If I had one bit of advice for 30-year-old men, it would be this: step away from the bottle.
D-friend Bek is 40 years old. She's expecting. Gutsy move, yes. Foolish? Hardly. But there is one part of her situation that does make her condition more difficult. She has a husband who drinks. And when I say "drinks", I don't mean 6 beers on the weekend. I mean he takes time off work to work on their house and drinks 18 beers in a single day. She suspects he's an alcoholic. She doesn't know because he doesn't drink every day. They have had week-long spats that drug in in-laws and friends and destroyed relationships with many concerned. They have separated for two-weeks at a time over the drinking. She calls me up regularly to vent about his drinking. I don't have the heart to tell her that, yes, her man is a drunk, and if his drinking bugs her that much, her marriage may be doomed.
Now don't think I'm just a negative person. Because it isn't about dooming her relationship. I am speaking from what I have seen and experienced in my years growing up, growing older, and growing wiser. Or at least having the awareness of people and things around me to have seen patterns emerge.
I believe there is a point in your early 30s when you make a decision. Perhaps I should say you have an opportunity to make a decision. You can decide to be a grown up or you can decide to string along your youth beyond its natural lifespan. People who decide to grow up make changes in their lives. They slow down on the drinking. They start to save money for the future. They invest time and energy in their careers. If they haven't started families, they may begin now. They are concerned parents. They are making positive, meaningful, adult decisions in their day-to-day lives and considering the future. They rid themselves of the stupidity of youth, they analyze their experiences and relationships, they shed the party boy/girl image, and they quit doing things counter-productive to their goals.
Or they don't.
Men, in particular, seem to have trouble turning this corner. They get caught up in a "I work hard. I deserve to relax and let loose once in a while." All the time, never realizing that once in a while comes far more often then even they are willing to admit. Never taking into consideration that all that drinking, recreational drug use, hanging out in bars is playing with fire. I have seen this attitude destroy more marriages than I care to count. In fact, there was a time in my life when I could count on one hand the men I knew who weren't alcoholics or drug addicts or daily, dedicated users of marijuana. I will be brutally honest when I say that my marriage ended long before my divorce and long before the really difficult part of making the decision to leave. My marriage ended the day I realized that my husband would never, ever, ever stop smoking pot every single day of his life. Pot was his hobby. I couldn't go anywhere with him. I couldn't take him, for instance, to a work function, because he would show up reeking of pot. He had become an embarrassment to me. I nagged. I prodded. I begged. I withheld sex. Not me, not the promise of intimate relations, not his children, not his career, nor any relationship in his life could cause him to even slow down. He had made his choice. Pot was the most important thing in his life.
Now, if I had told him this he would have called me crazy. Of course his children were important. Of course I was important. But as he was fond of saying, "actions speak louder than words". He smoked pot in the car on the way to his daughter's wedding. In his tuxedo. A wedding in which he had to walk her down the aisle in front of 500 of her closest friends and new family. Helloooooo.
He smoked pot on the way to work. On lunch breaks. On the way home. While driving the car I paid for. He smoked pot in front of the tv every night. I don't even want to think about how much money that man spent on pot. If he had spent that much on golf clubs and green fees, or fixing up a dream car, or traveling, or Bear's tickets I might not have minded so much. But to watch your husband sit in the dark in his den with nothing but a doobie and a bong day after day, week after week, year after year was more than I could take. One day it dawned on me I had married a dedicated loser. He wasn't going to change. And this was my life. Forever.
That was the day my marriage ended. Some little spark that had nearly been beat out flamed for just a minute. Some little voice whispered inside my head, "Oh, hell no." And then that flame grew stronger and that voice grew louder. I was done.
So I watch Bek struggling with that same set of circumstances. Just change the word "pot" in the paragraph above with "beer" and you've got her life. And yes, he does drink and drive. We all know how tragically that has ended in my own life. My oldest brother is serving 15 years for involuntary manslaughter. That's legalese for having killed someone while driving drunk. I watch Bek worry as her belly grows and her marriage disintegrates. I am afraid for her. She's 40. She's old enough and wise enough to know where this is going and she is struggling, not with concern for her husband, but concern for herself and her baby. She has my greatest sympathy. Because none of her nagging and even the prospect of fatherhood has given her husband the push he needs to start behaving like a grown up. He is fighting it tooth and nail. I think he is fighting it because he's addicted to alcohol. He hasn't gotten the picture yet. He's trying to fool himself with the "I don't drink everyday" mantra. " I can't be an alcoholic if I don't drink everyday."
Gentlemen, I don't know how to break it to you. But if you have had more than one argument in a year about your drinking, smoking, recreational drug use, it is interfering with the relationships in your life. If you defend yourself by any means possible, you are playing fast and loose with those relationships. If your significant other, parent, friends, and co-workers have told you its time to slow down or quit, do yourself a favor: LISTEN. You may want to be a lot of things in your life, but "a drunk" isn't one of them. Trust me. I've seen it all.
I think it's why I don't drink at home anymore. Beer will linger in my fridge for months. I never drink hard liquor unless I have friends over. Alcohol is just not a meaningful part of my life. I hope this makes me a grown up.
Significant Digits For Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017
4 hours ago