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British Liver Trust
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Drinking after banding

Hello again all. It was my friend's birthday last weekend and three of us went for dinner. We said we would have one bottle of wine between us. He became very defensive saying 'it's my birthday. I won't be told what I can drink. I'll go and sit on my own if necessary'. So he drank at least a bottle of wine, as usual, then later carried on with whisky. A lot of whisky. I felt very uncomfortable with it, especially after the hideous recent experience we witnessed of him being hospitalized from throwing up masses of blood and kept in for a week.

How do I deal with this? How should I be when I'm around him? I really need advice...

He told me in confidence that he went to an AA session (I imagine his doctors had advised this), but walked out as they starting talking about god. He could not bear it. Would anyone know of alternative support please?

13 Replies

Oh heck needful, you knew this was going to happen i think - you asked about it before and were worried a while ago about what was the most likely scenario at his birthday dinner.

Maybe people will offer slightly different advice, maybe they will say the same as before I dont know. But at the time the theme of your previous thread asking "How do I deal with this?" seemed to be, if you are asking 'how can i help him/fix him', you can't, its his choice, he has made it very clear he is not asking others to 'deal' with it, he is going his own way.

If however what you are asking is 'how do I, needful, cope with being unable to do anything for him, despite desperately wanting to', I think you need to work on a change of mindset, which is more about you now, and coping with the stress of watching from the sidelines as he goes downhill, rather than trying to find ways to 'save' him.

Sad, very sad and so stressful for you.


Hello Bolly and thanks for getting back to me. Yes, I'd mentioned it beforehand, but really didn't expect him to carry on as before. Clearly there is nothing I can do to help or change his ways and have given up on the idea of trying to save him. But I want to know how I should be when I'm around him. Do I raise the subject of his drinking, or say nothing and carry on as though everything is normal? He's in denial, but I don't have to be surely? Thank you so much.

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I have no experience on the drinking subject itself. I think Bolly has it about right, and I hear you asking but how should you behave even when you know you are not responsible nor can control your friend's behaviour? all I can suggest is to be yourself, you sound a caring person, but you can not drag yourself down, your friend has to want to change, I guess becoming brutally honest is a path I might consider if I were in your shoes......


Pretty good advice above. And free too!

For the bargain price of 2 new pence.....

I'm afraid you're stuck between a rock and hard place. Sometimes in that situation it's a good idea to go back to the facts and try and find the best solution.

The first fact is that he's an adult and cannot be told what to do. As a close friend you can certainly advise and cajole but ultimately you have no power.

That being the case assuming he understands the facts but doesn't want to believe them there's little you can do to make him comply.

So it then comes down to what you can cope with. If you're with him and he decided to drink you can certainly express your disapproval. This may however make things miserable for both of you. If you can let go enough to not have a go at him every time you see him drinking excessively then you can do that. It doesn't mean you have to aid and abet though - you can still refuse to buy him alcohol for example (prob best to pay for your own drinks though in case rounds become an issue).

Alternatively you're well within your rights to decide for your own sake that you don't wish to be in the same place as him when there is alcohol present or being consumed. In which case say so, set it out and stick to it.

That's really about it I think. He bears his own responsibility and much as you may want to manage him, help him or guide him you can't, so you have to find the best situation for yourself to cope with him.

I say this as someone with some experience of alcoholics incidentally. Alcoholics tend not to be blind. They just don't want to see.

Anyway - as usual way too long but I hope it helps.

Best Regards.


PCB is right. You have to try and be yourself. You have already discovered that if you comment on his drinking in any way you get a negative response.

Perhaps its a bit like how people differ in the way they behave toward someone with cancer, after all, he does have a terminal illness at this stage i suppose.

Some cancer patients are happy to talk about their condition, to engage in conversation with friends and family about it, and for some this can make social situations easier, ie you the caring outsider ask 'how are you' and the patient tells you exactly how it is, how they feel, what their prognosis is, what treatment they have just gone through. Then once that enquiry is out of the way you get on with your get together and talk about other things.

Some prefer never to talk about it, as though not talking about it helps it 'go away'. Often this is because they are so scared of the diagnosis that learning about it or talking about it or researching it just increases their terror of illness and mortality.

What most cancer patients DONT want though, is someone on the 'outside' saying 'have you tried this, or done that, or my aunt/friend/niece/cousin has cancer and this is what they did to get better/cure it'. Unless you are the cancer patient/the alcoholic etc, you dont 'get it', you dont know what it's feeling like or what you are currently going through.

What most cancer patients (not all) want is someone to just 'be there', to stand by them, not to shun them and cross over to the other side of the street to avoid talking or acknowledging them. Or they might want help with chores or housework or childcare or being driven to appointments, or just a bit of hand holding - practical things.

They appreciate you acknowledging they are not well. But they dont want people stepping on eggshells around them.

They dont want criticism of the course of treatment they have chosen - and some cancer patients refuse treatment preferring to live what life they have left as they choose without going through chemo or whatever.

They dont want you to 'fix' them, they have doctors for that.

I guess what you are asking is, if by saying nothing, am I condoning what he is doing. Shouldn't i be reminding him each time we meet that what he is doing is wrong in my view, like saying 'we really shouldn't be drinking', or 'have you been to any AA meetings yet' it make you feel that you are telling him you dont approve.

Is that what you are asking?

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Pretty much nails it on the head.

I would suggest that he doesn't want asking or reminding - at least on a micro level. You'd probably be fine with open questions - "how are you doing?", "how's your health?" etc......


Thanks to all latest replies and for being so thorough. It's very kind of you all. I fluctuate between wanting to bluntly say to him 'do you want to die?' and pointing out how selfish this whole thing is (as someone wrote on here last week) and then saying nothing at all. I'm pretty sure that the friendship would probably be kicked into touch (after 20 years) if I were really honest with him. I gave up asking how he is several months ago, as I would only get 'fine thanks' back, so it's a bit of a brick wall all round and he very clearly doesn't want to discuss it unless he really has to. For that reason our contact is minimal nowadays. We wonder if he's maybe been told he only has so long to live, but can only speculate. He's been unemployed for three years, having been pretty successful previously and depression must come into this. However, as everyone has said, if someone doesn't want to actively seek help themselves, there is nothing anyone is able to do. I guess I miss my friend of old, who I looked up to and who is no longer the same person.


HI Needful1-

What a tough place you are in indeed. I can understand how you feel and what you are going through. I lost a friend four years ago from liver failure due to alcoholism. That's not an easy place to be...on the sidelines is it? I also am a recovering alcoholic and can see both sides of your story. I think you are truly doing all that you can do as a friend. There's really nothing more to say that hasn't already been said. I know it's a tough spot and that you care. In case your friend hasn't told you yet then allow me to....Thank you for being his friend. Whether he shows it or not, he does and most certainly will need your friendship going forward. I guess all you can do is just to be there when he wants, and is ever ready, to talk. I personally would have a very difficult time watching him drink knowing medically all that is going on. I would probably choose not to be around that and offer instead to spend time with him in instances that wouldn't involve alcohol...maybe a breakfast or something. That way you are still offering to spend time with him as a friend, but protecting yourself from having to feel poorly when he is drinking.

Best wishes and hang in there. You are doing all you can do as a good friend.

Wendy Xx


What a lovely reply Wendy. Thank you so much and very best wishes to you for your future also. Keep going!


I think what Wendy suggests sound like a positive idea. Be a friend to him always but restrict the being with him in person to times when there should be no alcohol.


Looking back at when you said you sometimes felt like being angry and asking him 'do you want to die?. Of course i dont know for sure, but i would hazard a guess that no, he does not WANT to die, if he did i would have thought he would find a way to follow the suicide route. Others who have struggled with addiction will be in a better position than me to comment, but perhaps its more that he no longer has the strength, or the will, or the desire, or the mental clarity, to change direction and follow the path toward changing his life. Rather its easier to stay on the same path, and spend each day doing the same old same old routine, however unhelpful that may be. I suspect that somewhere deep down in his subconscious he knows perfectly well that this is going to end badly, but he just cant climb out of the hole he has fallen into. And no, he does not want you to offer him a hand out of it, he has made that clear.

Maybe he is hospital phobic, or doctor phobic, or needle phobic, or medication phobic - some people would rather be ill than have to go to a doctor or a hospital, often believing that if they go to hospital they will never come home.

All you can do is sit beside the hole in some way that makes it evident to him that you have not abandoned him, and that should he perhaps call for help you will hear him. But if that call for help ever comes, it has to be from him first.

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If he starts drinking, walk off. If he had a bkeed out then went back to drinking, he is a full blown alcoholic, no doubt. I would know, I was one but quit drinking before my first Hep C treatment in 2004, never drank again, I want to live.


Hi Needful, Sorry to hear the birthday dinner was uncomfortable. I think it is critical that you establish boundaries. Ask yourself, in what situations do you feel comfortable? What makes you frustrated or makes you want to cry or makes you feel guilty? Rule those things out of bounds. If you don't want to be around him when he drinks, then set that boundary. Tell him upfront - I'll see you but no drinking, and if he crosses that boundary, then its time to leave. It doesn't need to be his punishment. You don't have to be angry or anything, just take it as your signal that the visit is over. If you tell him what to do, he will rebel, so just state what you are going to do. Maybe a bottle of wine between 3 friends is the boundary. When the bottle's empty, if he gets another drink, its time to say good night.

The idea is to find that place where you can interact positively and safely, and then draw an imaginary line around it. You cross the line, I go home. No hard feelings. Have a good night.

When thinking about what boundaries you want to establish, make sure that you are coming from a place of how YOU feel. If you want to establish a boundary because you think it will make him stop drinking, then its just going to end in frustration because you don't have any control over that. For example, if you demand that there will be no drinking in your presence because you expect this will make him stop drinking because he values your friendship... nope. That's not how the disease works. He could love you to pieces and still not be able to stop. Try not to set yourself up for disappointment. But at the same time, you have to protect yourself because being friends with or being related to an alcoholic can do some pretty major damage to you. Protect yourself and have realistic expectations.

Sometimes alcoholics become so toxic that the only way to protect yourself is to stay away completely. If this is the case, forgive yourself for having to leave him.

I think its also helpful to take the focus off stopping the alcoholism, like you were saying. Cause we can't help him. No offense to anyone, but we are not qualified or knowledgeable enough to give him much advice on it. Part of the motivation to quit comes from seeking out his own answers and guiding his own recovery. You can only listen, support and encourage calmly, if he brings it up first. Your friend has been an alcoholic for a long, long time. He's pretty much an expert at it by now. He knows where to go for resources and help. He's not stupid. Its not like you are going to say something or do something that will be a game changer for him. He already knows. He knows it well. And him blaming religious talk or hospital phobias or crap like that is just an excuse and he knows it. You can listen to him vent, if you are comfortable. But ultimately he knows what he would need to do. He knows where to go.

Instead of focusing on stopping the alcoholism, focus on laughing. No really, I'm serious! When we are sick, we fight to cure ourselves. But, when the illness is terminal, the fight changes to prolonging life and increasing the quality of life as much as possible. Take a walk in the sunshine. Eat healthy foods. Support the areas of health you can influence. Be there for your friend, as long as it is not bringing you down. Create some positive memories for him to have and think about when you aren't there. And create those positive memories for you to keep, too.

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