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Her Behavior Is So Hurtful

Woman Pouring a Beer at Bar

michael111 breaks down some complex interactions with his Loved One that have been hard to decipher and hard to stomach. The time they’re able to spend together is always in the context of her using, so it is increasingly hard to navigate. He strives to maintain a healthy perspective.

© Vinicius "amnx" Amano via Unsplash

I care about this girl so much. I don't know what it is, but deep down there is a good and beautiful soul inside her — I've seen it. But never in my life have I known someone so broken and troubled, and I've never had such a touch-and-go relationship with another human being. We have moments of incredible connection — and then she pushes back as if I am a stranger. I feel like I'm Charlie Brown trying to kick the football that Lucy is always pulling away.

Even so, I do feel like things have been happening with just the right timing — it's as uncanny as it is auspicious. I'm trying to keep faith that I'm on the right track, and that my patience and determination is going to eventually pay off.

A lot has happened this week — unfortunately, much of it has been not so happy. Read michael111's full comment here.

“I do realize that she isn't a friend — that she can't be, that she isn't even a friend to herself.”

Dear Michael111,

Unfortunately, you hit the nail on the head with this statement.

Your Loved One is actively using every day. The Pandemic has changed the times and circumstances of that use so that it looks and feels different than before. As a result, you are having to reposition yourself to be in her world and this is forcing you to rethink your relationship with her.

You can’t expect much when people are hanging out, drinking, and talking trash. That this trash talk included you as the subject is very hurtful but also to be expected. It comes with the territory.

With any group of people who fraternize like the group at the bar, there are going to be those, like yourself, who enjoy the camaraderie but do not have a Substance Use Disorder. And then there are those who appear to thrive with the drinking (and the drugs that magically appear in these times). It’s an opportunity to use without inhibition. Hence your friend works in a bar as a bartender. I had a friend once say that the bar was her complete social unit. We all laughed. But it was true.

You are trying to be a good friend to someone who cannot be a friend to herself. You are going to get bruised up in this process. Everyone on this site can attest to that.

Your friend is playing with your affection for her. She’s trying to make you jealous by paying more attention to someone new at the bar. This is hurtful at any time, but again, this is the “crew” with whom you are spending time. It’s not necessarily a social setting that encourages sensitivity and mindful, emotionally mature behavior.

So keep your shields up.

The pornography is worrisome. It is ubiquitous and easily accessible online. The idea of incest porn is appalling. When your Loved One gets into treatment, she may need to also check the box for porn addiction. Her troubled past and trauma she has endured make for a very complicated internal landscape. Trauma suffered at the hands of others has real physiological and structural effects on the brain itself: cognition, development, etc. This realm is really best handled in the safely of a well-structured environment, with the guidance and support of seasoned professionals.

Thank you for writing the rest of this post for me…! Your list of action steps is spot on.

  • Stay close to us
  • When she is using, pull back on your attention to her and redirect it back to yourself, through self-care – like those limited but liberating walks in the spring air – and finding the time to work on your creative projects
  • Reconnect with friends who have fallen away as your focus on your Loved One has grown
  • Patience and CRAFT are both critical. You continue to reach out to her and she knows you really care

And finally, yes, staying on your toes as everything changes on a dime with addiction. The pandemic has been influential and is providing us all with a different set of limitations and opportunities within which to observe and address addiction in our lives.

You are a good friend. Your willingness to go the distance with her is unusual. I suppose friends can walk away more easily than a family member, so she is very fortunate to have your support and love. She is even more fortunate that you are following CRAFT, for learning how to react and guide someone into care is the answer we all have when faced with the addiction in a Loved One.

Thank you for sharing so candidly what you are going through, for taking our suggestions to heart and for being so open to the work needed on your end. Your work is not only helping your Loved One, it is helpful for others to read on this site. Be easy on yourself, and treat yourself with compassion and kindness. Sending you peace, patience and love.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. My Loved One is back on cocaine.

    I’m terrified and lonely and scared about what this could mean.

    Previously I’d mentioned that a handful of years ago — long before I knew her — she’d had a cocaine problem, and had even dealt it when she was living homeless with a steeped-in-drug-culture boyfriend. She was only 23 or 24 years old at the time.

    Her current boyfriend was always against most drugs (and drinking), and had gotten her off the coke when they began dating a year and a half ago. Now that he’s drinking heavily, he seems to’ve completely lost that concern.

    I’d also mentioned this other bartender girl whom my Loved One has gotten close to lately. This bartender is really bad news. She’s been suspected — several times — when money was missing from the register. She’s the one who said she was so obsessed with incest — and her favorite family member is her ten-year-old niece, whom she’s always talking about spending time with. She’s a lesbian and has bragged to people about how she uses and abuses older lesbians that she doesn’t care about, getting them to completely finance her party trips to Las Vegas and Fort Lauderdale. She’s shown people photos of her snorting coke with these women at these vacation parties.

    Now she has her tendrils in my Loved One. Over the past few months they’ve become best work friends — the owner likes my Loved One and everyone knows my Loved One is the only person who gets away with drinking on the job, and is also dating and living with the longest-running cook, who has a long history with the owner and also has a lot of leeway there.

    So I think (as do others) that this bartender feels that getting close to them will put her in a good position at the tavern. She’s already begun openly drinking on the clock, and seems to be getting away with it. I know that she’s a very heavy drinker — like my Loved One, she keeps a bottle in her car. I’ve seen how she encourages my Loved One in her drinking.

    Where not too long ago I would stay after closing to talk with my Loved One and her boyfriend and sometimes a few other employees, now the three of them have formed their own little clique. They drink and smoke heavily after work together, spending long hours alone after the tavern has closed. I’m no longer invited. I’ve seen from my online jukebox access that at times even a few non-employees have come in after hours, which is alarming.

    On Saturday night, my Loved One went out back with that bartender every hour or so to do coke. They’d come back sniffling and sneezing and giggling, but when I tried to talk to my Loved One, she was highly irritable — at one point she told me that it wasn’t a good night to talk, and even got out of her favorite chair to move away from me. Meanwhile, she was inseparable from her bartender “friend.”

    When it was apparent to me that she was using, I backed off from her myself, and spent a good hour laughing and joking with three of the other girls who were working that evening. It was surprisingly easy to do. Where my Loved One and her new “friend” just seemed boring in their coke haze, me and the other girls had a genuine happy time, and were at times pretty loud about it. But my Loved One and her “friend” completely ignored us, sitting off to the side at a table in the darkened dining room.

    I’ve tried to call my Loved One several times yesterday and today. She’s not answering her phone. I’m assuming she’s having a coke crash. I saw her boyfriend at the tavern last night, and he seemed pretty unphased — but he reeked of whiskey and was pouring drinks for himself behind the bar. I don’t think he partook in the coke, but I don’t know what the three of them did after the rest of us left. I’m trying not to let my mind wander into dark suppositions, but I’m very scared for my Loved One right now.

    Last week her boyfriend had dumbly bragged to someone that his dresser, and in fact every flat surface of his bedroom (in his parents’ basement) was covered with tall stacks of White Claw cans, and that when trash day came he’d filled an entire 55 gallon drum with them. I’m disappointed in how completely he has given up — he was never much of a drinker before he met my Loved One.

    My Loved One is at her mother’s house now and is off until tomorrow afternoon, when she’ll be working with that bartender again. Tuesday night is one of their top “party” nights, and since the tavern will be closed on Wednesday to prepare for the big Thursday end of quarantine re-opening, I have a feeling that this will be a blowout. No pun intended.

    I’m having very mixed feelings right now. A part of me is hopeful, ecstatic — for her to fall back on this powerful addiction is terrible, but I wonder if it could mean that she’ll finally have enough and want to seek treatment. I’m also wondering how much longer she and her boyfriend can keep up their antics at the tavern, especially now that it’s reopening to customers. It surprises me that neither one of them have gotten a DUI. She’s always talking about weed lately, and lately she’s been smoking it at work.

    I’m also terrified about the health risks of her lifestyle. I continue to see what seems like a cognitive decline in her. I’m also very sad that she’s withdrawn so completely from me, never texting at all and avoiding me as much as she can, while meanwhile becoming so close to such a wicked influence as this other bartender.

    In my own life, I was fortunate to have parents who sacrificed hard for me and sent me to a good private prep school. My Loved One’s father sent her to the very same school — over 15 years after me — and like myself, she’d earned multiple art degrees in college. For these and a thousand reasons I feel a bond and closeness with her and a duty to help her. Despite all the terrible and crushing abuse in her life, she really is one in a trillion — I cherish every atom of her being and can’t imagine my life without her. It kills me to see her squandering her talents and opportunities and intelligence — not to speak of her health and spirit and her very life.

    Besides maybe her father, who lives out of state, I might be the only person in her life who is looking out for her. If she doesn’t seek help any time soon I fear for the near-term future she has in store for her.

    Please help me know what to do. I love this girl very much. I’d walk through fire for her. In a sense, I feel like I already am — this sordid world of drugs and crime and abuse is not something I need to expose myself to, but I am and will do what has to be done to help her.

    I’m trying hard to practice CRAFT, and to take care of myself, and to be patient. I have to admit that I’m scared and sad at how hard she’s cut ties with me. We’ve talked on the phone a few times this month, but she hasn’t texted me or replied to my texts in three weeks.

    When I’m not at the tavern, I’m trying very hard to keep my mind off of her, and to focus on my work, and to maintain contact with my friends and associates. There’s a lot of big and promising things happening with my career right now that are going to take hard focus and work, and summer’s coming so that means there’s much to do around the house and in the yard — and everything’s in bloom so I should be enjoying it.

    But I can’t tell you how hard it is to do any of this — I’m so scared for what’s happening now. Thank you for giving me guidance and direction — as well as hope.

    1. It’s heartbreaking to watch a Loved One sink into more drugs. Your friend had problems years before with cocaine. She just recently started using again and now drinks and snorts cocaine while working, and during after-work parties at the bar. You fear for her health, her ability to drive safely, and especially the loss of her friendship as she turns ever more towards people who use drugs and who drink like she does.

      Read Dominique Simon-Levine’s full response to michael111 here:

  2. Dear allies,

    I’m just adding some notes to this reply, in order to document my feelings, my progress, and the events of the past few days.

    Things are moving fast.

    First of all, I recognize that in my effort to help my Loved One get sober, I’ve learned a great deal in recent months.

    Scarcely nine months ago, I knew nothing of alcoholism, recovery, CRAFT, AA, Al-Anon, or any part of this world — today I know the brands and prices of the cheapest flavored vodkas, I can recognize various types of mollies, I know what dabs are and where ketamine comes from. I am wired to construct “PIUS” statements, I know the seven elements of positive communication, I think about natural consequences and have a knowledge of the Sinclair method and local inpatient treatment centers. I believe that using kindness and compassion can defeat addictive behavior and create real and lasting change.

    This has been quite an emotional journey.

    At the tavern yesterday, a few people told me that my Loved One appeared to be intoxicated and had been drinking all day. She didn’t seem more intoxicated than usual to me. I approached her and told her that I had been hearing some confusing things, and that I wondered if there had been a misunderstanding. She agreed to go to the back storage room and we had a little talk while she smoked a cigarette.

    I reminded her that when I came in on Saturday afternoon, she’d said that she wasn’t staying late anymore because we could all get in trouble — but then she stayed late that very night. I said that it didn’t feel good to be purposely excluded.

    “Oh no,” she said, “I didn’t stay on Saturday.”

    “Of course you did. It was on the cameras. You left at 12:37.”

    Her eyes widened in surprise to hear me say this.

    “Oh, well it was just a girl’s night out — just a few of us who’d been working that night had a few White Claws together.”

    Yes, I told her, but I was shocked by this odd story that they told everyone I had called the boss on them the night before, and that I had been drinking all the liquor.

    “That doesn’t even make sense,” I said. I explained that if there was a real problem with staying after hours, I’d get in trouble, too, since I was there. And I certainly didn’t drink much that night — I told her it didn’t feel good to know that her boyfriend was telling everyone these untruths about me.

    “Oh, that’s unacceptable,” she agreed. “That doesn’t sound like something he would do.”

    I explained to her that he certainly did, that several people had told me directly that he had been saying this. “And what’s more, you were there — this happened Saturday night, it’s on the cameras, and you were laughing when he was saying it.”

    I also mentioned what happened when I walked in the other night — she was working with the “bad bartender,” that other girl of questionable virtue who has become a bad influence on my Loved One. The two of them made faces at each other when I walked in. I mentioned that, too.

    “Well, the face I made wasn’t really about you — I was all upset about someone else here.”

    “Come on,” I said in a friendly tone.

    She’s an expert at putting on fake acts with customers — I’ve seen it. Only recently a customer that we all know as annoying had come in for carry-out. She’d groaned when he was at the door, but when he came in you might think that they were almost lovers by how she talked and treated him. I told her that she needn’t put on an act like that with me — I could handle the truth. I told her that I cared about her, and that I wasn’t going anywhere, so it’d be best if we just talked about it. “How can I help get you to tell me what you’re thinking?”

    She replied that we’re “family,” and that she does like me, and that she’s not talking about me at all. She wasn’t affectionate — no hugs or anything else, which is unlike her but is part of how she’s been in recent months. When she finished her cigarette she ended the conversation and walked out; within ten minutes she left without saying goodbye.

    To me, that exchange seemed to indicate a final end to whatever connection it is we ever had.

    I naturally felt anger towards her, and her boyfriend, and that ‘bad bartender’ who has been influencing her. I imagined a hundred insults. I also wondered if I’d ever have any influence or effect on her at all. She seems so content in her addictions.

    Then I went to Allies in Recovery and read all the posts on ‘lying,’ and listened to the great podcast with Annie Highwater and Laurie MacDougall. The two articles linked by Annie and Laurie were very helpful, too — I especially connected with Laurie’s twofold observation that it wasn’t personal (lies were set up to protect OUR feelings), and that lying is a way to preserve the disease. I understood that lying is necessary for a substance use disorder victim’s survival. I thought, “Could this be what’s going on? If so, I can understand this.”

    The boyfriend and the bad bartender are heavy drinkers, but they don’t seem to have substance use disorders. They are flawed and troubled people. But I’m not concerning myself with them.

    What happened when I understood the motivation for the lying, was that I was able to forgive. I’ve forgiven her. I’ve forgiven all of them. And it feels powerful to do so. If this would have happened six months ago, I would have had to check myself into a hospital. As it stands, I am calm tonight and am able to focus on my own life and my own wellbeing.

    She’s off tonight, and I’m not going to text or contact her. I went into the tavern, and the environment there without the three bad apples of my Loved One, her boyfriend, and my Loved One’s “bad bartender” pal, was tangible and strong — overall the employees are good, hard workers, and the tavern is a pleasant and happy place. It was a joy to walk in and spend time with these people. Everyone was happy.

    I will continue to be pleasant to my Loved One. I’ll keep it light. I’m trying to think what else I can even do.

    I miss her hugs, I miss her conversation, I miss her texts. I miss being close to her, and I miss being able to trust her. I miss thinking that she’s a part of my life — as it stands, I feel she has parted ways.

    What I might do, if a moment presents itself, is that I might take a few seconds to tell her this: “I can imagine how it is to struggle and suffer the way you must do every day. I just want you to know that I see and feel your pain and that I love you unconditionally.”

    But I wonder if she even DOES struggle. She seems so content and complacent. I know she isn’t happy — she’s recently told me so — but all she seems to care about is feeding her various addictions.

    Tonight, at home in quarantine, I’m doing something very exciting and creative with my writing and music work. I’m able to do this without feeling overwhelmed and depressed. This itself is a victory.

    I have to admit that part of me wonders if this girl honestly dislikes me, or even hates me — I just don’t know the answer to that. I picture her laying back and laughing with her boyfriend about me tonight, or enjoying an evening of mindless TV and pornography with him while she drinks and uses. But I still somehow love her very much, and care for her wellbeing, and will be there to help her if she ever wants to clean up her life.

    1. Just a quick update:

      I’ve been keeping it very light and my interactions are mostly brief. I’m not mentioning the trash talk.

      Yesterday I did tell her that I could only imagine how it is to struggle the way she does every day (something I’d told her a few months back, when she’d agreed with me and told me about her daily wake-up weed and vodka).

      But yesterday she said, “No, it’s not more than anybody else,” and shrugged it off. Even so, I said, my love and care for her was without judgement or conditions.

      That little crew is getting bolder, and they continue to spend hours at the tavern after closing to drink, smoke, and drug. I’m sure my Loved One and her boyfriend welcome that time because they probably don’t want to go right back to their parent’s house.

      When the tavern closes, I leave — I know my friend the owner is watching the cameras and is aware of what they’re doing, and I only wonder how long it will be before the police see them smoking and drinking so late after curfew and closing. I’m the only person with staff access on the jukebox, and I can see their plays after hours — I know they’re making long nights of it.

      I won’t have a sip of alcohol with her again. I miss her texts, I miss spending time with her, I’m tempted to ask her to text me sometime or stop by my house — this distancing of hers is getting tough — but I’m focusing hard on my own work and pursuits.

      I’m keeping faith that by doing the right thing, and by keeping myself strong and healthy, I’m doing the right thing for her.

      1. michael111,
        Thank you for the update on your progress. Beautiful that you are coming to understand that this situation and how it turns out is just as much about you as it is about your Loved One. Really great that you are focusing on your own work and pursuits, reminding her of your unconditional support, and tightening up your end of things. We’re rooting for both of you!