FIRST

Elle (Canada) - - Front Page -

A first (and only) at­tempt at an in­ter­ven­tion.

By Angie Ab­dou

CLOSE CHILD­HOOD FRIEND, LET’S CALL

HER “JANE,” IS AN AL­CO­HOLIC. WE DON’T USE

THE WORD “AL­CO­HOLIC,” THOUGH. THAT’S AN UGLY WORD. THERE IS NOTH­ING

COOL ABOUT AL­CO­HOLISM, AND

JANE IS MOST DEF­I­NITELY COOL. IN­STEAD, WE SAY

“JANE LIKES TO PARTY” OR “JANE

IS SU­PER-FUN!” Each month, we ask a Cana­dian nov­el­ist

to share a story about a sig­nif­i­cant “first” in his or her life. This es­say, about plan­ning

her first—and last—in­ter­ven­tion, is from Angie Ab­dou, whose fourth novel,

Be­tween, is be­ing re­leased

this month.

Some­times Jane likes to party so much that she’s still “par­ty­ing” at 8 a.m., when she needs to get the kids to school. Once, I had a speak­ing event in her home city; she at­tended and had “so much fun” that she barfed in the venue’s bath­room sink. Then she passed out on the bus on the way home and I had to ask strangers for di­rec­tions to her house. For­tu­nately, Jane is small enough that I can pretty much carry her. I had nearly tri­umphed over the or­deal of nav­i­gat­ing the sub­urbs of a city thou­sands of times big­ger than my own when she re­gained con­scious­ness a few blocks from her house—just in time to ver­bally as­sault a taxi driver. Fun times, as Jane likes to say, fun times. To be clear, we’re not talk­ing about a 20-year-old deep in the binge-drink­ing stage of life; we’re talk­ing about a fortysome­thing mother of pre­teen chil­dren.

An­other time I vis­ited, she pulled up to a restau­rant and told her 11-year-old son in the back seat, “We’re stop­ping here, just for one more.” Her son replied, “Mom, with you, one al­ways means more like six.” He was tired and wanted to go home. I felt the same. We had six more. As I write this, I’m tempted to leave out de­tails that im­pli­cate me. Jane was driv­ing. She had prob­a­bly al­ready con­sumed at least three drinks—too many for her small frame. Her chil­dren were in the car. Why didn’t I in­sist that I drive? I should have said “Let’s go home. We’ve had enough.”

But she is a born leader, this friend of mine. In high school, she led the vol­ley­ball team to a gold-medal fin­ish at the provin­cial cham­pi­onships. In univer­sity, she never failed to make the dean’s list. In her com­pany, I eas­ily fall into my child­hood role of mute fol­lower.

Af­ter see­ing her barf in the pub­lic sink and hurl in­sults at the taxi driver, though, I ral­lied my courage. “I love you,” I told her as she drove me to the air­port the next morn­ing. “It’s not some­thing we say, but I do.” I put my hand on her bare arm. She stiff­ened un­der my touch, but I pre­tended not to no­tice. Plans for my in­ter­ven­tion were al­ready tak­ing shape as I forged on. “I want you to know that you don’t al­ways have to be the best, the most suc­cess­ful, the strong­est. It’s okay to ad­mit that you are in trou­ble and need help. And I will help you.” h

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