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
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