Fellow Traveler and I have been singin' the booze lately.
Which is to say: We're finding it sobering, and a little depressing, to note how many people in our circle of female friends have an alcohol problem. The kind that manifests itself in things like hiding one's daily fifth of Scotch in a lunch bag, or hammering down almost two dozen cans of beer over the course of a party (much of it surreptitiously during "smoke breaks" in the darkness of the host's driveway), or becoming preemptively defensive about "controlling people telling me how to live my life," or "It's actually good for my heart, you know."
We're not teetotalers. As Constant Readers know, we enjoy a good bottle of wine now and then. But our policy at our own gatherings is to serve only non-alcoholic drinks, and let people who want something else bring their own; and that's how it's been at most of the other women's gatherings we've attended. We don't want to be the Booze Police, but we don't want to be enablers either.
I -- who often feel compelled to "fix" every problem I see -- feel a sense of helplessness, sometimes, when interacting with the women I know have a substance abuse problem -- and they're nice, funny, enjoyable and intelligent people. FT and I were talking about this with a mutual friend, and we've decided that our best option is just to provide people with safe, enjoyable gathering places were alcohol is not the center of group activity. The other weekend, for instance, we went to a pizza party and bonfire, and when the weather got too nippy and windy to stay outside we came in and just sat around the fireplace; our hostess had cut out a variety of discussion-prompting questions ("What is one important life lesson that you would want to share with other people?" "What do think is the most important characteristic of a good partner?" "What's one thing about yourself that you'd like to change?"), and we each pulled one out of a bag and talked about them. It was very interesting, stimulating discussion, and even the sloshier participants became engaged in the conversation in a serious way.
I appreciate our friends who create these types of gathering places, and they're what we want to achieve at our home as well.
Our 24-can acquaintance wound up spending the night at our house -- she had ridden to the party with us because, she said, she didn't like driving in the dark, but we later suspected she was afraid of being pulled over, both to and from. It was Sunday morning; we were all sitting in the living room in our jammies, having rather meaningful conversation about family and pets and relationships and even, briefly, spirituality; it became clear to me that jumping up and saying, "Oh, we'd love to talk some more, but we've got to go to church now," would be about the dumbest and least caring thing we could have done. So we hung out that morning until our guest was ready to leave, watched her pull out of the driveway and then silently commended her to the care of a God with a track record of helping the helpless.