drinking is one of those peer pressure activities where people will call you names for not taking a shot when they’re good n soused themselves. I think it’s a “share-the-guilt” moment, but who knows. Just let them know beforehand that you’re not interested, and while they may tease you, at least they’ll have foreknowledge so you won’t have to explain the situation to them when they’re wasted and want you to join in.

Get a soft drink in a fancy glass.

I don’t know about you, but half the fun in drinking for me is the glassware. Sometimes I’ll order a ginger ale or a Sprite in a martini glass with a twist so I have something in my hand that isn’t booze. It pisses off the bartender a bit, but it gives me the same look as a martini and keeps my BAC at zero. (And as long as you tip well enough or tell the bartender you’re the sober one of the evening, the work they have to put into your fancy soft drink generally loses the irk factor.) Bonus: nobody will ask why you’re not drinking, because really, you look like you are.

Add ice.

While it’s kind of tacky and I hate it when older women do this, getting a glass of white wine and adding ice will slow down how much you’re drinking because the ice will take up more volume, and will water down the booze as it melts. If you want Kat to smile upon you rather than scowl, get a drink that’s mixed with a soft drink (rum and coke, or vodka cranberry) and then just have the bartender refill the soft drink and ice as you go. Hell, you can even skip the booze part of the equation and people will be none the wiser. Once again, it’ll look like you’re boozin’ and cruisin’, even though you’re not.

Find something to replace the booze.

Beyond just replacing the booze with other drinks, you should probably find other activities to fill your time, too, to limit your exposure to temptation. While I don’t think you have to eschew every social commitment this season, you can cut back on the happy hours you usually go to. Find a gym class that you simply must attend, or go for a run, or volunteer somewhere at least once a week so you have one less reason to show up drinking somewhere. Why not organize your friends to participate in the fun? It can be like an after school special, where you prove that not only do you not need booze to have fun, but riding bikes brings you closer together as a friend group. Or something.

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