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I have a friend who has been my "drinking buddy" since college. Whenever something big happened in our lives, we would always get together and open a few bottles of wine to celebrate or commiserate. In college, we found a reason to drink every weekend, but as we got older, I thought we both grew out of it. We meet up every other month or so and I enjoy the occasional glass of wine, but I've noticed that my friend still drinks a lot. During our last catch-up, she confessed that she can't fall asleep unless she drinks something. After pressing her for details, I discovered that she drinks one bottle of wine every single night, whether she has company or not. I'm beginning to think she may be an alcoholic. How serious is this and should I address it with her?
- Sober Friend
Your concern for your friend’s drinking is understandable, as her level of alcohol consumption is potentially dangerous, according to several international agencies. Expert health organisations in the USA, UK and Australia recommend that drinking more than 4 standard drinks in one day, or 10 standard drinks in one week, means there is increased risk of health damage due to alcohol. A bottle of wine contains around 7 standard drinks, so your friend’s consumption would be considered well beyond the recommended safe level.
Whether her drinking is problematic to her or not could be a different matter. The use of any substance is generally considered to be problematic when it has a significant negative impact on one or more aspects of a person’s life, such as relationships, work, social life, parenting, etc. It may be that her drinking is not noticeably affecting any key areas of her life at this time, meaning she may not consider her drinking to be a problem. However, from a health perspective there is certainly a potential risk and the longer her current pattern of use continues, the more significant that risk becomes.
Ultimately it is your decision whether to raise this with her or not. It may be that she’s not fully aware of the health risks to which she’s exposing herself, and so may welcome some insights about this. However, it’s also possible she will not welcome another person’s perceived judgement of her drinking, even from a good friend. You know her best so you are more likely to have a sense of how she might respond.
If you decide to raise it with her, I suggest taking a gentle approach and avoid using the word alcoholic, as it can be an emotionally loaded term that could provoke a defensive response. Maybe start off by asking how she feels about drinking a bottle of wine every night and whether she has any concerns about it, and then gently share your concerns. It might be worth asking how reliant she is on the alcohol to sleep or otherwise cope with her current situation, because having that need or reliance is an indication that an addiction could be developing.
If she expresses concern about her drinking and wants to change, then any support you can offer her with this will be helpful. If she can reduce her drinking to safer levels by herself then that would be a good outcome (there are many resources on the internet that would help her with this). If she’d like some more professional support, then that is certainly available also. However, if she believes her drinking is not problematic and she doesn’t wish to change, then ultimately that is her decision and it’s probably best to respect that for now. It’s possible that just raising this with her will prompt her to re-evaluate her drinking, which may change her behaviour down the track. Either way, I wish you and your friend well in handling this situation.
My nephew recently sat me down and told me he is "non-binary." I have always been a very involved uncle in his life and I'm glad we can talk openly, so my first reaction was to say "it's ok, this doesn't change anything." I meant well, but my nephew continued that some things will change, including the use of the pronouns "they/them" instead of "he/him." The truth is, I know absolutely nothing about non-binary or gender identity. I'm from a completely different generation, we never used terms like this. Of course I did some Googling and I now understand a little bit more about the pronoun thing, but it's so hard for me to understand where my nephew is coming from. We have always been really close, and I don't want to lose my relationship with him (them??) over this. Can I still even say "nephew" and how can I preserve our relationship?
- Old-fashioned Uncle
Thank you for sharing your concerns. Firstly, a huge congratulations to your nibling! Coming out is never an easy task and it can be even scary for some people. The fact that they were comfortable enough to talk to you about it truly shows that your relationship is, in fact, a strong one. I understand what you meant by “it’s ok, this doesn’t change anything” was that you still love them the same, unconditionally - and that’s a great start. Here are some things to perhaps consider in moving forward to maintaining your close relationship.
1. Communication: Learn more about who they are. There is no one, right or wrong way to be non-binary. For instance, some people may change their name, some may keep it, and that really is up to personal preference. The best way to understand and respect them is to have an open and honest conversation - that is, if both of you feel ready and comfortable enough to do so. There are many gendered language expressions (mother, brother, dude, etc) and each person’s preference may vary on how they would like to be addressed. Slowly getting to know each of them (what they are ok with and not okay with) may help remove some of the confusion. For instance, they have expressed that their preferred pronoun is they/them - that’s a great step! Another positive thing that you are already doing is private research and Googling. If you are unsure, you can always ask them, “Can I still call you my nephew, or would you be more comfortable if I used the word nibling?”
2. Patience: This applies to both of you, for you to get used to using different terms and for them to understand that this is something new for you. Establish an open and honest communication that you respect them, and that you’re trying; however, acknowledging that you may slip up and use some old terms may go a long way in the adjustment process. It’s okay to make mistakes here and there - you are not intentionally trying to misgender them. Some pronouns and wordings can seem confusing and odd at first, but it means a lot to most non-binary people, and using them will start to feel more natural as you get used to them.
3. Remember, it’s about them: You don’t have to fully understand what it means for someone to be non-binary, or understand where they are coming from, in order to respect them. This can be a work in progress, and identities that some people don’t understand still deserve respect. Follow their lead - be interested, but not invasive. Remember, too, that you're still growing, as is your nibling. Coming out doesn't happen just once: it happens in little ways, about little things, over and over and over again. Be there, every time, and be supportive.
4. I hope this helps, and all the best in finding ways to preserve and nurture your relationship.