#836: “How do I apologize for my mean drunk friend’s behavior to my other friends?”


My close friend from childhood, “Jake,” is a kindhearted person with a drinking problem. I have learned that his drinking problem is not something for me to either fix or enable, so I do neither. Most of the time I simply hang out with him before he starts drinking for the night, and then excuse myself once he begins, to avoid being around him while he is drunk. This works 9 out of 10 times and has kept our friendship intact for fifteen years now.

My question is not about my relationship with Jake, but about how to deal with other people affected by his out of control behavior on the rare occasions that I am present to witness to it.

I invited Jake to my recent birthday dinner. My work colleagues were there. Jake, who is gay, made unwanted (verbal) sexual overtures to my straight male coworkers. He made loud, explicit and insulting observations about my female coworker’s outfits and bodies. I was fairly mortified and also speechless when it happened, cringing silently in disbelief. (He would never have said anything like this while sober, of course. When I asked, he told me he doesn’t remember the evening at all.)

What does damage control look like in a case like this? What do I say to these people now? Is there a better strategy than “sorry my friend harassed you, he’s an alcoholic”? I know Jake’s comments are not my responsibility, but I feel like I need to let my acquaintances and colleagues know that I don’t condone the things he said. I’m friends with the real Jake, not the distorted person he becomes while under the influence.


I think an apology will definitely go a long way to mending fences with your coworkers. I would keep Jake’s good qualities and non-drunk self out of it. Be brief and don’t make excuses. This isn’t about rescuing his status in their eyes, this is about repairing your relationships with these people.

Coworker, my old friend Jake was drunk and extremely out of line the other night, and I’m so sorry about his behavior toward you. I’m also sorry I didn’t do more at the time to put a stop to it. I was so taken aback and mortified that I froze.

And then, if you really want to make things better for those folks going forward, I have two suggestions:

1) Practice speaking up more in the moment to curb the bad behavior and shield your guests.Jake – that’s enough!” “Not cool, Jake.” “Jake, I’m gonna call you a cab. Time to go now.” You aren’t responsible for his behavior, but if you’re hosting events you are taking on some responsibility for other people’s comfort. Jake’s targets were likely also speechless because they had no basis for anticipating his behavior or knowing how to react to it in a way that wouldn’t make everything worse for you. If you don’t feel up to redirecting him or shutting him down in public, I understand, but that makes suggestion #2 even more important.

2) Don’t cross your wider social streams with Jake again, especially not when it involves people you work with. That means Jake might get excluded from things like intimate birthday dinners in the future, not because you are a bad or disloyal friend, but because he can’t hang. 

Think of all the letters here from people who are like “I love (friend/relative), but seeing them means I also have to see Drunk Mean Asshole, and I worry that if I tell them that I don’t want to hang out with DMA anymore that they’ll disown me, but DMA is ruining all the time I spend with them.” I’m sorry, but you are That Friend now! If you enjoy Jake’s company when he’s not drinking, think about enjoying that solo and keeping group events for people who can behave themselves. If Jake protests not being invited, tell him exactly why: “You were such a jerk to everybody at my birthday, I don’t want to cross those streams again. We’ve made a way to make our friendship work despite your drinking problem, and let’s stick with what works.” Please don’t make your wider social circle absorb his bad behavior for your sake. You can’t fix him, you don’t want to enable him, so what’s left is shielding the other people you care about when Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde.







176 thoughts on “#836: “How do I apologize for my mean drunk friend’s behavior to my other friends?”

  1. The best apologies include an element of “here’s how I’ll make sure it won’t happen again”. An assurance that Jake won’t be invited to any future events that your other friends are at probably covers that part satisfactorily. Nothing wrong with spending one-on-one time with him, but it definitely looks like he can’t be trusted around anyone else you care about.

    1. LW, I’m very surprised that you invited Jake to your party. That was not what I was expecting to read after your opening paragraph. Since you don’t normally hang with him in situations involving alcohol, I am really, really curious about why he attended your birthday party (not judging, just really curious.)

      1. LW here!

        The best answer is that I truly didn’t think my casual work friends would show up (they usually flake). I thought it would be Jake, me, and our other close childhood friends who know what to expect re: Jake.

        The more complicated answer is that Jake is probably my best friend of all, has done a lot for me in times of crisis, and I hand’t seen him drunk for a long time so sort of forgot about the extent of what can happen.

    2. LW, I am so sorry you have to go through this. 100% Yes on the Captain’s script, and also agreed on the “here’s how I’ll make sure it won’t happen again” bit, especially if any of your colleagues felt threatened or triggered by Jake’s behaviour. I don’t know what the situation might be at your office, but there are times when even a little bit of unwanted sexual attention or cattiness can send us down a deep dark rabbit hole, to say nothing of overt sexual harassment, which from the sound of it is what happened. At times like these, we can transfer any residual feelings onto other people (again, I am SO sorry!) and it does go a long way to make an apology.

      I’m not too good with holding my drink either, which I figured out a long time ago, and so I’ve been very careful with how much I imbibe. Sometimes I do go too far, and then I apologize for my behavior, just like I would if I wasn’t drunk. The fact that Jake doesn’t seem to be making a move to apologize, even after you told him his behavior was inappropriate, doesn’t say good things about him. It tells me that he either doesn’t care that you have to suffer the consequences of his bad behaviour, or that he’d rather let you to do it than deal with any uncomfortable feelings and embarrassment that might come from him behaving inappropriately to your colleagues. Neither of which should be YOUR problem.

      1. Amending, after reading more comments: There is a chance he is so deeply in denial/ it’s so painful to him that he can’t bring himself to apologize… which means that it’s time to move him to a “VERY small doses friend” category.

        It’s not his fault if he’s sick. But it’s not your job to fix him, as you said.

    3. (TW: Rape)

      When someone you love reaches the point of addiction that “I don’t remember, you know I’m not like that, it was the (drug of choice)” becomes plausible, you have to set a firm boundary in your own mind of where the line is for behavior you won’t excuse or tolerate. And stick to it, which is the hard part.

      For me it was when a new person to the group with social anxiety, ‘Mary’ who ‘Chad’ had courted unsuccessfully was reluctant to come to a get-together. Chad told them that I (the person they knew best and were most comfortable with) and also a person they had a crush on would be there, and badgered them into saying they would come. Once there she was extremely uncomfortable, and wanted to leave, but Chad pressed drinks onto her and told her I was coming later. Crush showed up with his girlfriend. Mary hadn’t known he was partnered and felt humiliated that she had flirted with him.

      Chad poured her more drinks until she got sick, then put her into the guest room to sleep it off. He came in later and assaulted her while she was half-asleep and too drunk to fight. He hugged and kissed her in the morning, and thanked her for a beautiful time. Once home, she went to a clinic to get a morning-after pill, and then called me.

      I’d like to say that it came as a complete surprise, but it didn’t. That I wasn’t the kind of person who would knowingly shelter a rapist, and introduce him as a close friend.
      There had been other women who disappeared from the group after sleeping with Chad at a party.
      There was the time he followed a group member’s teenage sister into the bathroom and wouldn’t leave until she started crying. There were all the drunken ‘jokes’ to women about forcing them to perform oral sex on him. The surprise massages where he wouldn’t stop when asked, but ordered the recipient to ‘relax’. The aggressively sexual come-ons to women, his anger and cruelty when they were rejected. The hugs and cuddles women in the group would give him to calm him down, the excuses we made for him.

      Because when he wasn’t drinking he was my Chad.
      He was nurturing, caring, gregarious, fun. He stood by me with emotional, practical, and sometimes financial support during my worst times. He helped me get away from Vader-Ex, and cut him out of the group. He surrounded himself with strong, capable, feminist women, and the awesome partners who loved them.
      He knew me better than my own family did. He was my family, part of my chosen family for over two decades.

      And if I had it to do over again, I would draw that boundary so much sooner. Before it got to things I couldn’t have imagined him doing when we were first friends. When you love someone, it’s so easy to keep moving the line back when they cross it just a bit, after years of that you don’t realize how far back it’s gone until something awful happens.

      1. I got nauseated reading that. Please tell me that you no longer have anything to do with Chad.

        1. It was nauseating and awful. No I don’t have anything to do with Chad, but it wasn’t a movie-perfect light bulb moment where everything worked itself out after that.

          There are a lot of comments downthread stating that inviting an abuser/creep/rapist to your party is enabling, and that you bear some responsibility when someone gets hurt. That’s true, completely true. Me and my group at the time bear responsibility for sheltering, absolving, and providing hunting grounds to an alcoholic rapist.

          There’s a lot of letters like this on the site. Most of them have you wondering how the Creep has any friends at all after the second paragraph.
          For me it was because I met that group of friends in the awkward post-high school years where we weren’t set yet. We supported each other through a lot of mistakes, through addictions, mental illnesses, awkward and embarrassing social mistakes, brushes with the law, bad relationships (sometimes with each other), lost jobs. Through it all we extended each other the benefit of the doubt that we would make it through okay, even if things were looking pretty dicey in the moment.

          And we were right. For the most part we emerged as decent adult human beings.
          So when Chad started drinking more heavily during a stressful time, we cut him some slack. I remembered X years before, when I had been drinking too much and lost a great job, and how Chad was there to help me through it.
          I kept doing that for years. It crept up gradually over a decade, there’d be an incident, but then things would be good for months at a time before another. How much slack is too much? Where is that line? I averaged recently drunken Chad in with sober Chad over all our years of friendship, and there was still so much good.
          After four years of reading this site, I’m able to draw those boundaries, but then, not so much.

          After Chad assaulted Mary, I went to a friend who had always been critical of Chad, and the last to smooth things over after one of his drunken episodes. Mary requested anonymity, so I gave friend the details of what had happened without certain specifics, and asked her not to invite me to anything with Chad. Friend told me that they had discussed Chad several times with members of the group, and that the consensus was Chad was okay, so she couldn’t cut Chad out of anything. She still specifically invites both of us to things together (I don’t go).
          The group are hard core GSF carriers, it took over a year of inviting people out to things one-on-one, and having Chad and four other people show up, for me to come to terms with the fact that cutting Chad out of my life meant losing my chosen family.

          I miss my family. I still miss good Chad.
          I get how LW is in this situation. When you are in a group that is actively managing someone, you don’t see their problems as much, because it’s being handled. I didn’t see how bad Chad had gotten until I saw him with people who were outside of the group.

  2. It actually IS enabling to continue to invite a person who behaves badly when he drinks to events where he can drink and behave badly. It lets him know that he won’t face social consequences for his behavior – at least, not from you, because you’ll keep inviting him to stuff. That’s how bad behavior is allowed to continue in a social group and the people at whom it’s targeted eventually get edged out of it. He’s the missing stair you’ve learned to walk carefully around, but your other friends are under no such obligation.

    1. There’s comments in answer to Letter #324 that apply in this situation, too. And no one’s yet talked about Jake choosing his victims or how he’s hiding his behavior behind his friend from childhood. How terrifying it must have been to be targeted by this man and objectified. Or that what Jake chose to do is the “assault” part of “Assault and Battery.”

    2. There have been people I’ve stopped inviting to any event where alcohol will be served because of the things they do when they drink. (In one friend’s case it also just meant socializing less in general, because I discovered he was probably driving drunk to come visit and because I couldn’t get to his house using public transit.) It was hard, because it meant I wouldn’t get as much time with the cool friend I didn’t have to worry about or constantly keep an eye on. But drawing those lines got less difficult when I realized I was ALREADY losing the chance to hang out with the cool version of my friend, and I was losing that not because *I* was being overly harsh but because they were deciding to be uncool.

  3. “Jake […] made unwanted (verbal) sexual overtures to my straight male coworkers. He made loud, explicit and insulting observations about my female coworker’s outfits and bodies. […] When I asked, he told me he doesn’t remember the evening at all.”
    (Does that look like sexual harassment with a side of gaslighting to anyone else?)
    I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this, LW, but this doesn’t sound like Jake is taking responsibility for his actions to me 😦 I’ve known a fair number of people who use alcohol intake as an excuse to a) be the meanest assholes they can to everyone they deem vulnerable and b) deny any responsibility for their actions.
    It sounds to me like your friend took advantage of your kindness and proceeded to see how much he could harass people without there being consequences for his behaviour. It reminds me a bit of that letter where the LW’s boss took a machete to a meeting: Jake seems to be testing how much he can get away with in your space. Attention, danger! That can only escalate with time!
    You are not enabling his alcoholism, and that’s good! But his harassing people affects lives other than his. Please, in addition of not enabling his verbal abuse either, make sure you protect your guests and yourself from it whenever he’s in your space. I’m sorry for telling you this, but I don’t think you can sit on the fence where abusive behaviour is concerned 😦
    Good luck, and take care! ❤

    1. Jake’s insistence that he doesn’t remember could be gaslighting. He could also have been so blackout drunk he doesn’t remember. Or, he does remember, but won’t admit it out of embarrassment (but not enough to do something about his problem), or because admitting he mortified his friend in front of hir coworkers would mean admitting he has a problem.

      It actually doesn’t matter. The LW now knows s/he can’t count on Jake behaving himself in front of other people. I would never invite Jake to any group event where there are guests who don’t know him. (Presumably Jake’s other friends know “how he is” and can at least brace themselves.)

      Also, quick reminder that it is okay to exclude people from events because of their behaviour. Kids can be cruel little shits and exclude other kids for mean and crappy reasons, and if you were subjected to that kind of bullying, or witnessed it go on, when you were younger you may feel terrible about excluding people as an adult. Jake harassed people and embarrassed the LW in front of hir work colleagues. It is okay to strike him from every future guest list. It won’t be any kind of wake-up call for him but it’ll protect the LW in future.

    2. Taking responsibility for his actions might look more like:

      “Oh wow, I don’t even remember that, and that’s not something I want to do. I should avoid drinking around your friends, if they’re even willing to spend time with me again.”

      1. Yes yes yes.

        Here’s the thing. It might be that Jake is deliberately gaslighting the LW, and consciously pretending not to remember. It might be that Jake is genuinely drinking so much that their short term memory isn’t functioning. (I did, many times.) It might be a weird middle territory that’s hard to explain if you haven’t been there, in which you are drunk enough to cross a line but sober enough to realize you’ve crossed a line, and then you can… ah… arrange to make sure that your memory is deliberately clouded, often by drinking more, or adding drugs to the mix, or etc.

        (I drank out of depression and self-loathing, and so if my drinking made me do something that I found humiliating, I’d drink more to blot out the specter of what I’d done. I was not remotely unaware of my bad behavior, but the problem was, the coping mechanism for shame was the same thing that caused me to do the shameful thing in the first place. I am lucky that at least my drunken tendencies were to embarrass myself rather than to pick fights, sexually harass anyone, or give insults, but they were humiliating enough even so.)

        But here’s the other thing: it DOESN’T MATTER. It isn’t like the LW needs to put up with it/subject their friends to it if Jake is genuinely sick, and can cut Jake off if he’s gaslighting. Either way, the LW gets to protect themselves and their other friends from the misbehavior. Alcoholism is a real illness (and as someone who has been in the trenches on both sides, I would strongly caution against any ‘here’s what you should do to help Jake fix himself!’, although I think CA commenters are usually aware that that kind of thing is wrongheaded), but it’s perfectly acceptable and indeed healthy to keep reasonable boundaries even though alcoholism is a real illness. Jake can be a gaslighting jerk or a very sick person at the mercy of his illness, and either way it’s perfectly okay to say “no, you can’t insult and harass my friends, and no, I’m not going to tolerate the way you behave.”

        1. It’s possible that he is telling the truth, and nothing but the truth, when he says that he doesn’t remember what he did. But that’s not the whole truth. The whole truth, in that case, would also include something in the range from “…and it’s more important to me to keep drinking than to avoid being rude to your friends” to “and I think it’s fine that I drank, did those obnoxious things, embarrassed you, and was so drunk that I don’t even remember doing it.”

          1. Errr, this is a bit… dismissive of the fact that alcoholism and addiction are diseases, often with distinct genetic markers. I mean, yes, you’re right. But it’s sort of like asking a depressed person (and I am both) to say “…and staying in bed was more important to me than maintaining the friendship with you.” It’s true, in the moment. But it’s not kind, and it dismisses the fact that there are very strong, very real things that mean that it’s not “just” a choice between one thing and another.

            If it’s just problem drinking and not alcoholism/addiction, that’s something else. But alcoholism is a real disease that is harder to get past than “gee, I guess it’s hurting my friends, better stop!” the same way that that logic doesn’t work for depression or anxiety.

          2. (Or to put it another way: I think it’s in appropriate to ask someone with a genuine illness to self-flagellate to the degree of “it’s more important to me to be ill than to be a good friend.” To get them to take responsibility and apologize, yes. To get them to say “my illness is more important than my relationships,” oh goodness.)

          3. (I’ve run out of nesting, sorry.) Fair enough; I was thinking that a lot of people, while they don’t say “it’s more important for me to drink than to treat my friends decently,” will say something like “I don’t remember doing that, but I’m sorry” or “I don’t remember that, but I’m sorry if I upset your friend.” If Jake is including that sort of “that’s not something I would want to do” apology along with his “I don’t remember,” the LW didn’t say so, and if so, I withdraw the original comment.

          4. That side of the issue becomes very important if a person is trying to deal with Jake’s problems; fixing his alcoholism, or smoothing his relationships with with their friends and colleagues. If a person is just trying to just apologize to their friends and protect them from future Jake-related damage, it might be best to just keep them AWAY from Jake. Or warn them that Jake is a problem in social situations where alcohol is present. You can do all that for the sake of the other friends and colleagues, and decide later how much you want to get into Jake’s motives, priorities, blameworthiness.

            Somebody who really believes “his drinking problem is not something for me to either fix or enable,” would probably prefer to just raise the quarantine flag over Drunk-Jake and keep blame out of it.

          5. The disease question aside, “keep drinking” and “avoid being rude to your friends” aren’t the only choices. There’s also “be sober at the party, then leave the party way early and drink at home.” Harm reduction FTW.

          6. Yes, I think that was part of my point, badly put perhaps. It doesn’t matter much to the original question whether Jake is apologizing to the LW appropriately or not; the question of whether it’s appropriate to expect a person to say “I am sorry for prioritizing my illness over our friendship” and indeed whether this gets to count as an illness is beside the point, the same way that the question of whether it’s feasible to plan a dry event with Jake is beside the point. The point is that either way, whether Jake is remorseful or not or acknowledges the problem or not, either way the LW can and should set boundaries re: what is acceptable in their presence and to their guests. That, which is basically what the Captain said to start with, is true and useful regardless of whether Jake is a “good” alcoholic or a “bad” alcoholic (scare quotes intentional) or even not one at all.

        2. Thanks to you three for explaining the difference to me. Before I read through the comments today I didn’t know memory could work that way (the drunkness I have had experience with, both in myself and other people, is not of an addictive nature, and this coloured my perspective).

          1. Edit: that three should be a five, including jd and Implications. As you can see, numbers are not my forte 😛

      2. EXACTLY. One time (once. one time.) I was the mean, drunk asshole when I visited a friend. That isn’t usually how alcohol affects me, or how drunk I get, and there were some underlying issues that I won’t get into here. But when she told me about it the next day, I was mortified and sent individual messages to every person who had been there that night to apologize. Then I didn’t drink for a while and certainly haven’t been that drunk again.

    3. Extreme alcohol use can affect memory formation, so it’s entirely possible he is telling the truth that he has zero recollection of what happened. Long-term alcoholics experience a number of cognitive side-effects which severely impact their daily functioning. Even when they are no longer abusing, some of the brain damage and side-effects can be permanent, like memory loss.

      That doesn’t make him less responsible for his behaviour or the Captain’s advice any less apt, though. Just pointing out this out. Many people are unaware of this side of alcohol abuse. It’s more than just getting really drunk frequently or using it as an excuse to be an asshole. (Though some people will, while sober, deny responsibility in this way.)

      1. Just a +1 to this. I went from having a remarkably keen memory to frequently being unable to remember details about the day before even on days when I wasn’t drinking. Years of sobriety has improved this, but not returned me to the sharpness of my pre-heavy-drinking days.

        One of the first signs that I had begun to do real damage to myself was when my then-partner said several times, “You can’t remember that? But you were there, and you’d only had a couple of beers.” (And in that case, he was right, I had only had a couple of beers; I did often drink covertly, but not in those cases.) It was then that I realized that the heavy drinking had substantially lowered my threshold for ‘can’t remember the evening.’ Scary stuff.

  4. It seems that, by inviting Jake and not ejecting him when he crosses boundaries, you *are* enabling him. If you let him ruin or risk your other relationships, you are enabling him.

    1. I don’t think it’s necessarily enabling alcoholism to let somebody misbehave when drunk without somehow stopping them. It may be enabling bad behavior, but that’s not exactly identical; Jake would be alcoholic, and drink, whether or not LW kicked him out of their house as soon as he began to harass their friends.

      One question I have is: was there alcohol served at the party? Or did Jake arrive with/having already consumed whatever he drank that night? Because one thing that seems prudent going forward is not to invite Jake to events where LW is planning to have alcohol available for their guests. That *is* kinda enabling. At very least, it’s asking a great deal of an alcoholic’s self-control.

      So what would happen if LW drew a boundary where they wouldn’t try to fix Jake, or interfere with what he did when he wasn’t with them; but they would not provide him with alcohol, and if he showed up obviously drunk to an event they were hosting, he’d be asked to leave? He could still be invited to any event where LW didn’t plan to serve alcohol.

      I get that this doesn’t address the original question, which was simply how to apologize for Jake’s behavior on this occasion; not how to prevent future ones. But I think the second question matters, too… if only because it becomes a LOT more difficult to apologize successfully to somebody for the third or fourth time something happens, having not done anything to stop it after the first time. So figuring out what to do to prevent recurrence is kinda part of making this apology likely to work, in the long term.

      1. To me it’s not so much about enabling/not enabling his alcoholism, it’s about whether you’re enabling harrassement or cruelty.

        1. OK. I agree that it pretty much is, though I can see how someone wouldn’t *mean* to enable harassment and cruelty, and just kind of freeze and have no idea what to do or how to do it, so instead desperately keep doing whatever they were doing instead because at least whatever that was, it is something they know how to do. It’s still enabling harassment and cruelty, but it’s not doing so willfully.

          I think when the LW said that they didn’t either enable Jake or try to fix him, they meant that they didn’t enable his drinking, though; so I wanted to clarify what *you* meant by it, because it’s soooo easy for wires to get crossed when two people in the same conversation are using the same word with different referents!! I mean, this is where we get about 10% of the traditional sitcom repertoire of plotlines. 😀 So yeah; agree with you, just clarifying.

          I’m still concerned about the whole question of whether LW was serving alcohol to their guests, or making it available to them, as part of the party refreshments. That frankly *does* sound like enabling a drunk in his drinking, and it’s something I would really avoid doing gin the LW’s shoes. LW can’t keep Jake from drinking elsewhere and then coming to a party to which he’s been invited (although if he shows up obviously intoxicated, they can tell him that he needs to go home and call him a taxi, if they want, rather than let him attend); but actually *providing* the stuff is just something I wouldn’t do if I knew an alcoholic were invited to my party, even if I knew them to be a perfectly happy and nice sort of drunk.

  5. It is my experience that alcohol doesn’t change people. It just takes the safeties and filters off.

    It is also my experience that there are some people who use alcohol as an excuse to behave like jerks. And when confronted about their drunk behaviour they say: ‘It wasn’t me! It was the alcohol!’

    It doesn’t work that way.

    In a way alcohol works the same way as an anonymous online persona: Some people turn into complete jerks online where they think nobody knows them.

    So, in my opinions people who are jerks when drunks are just well camouflaged jerks when sober.

    1. Yep. And even if alcohol magically did change people’s personalities such that a nice sober person becomes a jerk when drunk, that person would still be responsible for their choice to drink!

    2. Yes, that’s always been my understanding. Aggressive angry people who want to hurt other people, but don’t want to deal with the social censure that results from it. Solution – get drunk so as to have a built-in excuse.
      Interesting observation, comparing obnoxious drunks to internet trolls! That makes complete sense as well. I’ve always wondered what such people are like in “real life”.

      1. I would be very careful with this assumption. Some people drink to release feelings they can’t release other ways, including anger. (Some people who are not alcoholics do this as an excuse, even, although god knows I don’t think anyone but a medical professional should judge ‘real alcoholic’ from ‘angry person faking it.’) But some people–like me–drink for other reasons (for me, it was an escape from constant self-loathing) and behavior while drinking was not a cause but a pure side effect. And some people drink for no reason at all but that genetics gave them a bad roll of the die.

        I just, as an alcoholic, am really recoiling from the (honestly, highly judgmental and not at all science-based) assumptions that people who drink are their “real selves” when they drink. Yes, it’s true that people will generally not do things wildly outside their personality when they are drunk, just as people who are depressed (to be clear, I am both a person with severe clinical depression and an alcoholic) won’t do things wildly outside their personality when in a depressive episode. But “they want to do X but they don’t want the social censure for it” is something that depressed people have long suffered under: well it’s just an excuse to do fuck all and not get out of bed!

        Alcoholism is also a medical condition with genetic indicators and potential medical treatment. It’s NOT an excuse to treat people badly. But I am dismayed that the otherwise extremely mental health-friendly CA community is falling into tropes of “it’s just an excuse.”

        It’s a disease. You 100% DO NOT HAVE TO PUT UP WITH SOMEONE MISTREATING YOU BECAUSE THEY HAVE A DISEASE. Period. I am not excusing this person’s behavior. But please, please, please, the “you get drunk as an excuse to do what you really wanted to do” thing is both factually incorrect and hurtful.

        1. I really hear you on this. Alcoholism’s a huge problem within my family, and despite all the things that have happened because of it, I don’t believe that my dad/brother/sister were being their “true selves” then — they were incapable of making good decisions, and while they’d say or do hurtful things, these are things they were shocked and remorseful to hear afterwards. My dad routinely apologizes to me in a “I said something that really hurt you last night and while I can’t remember it, I’m really sorry, and I really am trying this time to get sober” way, and only knows to apologize because my mom tells him to — he has absolutely no recollection of times when he is drinking and it took me a while to figure that out. I know that 30+ years as an alcoholic makes it brutally hard. I know he probably won’t ever be sober. I also know he loves me. None of this means I have to hang out with him when he’s drinking, however, or put up with the things he says or does at that time. Growing up, it really was like living with two different people, except I didn’t necessarily know who he would be at any given time.

          Like, having seen the effect it’s had on my family, and these are people I’ve known for decades and KNOW who they are, I have a really hard time casting judgement upon anyone who is dealing with alcoholism or expect them to make unimpaired judgement calls relating to alcohol (unlike people who are NOT dealing with it and can say “Yeah I think I’ve had enough” or “I get a little wild while drinking so I’ll just have soda, I don’t want to ruin friend’s event”), you know? I feel like it really is a case of CANNOT vs WILL not. It doesn’t absolve them of what they do, but it also doesn’t mean they’re intentionally being super hurtful.

          But the answer is still that you don’t have to put up with it, you don’t have to invite them if alcohol will be present, and that the things they do are still hurtful and not okay and they’re responsible for them. You can care about them but you can’t MAKE them get help, and it is so, so hard to feel so helpless.

          (My sister’s recovered. My brother and dad have not. I’m really worried about my brother. I’m really worried because my family enables him. My nephew was doing a homework project and his answer to “What’s your dad’s favourite thing to do?” was “drinking beer”. He’s 5. I just… I feel so helpless.)

          1. “But the answer is still that you don’t have to put up with it, you don’t have to invite them if alcohol will be present, and that the things they do are still hurtful and not okay and they’re responsible for them. You can care about them but you can’t MAKE them get help, and it is so, so hard to feel so helpless.” This! So much this, even though people tend to go “BUT FAAAMILY” with these kind of situations.

            This is why I took the difficult decision to exclude my dad from my wedding last year. He’d been talking crap about me to my sister behind my back about how ridiculous it would be to wear a white dress since I didn’t get married in a church and other hurtful crap. He has always been alcoholic, but this particular tirade was really the last straw that broke the camel’s back. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life. In the end I was happy I didn’t have to worry about his condescending, mean drunk comments on my wedding day.

            Alcoholism is a thing that tears families apart. This is why my parents had a REALLY messy divorce when I was around 6 or 7 and I still feel unsafe whenever I smell beer (needless to say I avoid going to bars like the plague!).

          2. “CANNOT vs WILL not” — yes. My father is a jerk generally, but 8 million times worse when he’s had alcohol. He is not an alcoholic. He’s an asshole who is an extra-asshole when he’s drunk. He’s perfectly capable of not drinking, and also capable of behaving even IF he’s been drinking…as long as he wants to behave. The alcohol lets him turn his behavior up to 11 and pretend it was the booze doing it.

            But that’s not the same thing as someone with alcoholism, who cannot make the same choices my father can make about whether or not to drink, and about how to act while drinking. That doesn’t mean that alcoholics get some kind of free pass (we have a different family member who will never get to see his son again, and doesn’t know he even has grandchildren, because of his alcoholism), but it does mean it is a different situation with a different set of truths in play.

          3. @Toene (Out of nesting), I’m so sorry you had to make that decision. I absolutely agree, this destroys lives and families and yet drinking is such an accepted part of our society that it’s brushed off or people have a hard time recognizing it. Hell, I didn’t know that my dad was drunk until I was 10 or so and had a friend over, and they asked me “Does your Dad get drunk every night?” and… just wow, perspective shift. Until then I’d simply thought this was how everyone’s dad acted in the evening, that this was normal, and I was a horrible person to deserve the things he said and did to me.

            And because faaaaamily, my mom told me that if I ever told anyone the “lies” I said about the exact things that happened right in front of her, my dad would go to jail and we’d all be homeless and it would be my fault.

            It’s really only after years of therapy that I’ve been able to recognize how horrific an environment I grew up in, to the point that I cry during paper towel commercials when a kid spills juice or something and the parent keeps talking about the paper towel and just wipes it up, instead of screaming at the kid and physically punishing them. Because I still have moments that remind me that it wasn’t okay to grow up with that and that I don’t have to flinch if my nephew spills something around me, we just clean it up because spills happen.

        2. This is brilliantly said. An uncle of mine is alcoholic: until recently I didn’t know this (he drinks covertly, I assume, because I can’t recall seeing him drinking ever). Now that I do, the misalignment between the man my dad remembers – kind, friendly, took him out when he was a kid (uncle is much older) at boarding school – and the man I know – kind of a rude asshole, frankly – makes sense. My dad is starting down that path himself; he’s not perfect sober, but his behaviour drunk is very out of character and unpleasant.

          Obviously, LW, this is to a certain extent off topic: what matters in this case is that Jake is being an asshole, and not so much why (except that you can probably feel more OK about continuing your friendship than you would have, maybe?). Jake may be very hurt and upset by you removing him from future party guestlists, but he’ll probably understand why, even if he’d rather not acknowledge that. I’m sure your other friends will also understand what happened and if you demonstrate that you’re preventing it from happening again all will be well.

        3. Hi. Knitting Cat Lady, you caught me. It’s a fair cop officer, etc.

          I am actually a complete jerk. I have a vicious, nasty, violent temper and sundry other major flaws.

          But you know what?

          My inhibitions are also the Real Me. My coping mechanisms are also the Real Me.

          My filters are ALSO the Real Me. My filters are what years of me learning to deal with my shit constructively, respectfully, and non-violently has given me.

          Which is one of the many, many reasons I’m careful about my recreational chemical intake, drink and other, but can we be careful with the word Real, please?

          1. Oh, yeah. The obnoxious things I REALLY want to say are the real me.
            The filters I am trying to make second nature are not the real me, maybe, but I’d like it to become the real me before I get old and cranky and can’t bother to use filters that aren’t the “real me”.

            Credit where it’s due, please, filters and politeness are layers people put on because they want to. That’s real, too.

          2. Honestly, I would love to see the entire concept of “the real [person]” die in a fire (except as a contrast with deliberate and conscious role-playing/acting, I suppose). We’ve seen how “the real Aethelred is a super nice guy when he’s not drinking” / “drunk Aethelred is the real Aethelred” is toxic, but it has so many other horrible uses too. There’s the scare quotient with psychiatric meds, where people are scared into believing that they won’t be their “real selves” on antidepressants/ADD meds/whatever, often literally with scare lines like, “But I love the real Aethelred! I don’t want to lose him!” (People who decide for themselves that they don’t like their personality changes on psych meds aren’t what I’m talking about–again, I’m talking about the outside perception and scare tactics derived therefrom.)

            And I was just mentoring a rising star young engineer and saying, “hey, when you meet with the C-level executives to sell them on your project, you’ll probably want to talk a bit more formally; less slang and fewer pop culture references.” Not ‘change your entire way of talking,’ but modulate. She was very apprehensive: you mean I can’t be my Real Self to them? The Captain has discussed this in social situations, too: the odd idea that if a conversational concept or fannish topic passes into your head, you have to talk about it to be your Real Self even if nobody else is discussing it, because to tailor your conversation to the group is to be Fake.

            But there are many Real versions of all of us. We are not Platonic ideals; we are people. There is a Real Me that is sober and a Real Me that is drunk, and I prefer the sober one but they’re both real. There’s a Real Me on antidepressants and a Real Me off them. There’s even a Real Me on certain antibiotics that differs from the Real Me not on those antibiotics–side affects are weird! There’s a Real Me with friends and a Real Me in the engineering department of my workplace and a Real Me who puts on a suit occasionally and talks to the executives; they all talk differently but they’re all faces of me and they’re all real. There’s a Real Me who geeks out with Dragon Age fans and a Real Me who talks Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries with my mystery buddies and a Real Me who squeals joyfully about TS Joyce’s Lumberjack Werebear series.

            We all contain multitides, and they’re all authentic. The idea that there’s one Real Me is not only false but really, sadly, limiting. I only wish I’d learned this younger.

        4. Same here. The fact that I have self-control and a verbal filter when I’m sober and I don’t when I’m drunk doesn’t mean that out-of-control filterless drunk!me is ‘The Real Aebhel’; it means that I’m drunk and my filters are malfunctioning.

          I really wish that people would stop talking about alcoholism as an ‘excuse’. It’s a disease. It’s a disease that can cause people to behave badly and their friends and social circle shouldn’t have to put up with that bad behavior, but it really gets my hackles up when people talk about alcoholism as just ‘well, you’re just deciding to be an alcoholic because you’re really a Bad Person’. That’s not how it works at all, and I’ve found some of the comments on this post frankly very off-putting.

        5. I’ve done some addiction medicine and the disease model is useful but it’s not the end of the story. Diabetes is a disease. A diabetic can’t help not being able to process sugar correctly. But they CAN decide whether to watch their food, take insulin, etc, or whether to let the disease run rampent by pretending it doesn’t exist. And it’s not “Fair” that they have to do extra work to maintain things properly but it is what it is.
          By analogy, an alcoholic may not be able to help that they like alcohol too much, and may have to do more work to manage it than someone with no alcoholic predisposition, but they still have plenty of choices what they do with that. I do firmly believe taking away the choice component is harmful for addiction recovery and there is some data to support that.
          That’s all I’m gonna say on this as I don’t want to get too far into derail territory – I know you have / are (?) suffering but it seems like you are pushing an agenda that takes away all choice and that is NOT supported by science or addiction medicine.

          1. Where are you seeing anyone talk about what’s “fair” or taking choice out of the conversation? I really don’t see any of that in this sub-conversation.

          2. It really frustrates me that speaking from experience has bent over backwards to make it clear that they’re not excusing anything and people are still choosing to read this into it. There was no talk of fairness or lack of choice, they have just been responding to the many, many comments saying that the worst actions of a drunk person is their real personality, Jake must be lying about his memory, and other comments acting like there is zero mental health component to alcoholism.

            Alcoholism is also a medical condition with genetic indicators and potential medical treatment. It’s NOT an excuse to treat people badly. But I am dismayed that the otherwise extremely mental health-friendly CA community is falling into tropes of “it’s just an excuse.”

            It’s a disease. You 100% DO NOT HAVE TO PUT UP WITH SOMEONE MISTREATING YOU BECAUSE THEY HAVE A DISEASE. Period. I am not excusing this person’s behavior. But please, please, please, the “you get drunk as an excuse to do what you really wanted to do” thing is both factually incorrect and hurtful.

            This does not sound like an agenda to me, except for the agenda of not talking about addicts like non-people.

        6. I disagree; my late husband was an alcoholic, and he deliberately chose to do many harmful things whilst using the excuse that he was drunk and so it wasn’t his fault that he threw the cat into a wall/tried to set the house on fire/took a shit on the rug in front of me to underline his disrespect for me/ tried to aim the passenger side of the car, where I was sitting, into a concrete divider. Etc. Just because alcoholism may, and I stress may, be an illness, that does not mean the alcoholic can’t make deliberate choices while drinking. He’d even admit it.

    3. I agree that some people do use alcohol as an excuse for being an arsehole. But I don’t agree that having mean thoughts or mentally commenting on someone’s appearance means that people are actually jerks who are good at hiding it.

      Part of being a decent person is recognizing that some of our thoughts and inner monologue is inappropriate and making the decision not to say them out loud. It would be great if we all only had perfect and pure thoughts, but as that often isn’t the case, the best thing we can do is make the decision not to share our unkind thoughts with everyone around us.

      An arsehole is someone who for whatever reason has decided that their unkind thoughts need to be shared.

      Part of my mental illness is having unwelcome thoughts about how I am terrible with a side serving of thoughts about how other people are terrible. These thoughts don’t mean I actually believe, deep down, that my friends are terrible. What their appearance does mean is that I need to take better care of myself and make sure I’m following my mental health regime.

      1. THIS.

        Who I am when I am sober is a person who realizes “Wow, that thought was really inappropriate” or “Wow, that argument actually doesn’t hold up, let’s not make that one” or “My honest opinion is way less important than being kind to a friend who is hurting.”

        If my “filters” that keep me from saying cruel things go away when I drink too much, that doesn’t mean that I really believe those cruel things, it means that those cruel things crossed the threshold of “thought” to “verbalization” before I had time to consider and reject them. It wouldn’t absolve me of responsibility for saying something cruel, but it also doesn’t mean that it’s giving someone a window into my true self.

      2. Yes, I completely agree. I stopped drinking-enough-to-get-drunk when I realised that the main difference between drunk-me and sober-me was that drunk-me and sober-me had the same thoughts, but drunk-me switched off the part that said, “Hey, it would be stupid/mean/argumentative to say that out loud, so let’s not!” The part of me that goes, “Hey, let’s not say that!” is just as much me as the part that thinks those things: I’m not a more authentic or more true version of myself when I’m drunk and have lost the filters, and I kind of think it’s a bit of an alcoholism-enabling thinking to say that someone is!

      3. This. Self-control, awareness of consequences, ability to hold ourselves back before we hurt someone — those traits are every bit as “real” and true to the person as spontaneous nasty thoughts. Now Jake’s failure to make sure he’s in possession of those self control traits when he’s around other people is also real, but that doesn’t mean the sober person she’s friends with is just some well-crafted illusion. ALL of this is the Real Jake.

      4. ….this is off topic but your comment made me realize that I might have WAY more intrusive thoughts from my OCD than I thought I did. Because I get those awful thoughts about my friends and it never occurred to me that they might be of a kind with the Obviously Super-Intrusive Thoughts Of Horrible. I just thought I was being a terrible human being.

        Well, that’s one for therapy, I suppose.

        1. Diagnosis of OCD and medication for it, has been life-changing. No more awful, critical, fearful, thoughts crowding my head. My mind had never been quiet before.

          1. Yeah, I’m medicated, I just — like, I think my symptoms might be more severe than my therapist and psych are aware of, because it never even occurred to me to say “so, like, are really horrible super-mean thoughts about friends and loved ones a thing everybody has or is that a symptom? because if it’s a symptom my OCD is not as under control as all of us believed.”

          2. Yes, they are. You should tell your psychiatrist about them. I shared something that triggered my psych to ask if that was a problem, after decades of assuming I was an awful person to think terrible things about people who were good to me.

            It also makes it so much easier to recognize bad behavior/boundary violations now that my default internal reactions aren’t negative.

      5. Yes, exactly. It’s *which* of your thoughts you choose to express and act on and which you decide not to that actually make you an arsehole or not an arsehole. Everyone has arsehole thoughts. It’s recognising them as such and choosing not to give them a platform that makes a non-arsehole.

    4. I worked for a guy who was abusive to his employees. He could be nice and personable in a good mood, but you couldn’t predict which version of him you were going to get.

      Except at company parties, where he always drank a lot and always became effusively nice.

      No one at that company believed that this meant his “real” self was nice.

      Other people have put forth good arguments for why our inhibitions and filters are also authentic parts of ourselves. To those arguments I would add this: it’s not helpful to accuse those who are nice sober and mean drunk of being inherently bad people. What’s the point of denying yourself something that gives you pleasure if it doesn’t fix your underlying evilness?

      So, yeah. It isn’t a lack of hurtful thoughts that makes us good. It’s knowing how to protect others from those parts of ourselves.

      1. Hah, yes–for some reason we’re less likely to say ‘the drunk X is the real X!’ when it’s someone who’s crotchety or annoying when they’re sober but jolly or genial when they’re drunk! Or at least in an addiction-aware society we’re aware that it feels far more dubious to say that. (Which is probably partly because it’s not the most common way for that to go, but… it does happen.)

        1. I can remember my mother saying that some people were born a drink short. And yeah, I side-eye that expression now.

  6. “I’m friends with the real Jake, not the distorted person he becomes while under the influence.”

    Sadly, LW, Jake under the influence is the real Jake, just as much as the childhood friend you remember fondly. It is not your job to accommodate him in any way; friendship doesn’t require you to do that. Given this behavior, you’re not obligated to invite him to anything, and restricting your meetings with Jake to public places (ideally where alcohol isn’t served) may be the best way to handle him going forward. He’s not going to stop with abusing other people in front of you. Someday you’ll be the target. Why wait for it?

  7. Except you are kind of enabling him? Here you are worrying about how to smooth over the consequences of his drunk behavior, your letter is filled with all kinds of excuses about the drunk Jake vs the “real” Jake, and last but not least, you provided him with alcohol at your party, or at the very least failed to ask him to leave when he showed up drunk and started harassing your friends. Does Jake even know that you consider him an alcoholic and that it’s damaged your friendship? It’s very easy to say that none of Jake’s behavior is on you and that you only want advice about your relationship with your other friends, but to is his random stranger, the way you relate with Jake was a very clear and obvious contributor to this embarrassing situation.

    Anyway, since you’ve made it clear that you don’t want advice about relating to Jake, my advice is that you apologize to your work friends by owning the ways you failed to manage the situation at your party. I like the Captain’s scripts a lot. Notice how none of them involve apologizing on behalf of Jake; instead they all express regret that you weren’t able to respond appropriately to Jake’s behavior in the moment. That’s absolutely the best way to approach this. You can only apologize for your own actions – anything else is going to be headed firmly into notpology territory.

  8. Dear LW,

    As the Captain said, you apologize for not defending your other guests from Jake’s bad behavior, and you promise it won’t happen again.

    Ideally by not inviting Jake to events where he’ll screw up your work life.

    I’m sorry this happened to you on your bday.

  9. “I’m friends with the real Jake, not the distorted person he becomes while under the influence.”

    Jake The Asshole IS the real Jake.

    1. To paraphrase my grandmother during the depths of my aunt’s addiction: “I just kept wondering why [aunt] was hanging out with all of these addicts and criminals and losers. And then one day I finally realized: it’s because she is one.” My grandmother didn’t stop loving my aunt, but she did have to realize that my aunt was going to keep doing the things she was doing (stealing, smoking crack, showing up high to family events) until SHE death with her addiction (which, admittedly, is incredibly hard to do).

  10. Even though you’re not trying to fix Jake’s drinking problem, I think it may be time to make it clear to Jake that the person he is when he is under the influence is not exhibiting the behavior that you want to expose your other friends to, when you’re the host. From your letter, it seems like his behavior seems to be consistently out of line when he has been drinking, and it appears that his bad behavior when drinking is not something he can rein in, or remember when he’s sober. It may be time to start explicitly disinviting Jake when he is under the influence when it’s more than just the two of you.

    And while it’s not your intent, failing to disinvite Jake when he is under the influence is in fact enabling his drinking and his bad behavior while drinking.

    What Jake does when he is not in your presence is not your problem. The minute he shows up under the influence and you are his host, it’s your problem, and I think that’s an appropriate boundary for you to draw with him.

    This sounds so hard and I’m sorry you’re going through this.

  11. It is really painful to have to acknowledge that someone you consider a good and close friend is not someone you can have around when people who are socially and professionally important to you are present. I’m sorry that you have reached this point with Jake.

    However, yes, apologize. Let your coworkers know that you are mortified that you exposed them to Jake’s terrible behaviour and that this will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN (if you ever want to see your coworkers socially again, this is probably going to be a necessary and upfront part of your apology).

    The second worst thing you can do is gloss this over. The worst would be to ever have Jake around again when other people are present.

    I think you also may need to do some serious thinking about your role in this friendship. You say you’ve found a way to be friends without trying to change him and without enabling his behaviour, but are you sure about that? You’ve been comforting yourself with the idea that this isn’t the “real Jake”, but if he keeps drinking even though he knows this is what happens, this IS the real Jake, because it’s the Jake he’s choosing to become.

    1. Not just socially and professionally important, but anyone at an event you’re hosting and have invited an abusive person to.

      It sounds like his mistreatment of others was somewhat predictable, but perhaps you hadn’t seen him drunk in a long time and didn’t quite realise what the likely result of inviting him would be. Well, now you know and can learn from the mistake.

      1. The nature of the disease is that people go from being happy drunks to mean drunks over time.

        What would happen to you and to Jake if you cut him out of your life completely?

        1. Addicts often have to hit rock bottom before it finally gets through to them that they have a problem. Losing all of their friends is often the way that they come to this realization.
          I doubt that anything would happen to the LW if he/she cut Jake out of his/her life. Jake? Well, he might lose jobs and end up on the street, or he might come to the realization that the drinking has cost him too much and he needs to quit.
          I’m not so sure it’s true that people go from being happy drunks to being mean drunks over time. In a lot of cases, the person really was a mean person, but was able to hide it from day to day. Alcohol just took off the brakes and let the mask slip.

          1. +1 my experience is as an observer but I’ve been told (by the person who *is* a recovering alcoholic) many many times about alcoholics/substance-abusers needing to hit rock bottom before admitting the problem exists, to the point of losing people/possessions/place to live. The immediate problem is dealing with the Jake fallout by apologising to colleagues for the situation happening at all; future situations could be avoided by not having Jake at social events where alcohol is present – IF you want to enjoy fun nice sober Jake still. It honestly would be better for Jake to hit his rock bottom sooner rather than later.

            Also, just as an aside – if you have the time, perhaps go to an Al-Anon meeting? Hearing stories from family/friends of alcoholics might change your perspective.

          2. @Hobbits! The Musical: Sorry, ran out of nesting. But that line about addicts ‘needing’ to hit rock bottom in order to change is actually a myth. It’s part of the dogma that AA push, but it is not evidence-supported. Yes, anecdotally, there are some people for whom this is what worked. But, overall, people are actually more likely to change if they’re coming from a place of having something left to lose. The ‘rock bottom’ thing can be counter-productive there.

            (This, I want to stress, should in no way change the LW’s decision about what she does regarding Jake’s behaviour, because Jake’s well-being actually shouldn’t be what drives that. The well-being of other people around him, including the LW, needs to be the basis for the decision here.)

        2. Do you have any cites for this? It’s not my experience with being in or witnessing others in recovery, but I do have to admit that my experience, though first-person, is anecdotal.

          (I admit that my bias is that I see a lot of folk wisdom generalizations of “addicts do/are X” online, especially from people who are not and have never have been addicts, but I’m certainly open to the idea that you are speaking either from personal experience or from verifiable fact, and I’d like to adjust my own perceptions if so.)

          1. Sorry I don’t have any source for this; it was something we were told during my brother’s struggle with alcoholism, and was definitely true in his case. He is now doing well, and is sober and happy. But he did slide from happy drunk to mean drunk over the years while he was drinking, so my experience is also anecdotal. 🙂

        3. “What would happen to you and to Jake if you cut him out of your life completely?”
          My apologies if I’m misinterpreting, but you don’t mean that Betsy is responsible for what happens to Jake, right? Because he’s an adult (not Betsy’s charge) and it would be a disservice to both the LW and her friend not to consider Jake an autonomous human being responsible for the consequences of his actions.
          However, if you’re asking to invite the LW to consider other possible outcomes of the situation (as in, “here’s something that could happen, how would that make you feel?”), I have nothing to object.

        4. The demons in the head that are making the person use, get louder over time. It takes more and more using to shut the voices up, and meanwhile everything good in one’s life is slipping away. So time to huddle over a bottle (or X) again.

      2. yes–ANYone you have invited to a party deserves to be free of that sort of behavior.

  12. sorry but excusing his behavior IS enabling. It enables him to keep on doing stuff knowing you’ll smooth it over for him.

    You already understand that the missing stair is not yours to fix, but you would really do well to recognize that you are also not the handrail that helps people across it.

    saying this as a survivor of familial alcoholism.

  13. LW, others have already covered dealing with Jake. But I want to raise a couple of things.

    Firstly, Jake’s Jekyll/Hyde act.

    Now, I like a drink. I don’t drink to excess much any more, but I have absolutely been drunk enough to have forgotten events the next day. And… while that happens, it is not something that happens *all the time*, not even if Drunk Person is *that drunk* every time. While it is possible that Jake is somehow completely unable to control himself when drunk, and completely unable to remember his behaviour when sober, it is way, way more likely that these are face-saving excuses.

    Because it’s a hell of a lot easier to claim you don’t remember how you behaved, than to own up to it and apologise and deal with the fallout of what you did. And while it’s generally excusable to use “Oh I was so drunk I don’t remember” to help you save face when you don’t want to think about why you decided to wear a lampshade on your head and dance the macarena, it’s not okay to use that same excuse for sexually predatory behaviour and verbal abuse.

    Secondly, this idea that your current actions around Jake don’t constitute enabling or fixing.

    Now, I agree you’re not fixing him (and I also agree it is *not your job to do so*). But I feel like you’re falling into that Missing Stair trap of believing that you can occupy some sort of moral “neutral ground” by continuing to invite Jake to things like he’s a normal friend *and* then failing to take any responsibility for him afterwards. It’s not an uncommon trap to fall into. We’ve all done it. But the opposite of “don’t fix” is not “pretend it’s not broken” and you can’t keep doing it.

    Because it’s the same idea of “neutrality” that sees people continue to insist on remaining friends with – and inviting to events – the abusive exes of people they ostensibly care about, and then act like it’s the abuse survivor’s choice to stop being a part of the social group. The same neutrality that sees known predators invited to parties while a few “caring” individuals take the time out to warn any new/young guests of the predator in their midst (but shh, don’t say anything to offend him, he’s a really nice guy!), and then act like it’s weird when women suddenly stop attending those parties.

    You know Jake will get drunk if he is at a social thing with alcohol. You know Jake will behave extremely poorly when he is drunk. You know Jake will not apologise for or own up to or deal with his own bad behaviour. So when you invite him to stuff, knowing all of this, you are enabling him. You’re enabling him by trapping other people you care about in social situations where Drunk Jake (my mind keeps reading that as Junk Drake) suddenly becomes *their problem*.

    1. And… while that happens, it is not something that happens *all the time*, not even if Drunk Person is *that drunk* every time

      Not necessarily true when someone’s drinking very heavily, AFAIU, which Jake probably is. If you’re a person who drinks “normally” and occasionally drinks to excess, then blacking out is a thing that happens occasionally and is fairly strongly correlated with those times when you drinks lots and lots, or drink a particular combination of spirits or whatever. If you are someone is is very frequently drinking to excess and pretty much always has alcohol in your system, then blacking out is very common and can happen at a much lower level of drinking.

      Not that this changes much about how LW should respond to the situation, but if Jake is a very heavy drinker, then it’s very likely that his “don’t remember anything, sorry” is literally true. This does not absolve him of responsibility for his behaviour, it just means he probably isn’t also lying about it.

  14. If you want to have social events with Jake and non-Jake, could there not be any alcohol around?

    It sounds a little like a case of (alcohol, your other friends and coworkers, Jake), choose 2. It sounded from your letter like he doesn’t show up drunk to things.

    It is possible that there are other social conventions that mean you can’t get alcohol out of the picture that I don’t know about. (I don’t mean to make it sound like this is an obvious and easy answer. I don’t know all your constraints).

    Good luck!

    1. Sadly, while this sounds good and occasionally works, my experience (both as a former addict and with friends) is that addicts are often very good at acquiring substance of choice even when it’s not provided–whether simply by bringing it themselves or by having a particular genius for finding it in almost any situation. At my worst, I could find alcohol in all but the dryest places, even if that meant hitting up the cooking sherry or the vodka bottle half-forgotten in the back of the fridge. (No, I’m not proud of it; yes, I’ve gotten help since.) And usually I’d hedge my bets by providing some myself, either overtly (“wine to share!”) or covertly. (There were, I know, conversations where someone would ask why I’d been provided with alcohol and the bewildered host would insist I wasn’t drinking… because I was doing my best to hide the actual consumption part.)

      So while it MIGHT work to simply make these events alcohol-free… it can be complex to do so. This is part of why addiction is so, so socially isolating and difficult.

        1. You’re more than welcome, and thank you for your understanding response. 🙂

      1. Hell, my late alcoholic husband drank all my perfume and the vanilla I had for cooking.

  15. You don’t apologise for Jake’s behaviour. It’s not your behaviour to apologise for. What you apologise for is misjudging your friend Jake’s capacity to behave around other people. Then you make sure you don’t invite Jake to such events in future, because he clearly can’t be trusted to regulate his behaviour.

    Incidentally, I’m with the other people who are saying actually, yes, you are enabling Jake’s alcohol problem. You’re enabling it by trying to shield him from the consequences of his actions – such as social exclusion and disapproval. You’re enabling it by trying to apologise for him being an arsehole when he’s drunk, and coming along behind him and mending fences. You’re enabling it by pretending to yourself that his behaviour when he’s drunk is an aberration caused by the alcohol: alcohol doesn’t make personality; instead it lowers inhibition levels on the personality you already have. You’re enabling it in a major way by giving him the opportunity to act out in the first blinkin’ place – you say you normally only socialise with him while he’s sober, and then you invite him to an event where even the most socially oblivious person would be able to guess he’d misbehave? That is NOT being a good friend to him.

  16. Hit Record. Send the resulting video in an email _privately_ to Jake.

    -Used to take a whole lot of talking and maybe an incident involving the police to crack an abuser’s denial. Now it’s easy to save lives or prevent innocent others from harm. Hoping the problem goes away on its own means all will see it escalate.

    1. I, hm. This kind of thing… works brilliantly for some addicts. A similar well-meaning attempt to show me my addiction third-person made me suicidal. (Long story short: I drank out of self loathing in an attempt at obliterating myself temporarily. I was so humiliated by having the results shown to me graphically from the outside that I concluded that the only solution was a more permanent obliteration. I am very lucky that I did not succeed.)

      Addiction handling is complex and so difficult that I would caution against a layperson trying to fix it. This is not excusing it–absolutely you do not need to expose yourself and your friends to the illness. But a lot of extremely well-meaning attempts to help an addict fix themselves by laypeople can go badly haywire, simply because it is in fact a complex disease.

      I would recommend that people focus on their own boundaries, not on fixing the friend, unless they have some expertise there. It really can do more harm than good.

      1. Big hugs to you, speaking from experience. I’m really glad you found your way out of that, because it sounds so painful — depression is bad enough on its own, adding in addiction (to a depressant no less) is just a nightmare. I’ve watched my dad’s life self-destruct, I’m watching my brother’s, and I almost lost my sister to it. And there is nothing I can do. They know how I feel. They know I won’t enable them. They know I love them. But I can’t love them sober, no matter how hard I’ve tried, and it’s damaging to me to do so.

        I think if my dad had footage of himself at my brother’s wedding he would have killed himself in shame, because his social anxiety and sensitivity towards how others perceive him is absolutely brutal while he’s sober. It’s not our job to enable him but it’s also not worth saying “Hey you ruined your son’s wedding by getting drunk 5 minutes into the reception, then locking your family out of their hotel room and they had to sleep in their car because there were no rooms left and the hotel couldn’t open the deadbolt”.

        I… fuck. He still doesn’t know about that. It’d break him to know. It’d just add to his shame/depression/pain pile that he carries around and start him drinking earlier in the day. :/

      2. Yeah, that…would not have been good for me. At all. I’m really really with you that LW should focus on her own boundaries, not on trying to fix her friend’s addiction. Addiction is the kind of thing that seems really obvious to solve to a lot of non-addicts, but from the inside it’s just not that simple.

        1. Oh, I’m a card-carrying club member, so were a couple of my family members who are dead from alcohol-related events. It may not have worked for you, but I had to see myself before I’d change. I’m just thankful no one was raped or killed.

          1. Just puzzled that people want to shield alcoholics, protect them, from the consequences of their own actions. They need to know they acted like a fool/a criminal/an ass. So many people protected late dead husband, including me, that he had no motivation whatsoever to change. Why would he? He almost killed someone (not including me, because he almost killed me, too) and yet…he was protected, the poor misunderstood pathetic creature.

          2. I’m not seeing a lot of trying to shield or protect alcoholics from *consequences* here, just primarily the suggestion that recording video of the behavior of a severely depressed person who drinks out of self-loathing so that they can see, when sober, just how horrible they were… might not be the best way to get them to change their behavior or seek help.

            It sounds like your late husband was a cruel and manipulative man who used his drinking as an excuse to be even crueller and more manipulative. I’m really sorry that he did that to you. But you seem to be painting all alcoholics with the same brush in some of your comments here, and that’s not fair. I lost a relative to liver failure just a few years ago. He was a gentle soul whose worst excesses when drinking usually involved calling a cousin he hadn’t seen in a while and reminiscing at length. I’m not going to try to claim that he was a typical alcoholic. He wasn’t. I don’t think your late husband was either.

            A couple of people here have said, “Having someone do X [might have prompted]/[actually did prompt] me to try to kill myself.” I don’t think that responding with “Not doing X constitutes shielding/protecting people in a way they don’t deserve,” is particularly necessary or kind.

  17. I like The Captain’s approach to the apology. Be sorry it happened, but don’t make excuses for Jake. That’s unfair for all involved.

    I honestly think it would be best not to include Jake in future gatherings with other social circles. That sounds like a missing stair in the making, and who wants to install a missing stair into a healthy group? It’s hard to tell how bad Jake feels about this incident (and any others that lead to LW avoiding him when drinking), but I’ve known people who frequently ruin parties and when confronted later, they just shrug or laugh and act like being black out drunk means bad behavior either didn’t happen, or it probably wasn’t as bad as you’re saying it was. If Jake’s not showing any kind of remorse for this and for how it made LW feel, that’s a huge red flag for me.

  18. One thing I would like to add to this very thoughtful answer:

    Often underlying a question about addiction that is on the surface “how do I live around/with this person’s addiction?” is an underlying question of “how do I help fix this person’s addiction?”

    The first question is often quite answerable. Figure out how often you can tolerate seeing them at their worst, set your boundaries, be active in harm prevention (take away their car keys or call the cops if they drink and drive, notify CPS if they’re endangering children), don’t make excuses for them, and decide if and when you can see them.

    The second underlying question, though, is often unanswerable. It’s like “how can I fix my partner’s depression?” Well, probably you can’t You can develop coping mechanisms around it, and if they are ready to try to fix it, you can help them find a therapist, be supportive as they go into therapy, help them with whatever baby steps they need to recovery, etc. But they have to do it. All you can do is help if and when they’re ready–or walk away if they aren’t ready and you can’t tolerate their behavior.

    And let me be clear: there is nothing awful about not tolerating someone’s behavior, whether it’s caused by depression or addiction or some other mental illness. It can FEEL awful. But it isn’t. Plus, it can be this really truly awful-feeling tightrope walk: if we accept that addiction is an illness, then where is the line between supporting someone through their illness and “enabling” it? I’ve been depressed and I’ve been an alcoholic and while depression is generally easier for admit publicly, often my alcoholism was actually easier (by their own admission) for my partners to handle. But that’s harder to admit, because if it’s depression they’re “supporting” me but if it’s addiction they’re “enabling” me and on and on.

    So I’d say, from my perspective on both sides of this, and from talking to my partners past and present through various stages of my addiction and my depression, you need to figure out what your boundaries are and enforce them. It doesn’t have to be a “cut them off entirely” thing and it definitely doesn’t have to be a “you can prove you’re not enabling by giving them an intervention!” (oh god, don’t start me on interventions), but if it’s, “No, you’re not invited to that party, because last time you did X and Y,” that is wholly reasonable. If it turns into your not wanting to be friends with them anymore because of X and Y, that is also reasonable! It’s not necessary–you’re not a bad enabler if you stay friends with addicts–but it’s not unreasonable.

    I’m not sure if this makes any sense. But I think it is most helpful to split the overt Question One, How Do I Deal With The Impact On My Life, from the implicit Question Two, Do I Need To Fix Them. And the answer to question two is not only “no, you don’t,” but “and you probably can’t.” You can help them if they decide they are ready to heal themselves. But you can’t make them do it, any more than you can fix any other mental illness by really wanting the person to not be mentally ill.

    1. I want you to know how much I appreciate your postings on this, because I absolutely agree. This isn’t an asshole problem, this is an addiction problem, and that is a whole different can of worms than someone who is a really unpleasant drunk.

      Also I am dreading the day I call CPS on my brother because it’s going to happen unless he gets help and my heart is breaking into a thousand pieces just thinking that.

      1. Just wanted to say I’m so, so sorry you’re in that situation. Hugs if you want them.

        1. Thank you, hugs are always good. Your words have honestly been pretty healing for me — maybe I need to find some sort of adult child of alcoholics group or similar. It comes up in therapy, but I have a lot of moles to whack there 😉

    2. Just wanted to say thank you so much for your posts. I’m really struck by the difference, in what types of contributions someone can make to a discussion, between a thoughtful person with first-person experience (unfortunately), and another thoughtful person without.

    3. Another round of thanks for your participation here. You’re very thoughtful and compassionate, and you’re pointing out a lot of stuff I hadn’t considered. I’ve watched addictions from the outside, and had brushes with it myself, but I don’t have the first-hand experience of Being There and Doing That like you do.

    4. Speaking from experience: I also want to thank you for your compassionate and nuanced perspective, and for putting so much time into challenging people’s assumptions about the nature of addiction on this thread. I agree with you that a lot of the feedback seems to run counter to the usual atmosphere on this blog, which recognizes that being compassionate to illness and not putting up with behavior that results in you feeling crappy CAN coexist and that someone doesn’t have to be A Bad Person™ to make setting boundaries with them okay. Your comments have both of those ideas clearly expressed and in spades, and I appreciate that a lot.

  19. If you want to maintain a friendship with Jake, that’s up to you. But you need to keep that friendship compartmentalized – you socialize with Jake one-on-one in situations where you can leave when he starts drinking. But you don’t ever inflict Jake on other people. You don’t invite him to any event with other guests, you don’t bring him as your friend to a party, if Jake is hosting a party, you don’t go, and you don’t meet Jake in public in a place that serves alcohol, even if you plan on bailing before he gets abusive. You don’t invite him even if you’re not serving alcohol, because you can’t trust that to keep Jake sober.

    In the short term, apologize profusely to your friends (extra abjectly to work colleagues), say that you should have known better, and that you’ll never invite them to an event where Jake is present ever again.

    If something like this happens again, if you’re the host you need to take charge when one of your guests starts abusing the others guests. For a Jake like incident, if a “Jake, cut that out!” doesn’t work, you phone for a cab and send him home. If it’s at a restaurant, you tell him to leave. If you just sit there silently, you become That Friend with the Drunk Mean Asshole.

    In the future, I think that you do need to recognize and truly accept that drunk mean asshole Jake is also the real Jake. And by the sounds of it, drunk mean asshole Jake is the more reliable part of his personality. And sweet Jake comes with limits – even when sober, Jake is not going to feel sorry, or apologize for, or even admit to, the way he acts when he’s drunk.

    1. “And sweet Jake comes with limits – even when sober, Jake is not going to feel sorry, or apologize for, or even admit to, the way he acts when he’s drunk.”

      That is a really great point right there. How great can sober Jake possibly be if he’s not willing to even admit to behaving badly when he’s drunk, let alone apologize?

      1. (LW here) My guess is either he legitimately blacks out when drunk and has assorted memory loss problems, or that he’s remorseful but too humiliated to say anything. I suppose it doesn’t ultimately matter though.

        1. No, it doesn’t really.

          If he blacks out to the point where he really doesn’t remember it, and he is not willing to trust your word implicitly when you tell him what he did and be utterly remorseful and willing to do whatever he can to make amends *just based on that*, then that’s being kind of a jerk.

          If he remembers and is utterly humiliated, and he prioritizes relieving his own feelings of humiliation over giving you the heartfelt apology and amends that you deserve, that’s also being kind of a jerk.

          Either way, not seeing great behavior here even from Sober Jake, let alone Drunk Jake.

    2. It can be difficult not to socialize with someone in a group if the rest of the group don’t support it. When I cut my Jake out of such things other members of the group would bring him.

        1. This was in response to Jennifer’s suggestions on how to move Jake into a one-on-one friendship in the future.

          LW mentioned in the comments that Jake is part of a group of close childhood friends and that she leaves parties when Jake gets drunk. Which makes it sound like many of the times she sees Jake, they are guests at a shared friend’s function. It can be much more difficult to socially isolate Jake if she is seeing him primarily in a group setting, as she can’t control the actions of the rest of the group.

          Even if she doesn’t invite Jake to parties she is hosting/are being hosted for her, unless she tells all the other members of the group that Jake isn’t invited, they will assume he is, because he has been for 10-30 years.
          They will talk to Jake about party plans, and instead of saying “I wasn’t invited because my drinking is getting out of hand”, he may nod and talk as if he’s going, he may show up to the party rather than lose face with the rest of the group.

          It can (and should) be done, but it’s not cut-and-dried when dealing with a group of close friends.

  20. Like others have said, an absolutely critical part of a real apology is what you’re going to do differently next time. Part of your damage control needs to be an assurance that Jake will not be invited to any events those friends will be at ever again. I also strongly recommend not saying anything about how “Jake is a kindhearted person with a problem with alcohol” – that just sounds like an excuse and it makes you look like you have terrible judgement. He clearly wasn’t kindhearted to the people he sexually harassed and insulted.

    Beyond the apology and promise never to expose your friends/colleagues to that kind of cruelty again, I think you also need to bring your A game to work for a good while. If one of my coworkers invited someone who behaved as badly as Jake to an event I was at, that would destroy my faith in their judgement. Nobody wants to believe their friend would behave that badly and I’ve certainly frozen up when I was so shocked by someone’s incredible level of rudeness that I had no idea what to say, but I would side-eye the hell out of anyone who was friends with someone who treated me that badly.

    Another thing you might want to be prepared for is how to respond if someone doesn’t accept your apology. I’m a particularly unforgiving person and your coworkers might be much nicer people than me, but I think it’s worth being prepared in case you try to apologize to someone who doesn’t want to hear it. My script for that would be something like “I completely understand” and then keeping any necessary conversation strictly work-related.

    And finally, having screwed up doesn’t mean that you are the worst person ever to worst and that the entire rest of your life needs to be one long apology. It was just one party, and while Jake behaved terrible and you didn’t do a fantastic job of handling it, as I understand it nobody got physically harmed or had their things destroyed or anything. This will all probably blow over if you make a good apology, keep Jake away from your other friends, and be extra careful with your tasks at work.

    1. “I also strongly recommend not saying anything about how “Jake is a kindhearted person with a problem with alcohol” – that just sounds like an excuse and it makes you look like you have terrible judgement. He clearly wasn’t kindhearted to the people he sexually harassed and insulted.”

      Yes, please do not start telling someone that the person who harrassed them or was cruel to them is a great person or couldn’t help himself. That’s not apologizing, that’s adding insult to injury.

      1. Being told how great Mr. Harasser is would infuriate me, and definitely alienate me as a coworker.

    2. I agree — both about bringing your A game at work and about being prepared to be rebuffed. I would probably go for some combination of Cool Professionalism + dialing the friendship back in their shoes. Your coworkers may be nicer or more forgiving than I am.

  21. In one of my social groups there is a person who gets talkative and loud and tells REALLY BORING stories when they’re drunk. The reason this is okay is that there’s a long established tradition of saying “Shut up, [Name], you’re drunk!” Which actually works well enough for them to get the message and go and find some other person to talk to.

    The point of this story is that people who drink to much can be amenable to being told they need to stop doing what they’re doing, and maybe go home.

  22. I am really hoping this will be somewhat constructive and not too harsh, but I think it needs to be said.

    Jake is not the only one who fucked up here.

    You did too.

    You know Jake is an alcoholic. You know his behavior is out of control when he’s drunk. But you willingly invited him to a social occasion where alcohol was present, knowing that there was a chance Jake would get drunk and belligerent with the rest of your guests. Guests who out of courtesy of shock or even fear of what this strange man might do if confronted would feel unable to defend themselves from Jake’s sexual harassment and verbal abuse. You set them up, OP. It might not have been malicious, but you set them up. You need to own that just as much as Jake needs to own his bad behavior.

    It’s one thing for you to stay friends with Jake knowing who and what he is. But I think it’s part of the social contract that when you invite your friends to something, you ensure a certain level of physical and emotional safety at that thing. You don’t essentially unleash a tornado on the gathering and then say “wow, I had no idea you’d all get swept up like that. It’s so gentle when it’s just a normal wind.”

    As to where to go from here, I’ve been in the situation your friends were in, and what I wanted to hear was something like this: “I am so sorry for my friend’s behavior at my party. He harassed and abused you, and that wasn’t okay. I made a mistake inviting him, and I will never do it again. I understand if you need some time and distance to process this, and I won’t push you. Again, I’m really sorry.”

    Then follow through.

    1. I don’t disagree with what you say overall, but I wanted to point out that the letter says nothing about alcohol being present at the party. Alcoholics are well known to get drunk ahead of time or smuggle alcohol into events.

        1. Here’s the thing, though: Is it realistically possible for LW to eject Jake when he’s drunk? Jake may be twice LW’s size, and LW will be handicapped (in the racing sense) by concern for him, concern for herself, concern for others, concerns for property, ordinary inhibitions against causing or inviting bodily harm, and a disinclination to be charged with assault, none of which are apt to be on Jake’s mind at the time.

          I helped remove a few mean drunks from parties in my heedless youth, and in retrospect some of those times we ought to have called the cops, because it got physical and I and others were fortunate to escape with bruises and a ruined night, instead of fractures or criminal charges or someone managing to leave while drunk and angry with their car keys still in their pockets.

          I mean, it can be done, but it’s not to be lightly undertaken or suggested. I apologize for stating and restating the painfully obvious, but the thing about mean drunks is that they’re mean, and they’re drunk, and they act like it.

          LW also didn’t say that the party was at their house. If it was at a restaurant or other public place, or at a friend’s house, LW’s scope is severely limited by that. I do not recommend trying to remove an angry drunk from a public place by yourself if you are not a bouncer or police officer or other authority. Bystanders are apt to be confused about who is doing what to whom and, well, this is how those huge sprawling fights in front of bars happen.

          And it is a faux pas, at best, to kick someone out of someone else’s house.

          The answer to the question “Can LW reliably cause Jake to leave a place without putting LW, Jake, or anyone else at risk?” kind of determines what LW can and cannot safely do in their friendship with Jake:

          Option 1) (If and only if LW feels 99 percent certain, based on past experience, that Jake will leave if told to, and that LW can and is willing to handle the situation if Jake refuses. This only really applies if he has only ever been verbally abusive, not if he’s been physically so):

          Talk to Jake when Jake is sober. Make it painfully clear that Jake showing up at any social event at LW’s place having been drinking, or drinks while there, will get him invited to leave, immediately. Not “if he drinks plus some other behaviour.” Not “if he gets drunk.” If he is drinking, he is going to get drunk. If and as soon as it becomes apparent that he is drinking.

          Sober, Jake will doubtless agree, possibly with great remorse.

          Unfortunately, Drunk Jake is unlikely to be willing to cash the cheques that Sober Jake writes, or, to put it more harshly, “you know an addict is lying when their lips move.”

          So you will have to enforce it. Even so, only invite Jake to events where everyone knows him and won’t be shocked or incredibly upset if this happens. Realize that you may have to leave with him, at least briefly, to get him out of there cleanly. Be willing to pay for the cab.

          Don’t do it oftener than your own resources permit. Don’t put other friendships at risk. Don’t expose children or people you don’t know well or people you know to be vulnerable or especially addicts in recovery, to Jake.

          If you ever need to do more than tell him, once, to leave, in order to enforce it, abandon this approach.

          Option 2) (If LW is not certain Jake will leave if told to.) Spend time with Jake alone, ideally in coffee-shops or other public places where no alcohol is sold or permitted. Get up and leave if it becomes plain he’s been drinking. Don’t let him into your house. Don’t go to his. Be honest about why. “I care about you, Jake, but I’m damned if I’m going to be trapped with a mean drunk.”

          I am so sorry that this is happening to you, and to Jake, LW. I hope he gets through this. I hope he gets through this while you two still have a friendship.

          But if you hit your limit, go.

          And, if it helps … I try not to toss the word enabling around. Most enablement is, at worst, people trying to minimize the amount of short-term damage having an addict around is doing to them, and being too hung up in coping with the moment to look at the long-term.

          And, equally, you’re not responsible for his problem. You can’t be. I mean, look, if it were actually possible to save someone from addiction from the outside, it might be worth it, but it’s not possible. It won’t work. If you need permission to stop trying, please know that I am giving you that permission.

          If you being a good enough friend could save Jake, Jake would be saved by now. And Jake, when he is in his right mind and being his best self, would never want to take you down with him.

          But it is true that helping him dodge or deny the consequences of his drinking, as much as he wants you to think that that is the action of a friend, is hurting him, and refusing to pretend that active alcoholism is anything but a blight and a misery and a mess, and that you know, even if he won’t admit it, that unless he quits drinking he’s screwed, is helpful to him.

          That doesn’t mean you’re obligated to confront him. It means, though, that you should refuse to feel like a bad friend, or a bad person, when you refuse to play his games.

          1. LW again.

            This was my favorite response, thank-you.

            Another old friend (who is fine with Jake) threw the party for me at their house, so yeah I couldn’t have kicked him out really.

            Ugh now I’m kinda feeling like “drunk” might be a slur? Since it denotes a disease?

          2. No. “Drunk” is not a slur. Alcoholism may be a disease, and again, it may only partly be a disease, with the other part choice, but let’s not protect alcoholics yet more.

          3. Betsy,

            OK, now I understand a LOT better where this alll started to go sideways. I thought you’d thrown the party, and that confused me; I’m very sorry I made incorrect assumptions.

            If you’re part of a friend group which includes people who routinely enable Jake’s behavior (by voluntarily putting him and alcohol at the same party, for example) you usually probably can’t do more than you’ve already been doing — depart events when he gets drunk. But if an event is *for you*, and isn’t a total surprise party, you can and should be part of the planning process. If you’re enough involved in the whole thing to be able to say, “Can we invite X, Y and Z from my workplace?” then you’re enough involved to be able to say, “Can we please keep this party strictly dry? I’d like Jake to be able to be there, but if he is there and so is alcohol, I can’t be; and it wouldn’t feel right to go home abruptly from this awesome party you’re giving for me; so no alcohol please?”

            It still won’t help if Jake shows up drunk, or brings his own supply, or finds some someplace he’s not supposed to go, or whatever; I do get that there’s a thousand ways for an addict to get alcohol. But it might help somewhat. And because it won’t deal with those other possible scenarios, it still probably means you do not bring work friends, or any friends from outside the Group Who Already Know And Love Jake, to any event where Jake is going to be. Which sucks, but I don’t see much alternative, I’m afraid…. for everyone’s sake.

      1. Yeah, at my worst I had an amazing talent for ensuring access to alcohol (and even managing to consume it) without anyone noticing. Basically my creativity used for evil rather than good. Short of a strip search and an ankle monitor it would have been difficult to 100% ensure I didn’t have drinks at any give party. (That’s hyperbole, but only just.)

        1. Even then… My husband was in rehab with someone who had to attend a dry wedding, so the day before he made a secret 150 mile round trip to hide a bottle of vodka in the grounds. I always imagined the reaction of whoever he was with – knowing he absolutely couldn’t be drinking yet becoming more and more sure that he was.

          1. Been there. Yup, hiding booze in wild places, apparently having no access…oh, soooo clever they can be.

    2. Agreed. I distance myself from toxic people-this includes drunken jerks.

      I’ve also found that I’ve had to distance myself from some “nice” people who are in close proximity to toxic ones.

      OP if I’d been invited and had to deal with that I’d be distancing myself from *both* of you. I might still hang with YOU if you apologized and promised I would *never* have to be in close proximity to Jake.

      1. This. My overlapping social circles have a handful of toxic people that are seldom invited to events, and when they are, everyone’s hackles are quietly up. Even if the host or said toxic person doesn’t notice it, everybody is wary of them and on edge in anticipation of them doing something inappropriate. You owe it to your coworkers to let them know you’re being considerate of them, LW, but you may want to take the emotional temperature of your other friends, too. Having friends who know “how Jake is” doesn’t mean they’re going to tolerate his behavior forever.

  23. My comment seems to have got eaten, so here it is again, sorry if it’s a double-post:

    Lots of sympathy for you, because it’s hard to know what to do when things are this out of whack.

    But: for not enabling him, I think one of the things Jake needs is to hear from you exactly what the consequences of his actions are. In a way, it doesn’t matter if he remembers or not: the consequences are not dependent on his memory. You’re living with them, and so’s everyone he insulted or hit on.

    I’m thinking of something like this: ‘Jake, I love you, but you totally humiliated me and spoiled my birthday for me, not to mention upsetting my other friends, and I need you to know what that’s done to me. You’ve left me with (X) really difficult personal apologies to make, plus a reputation at work that I’m now gonna have to live down. I’m now scared to introduce you to any of my friends. I have to give you a choice: if I have a party, you’ll either have to promise not to drink at all – and if you break that promise, I’ll kick you out and not invite you to any more – or else you don’t get an invitation. Like I said, I love you, but I’m not going through this again. You’ve got to be sober around my other friends, because you can’t be trusted when you drink, and I can’t keep picking up the pieces.’

    Partly that’s for Jake – because whether or not his ‘real self’ comes out when he drinks, it’s definitely his real sober self that decides it’s okay to mix his mean drunk self with strangers. He was sober when he took the first drink, and if he knows he gets nasty when he’s drunk, he should stay away.

    But it’s also for your friends. I had an experience with a mean drunk friend-of-friends – he spent the entire evening berating me because I wasn’t drinking, what fun, and they didn’t stop him – and while they made him apologise afterwards, it didn’t really restore my trust in them. They, like you, were insisting he was really a nice guy, and while he was friendly when he apologised, he was also saying he couldn’t remember and acting like that meant it didn’t really count … like it wasn’t part of his ‘real’ self. And since I’d been sober for both the bullying and the apology, for me, they didn’t exist in two separate realities. If you want to restore yourself with your friends, I think they need to hear you know that for them, the mean Jake was real, and that you’re taking steps about that.

    It’s really sad, and I’m sorry your friend’s got this awful problem, and it’s tough to be a good friend. But he’s left you with a big mess, and cleaning it up is a big job. 😦 Wishing you both the best.

  24. LW again – Thanks for all of the replies!

    To clarify a bit: I don’t drink at all. Jake supplied his own alcohol. Also, in the past, I have seen him become loud and vulgar when drinking, but never abusive, so I could not anticipate that and it’s part of why I felt so paralyzed when it was happening. It’s also been maybe a year since I was around him when he was not sober.

    I like the idea of compartmentalizing Jake-time and socializing with other people in my life, I imagine it will work well going forward.

    One of the things that makes this hard is that I have never had a substance abuse problem, and I feel its important to have sympathy for addicts and those who have had less privileged experiences in life than I have, like Jake (on several axis). So a part of me just thinks “when Jake acts out this way, he is expressing trauma and mental health stuff that I cannot possibly understand” so it feels uncomfortable to try to control or manage his actions, or even take any type of judgmental stance on the coping mechanisms of a person who is more marginalized than I am. Hope that makes sense.

    Weirdly, one of the guests who was seated next to him (and heard/saw everything) just texted me that he “had a great time” at the party. So maybe it wasn’t as bad as I felt like it was?

    1. I think you might have an easier time of it if you think of it as asserting your boundaries rather than managing his disease. “People may not talk to me/my friends that way” isn’t you attempting to be his therapist, it’s a boundary. “Nobody gets to act rude and harass people at my parties” is again not judging a marginalized person, it’s making an eminently reasonable boundary. As an addict myself I say: it is not only unnecessary but outright harmful for you to refuse to have boundaries because someone else is sick.

      So please, be at ease. You are not under any Good Person compulsion to let someone run roughshod over your feelings and your friends feelings simply because they’re mentally ill. Boundaries help everyone. 🙂

    2. Hi LW, glad you wrote back.

      I think that Jake is demonstrating that drunk or sober he’s not interested in behaving well.

      Your decision to only see him one on one sounds manageable. Don’t be too surprised though if he continues to get nasty.

      Good luck

    3. So a part of me just thinks “when Jake acts out this way, he is expressing trauma and mental health stuff that I cannot possibly understand” so it feels uncomfortable to try to control or manage his actions, or even take any type of judgmental stance on the coping mechanisms of a person who is more marginalized than I am

      What if his coping mechanisms involved physical violence?

      I think when you are looking at someone who has some kind of mental health problem or addiction and is mean or abusive or otherwise badly behaved, it is very tempting to downplay the meanness or abusiveness as a symptom. The thing is, even if it’s coming out of previous experience of abuse or misery or lack of privilege, the hurt is causes is still real, and you have to honour that. Someone who is stabbed by someone who is drunk isn’t less stabbed than they would be if the stabber had been sober. The knife isn’t less sharp, and the tissues don’t repair themselves any faster. The same is true for cruel words and actions: you can say “sure, I recognise that Jake’s actions are a result of his pain, and that he is less in control of himself than someone else might be, but that doesn’t make his stabbiness any less stabby”.

      By making excuses and trying to downplay the impact of his drunken behaviour, you are actually enabling him. It may not be worthwhile to have the conversation with Jake that says, “Dude, you really fucked up, and you’re not invited to my next party” – you might just want to not invite him without having that conversation – but you need to protect both yourself and your other friends and colleagues from Jake’s stabby behaviour, regardless of his background.

      1. Your second paragraph is so spot on. My larger friend circle has been affected by a couple of “Missing Stair” types that no one seems inclined to stand up to. These individuals’ poor behavior has been explained away by mental illness, addiction, fallout from abuse; however, it doesn’t make the hurts any less real for those on the receiving end of their awful actions.

        IMO, the best thing the LW can do for their other friends is to apologize and take responsibility for exposing them to Jake’s wildly inappropriate behavior. A fantastic followup would be to state an intent and then follow through on protecting them from future incidents.

    4. “So a part of me just thinks “when Jake acts out this way, he is expressing trauma and mental health stuff that I cannot possibly understand” so it feels uncomfortable to try to control or manage his actions, or even take any type of judgmental stance on the coping mechanisms of a person who is more marginalized than I am. Hope that makes sense.”

      It does … as it doesn’t go to the length of feeling like you’re being snobby if you call a fact a fact, eg he has a serious problem, he doesn’t seem to be working on it (based on your account), and he’s not protecting you from it. Those are just facts, and you being luckier in life doesn’t mean it’s your fault if you see them.

      Honestly I think ‘marginalized’ may be an awkward word here – or at least, it is if you feel it’s your job to never ‘marginalize’ him yourself. It makes me wonder if you feel a bit guilty you had a better start and like it’s on you to make amends. I may be way off-base here, but if you do, that seems likely to complicate things. You guys go way back; is feeling protective of him part of your history?

      You’re being kind and fair in not wanting to judge what you don’t understand, but I’d leave marginalization out of it. If a guy spoils your birthday party, you’re not promoting systemic injustice by being pissed off about it!

    5. “Weirdly, one of the guests who was seated next to him (and heard/saw everything) just texted me that he “had a great time” at the party. So maybe it wasn’t as bad as I felt like it was?”

      Or this person is well aware you’re not entirely responsible for the actions of other guests, and he felt like adding on “despite the fact that there was a drunken jackass there” wasn’t really necessary. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apologize for inviting him/failing to intervene to people if you feel like it’s necessary. Maybe they say no problem, or they barely noticed, or whatever. So you drop it and move on.

      But personally I don’t feel like I have ever had a human relationship that was made worse because I showed someone that I cared about their comfort, provided I did it in a non-extreme way (not minimizing, not making too big a deal about it) and did it for their sake not to stroke/assuage my own ego (like “confessions” that are more about absolving myself).

      1. Yes, you lose nothing either way. It might have not been as bad as you thought, or more likely, some of the guests may have been upset or bothered, while others may not have been. Each person will have had their own individual experience and felt their own individual things. I wouldn’t go for a long explanation or anything that demands a response, but a brief comment is pretty unlikely to hurt and may be helpful to someone.

    6. Hi, LW, glad to hear from you!
      Compartimentalization sounds like a good strategy to me. I’m also worried you were so taken aback by Jake’s behaviour, because chances are, if it escalates again, you might find yourself frozen while alone with him in an agressive, maybe even dangerous streak. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it did, would you be able to exit the situation safely? Could you maybe…
      – establish a boundary wherein, the moment Jake gets drunk/starts drinking/makes you uncomfortable, you call it a day and get outta there?
      – practice with a trusted friend or therapist the scenarios in wich you need to leave, to reduce the possibility of freezing in the moment and/or any possible aversion to conflict that would make it harder to leave?
      – meet with Jake only in public spaces and/or have a friend periodically check in with you whenever you two meet alone?
      I’m aware this may seem excessive. I hope it turns out to be excessive. However, Jake’s behaviour while drunk has already escalated once from “vulgar” to “harassing”, and it could escalate once again. Even if he never laid a hand on you, he could still hurt you with his words, and I think it could be a good idea to have an exit plan or two just in case.
      Good luck and best wishes!

    7. LW, I admire you for your courage in hanging in there with this hard subject. I truly do. Some people never get this far as you’ve done.
      Losing a friend to disease is monstrous. Your last line in your comment above hurt my heart to read. It sounds what I’d say, when I was grasping for bits of what I’d thought was a mutually dear relationship, as I watched it crumple.

      “Weirdly, one of the guests who was seated next to [Jake] … just texted me that he ‘had a great time’ at the party. So maybe it wasn’t as bad as I felt like it was?”

      Learning to trust my gut over my head has been a long process in my sobriety. -At this moment, are you listening to your head over your gut? Is it possible your guest (one of the work friends, who sees you every day-?) is just being polite? -Best of luck to you on this journey you’re on.

    8. I think that you might want to be very careful about assuming that it was “not as bad” as you originally thought. Several years ago, my husband and I attended one of my husband’s coworker’s wedding reception. This reception was held at this gorgeous house located in a beautiful desert area. But what should have been a pleasant event was soured by the bride’s uncle who made a pass at me in front of my husband. Now we did not allow this incident change our opinion of the couple but it still important recognize that this is my strongest memory of the reception. And, unfortunately, Jake’s behavior maybe what some of your guests remember from your party.

      While I understand your desire to support your friend, I think that you need to took after yourself first. Based on your description, it sounds like his behavior is getting worse over time. He has gone from being vulgar to being mean and creepy. And while it is good that you are not planning on exposing your other friends to him, you need to also be willing to protect yourself physically and emotionally. Remember that just because your life may not be as bad as Jake’s doesn’t mean that your deserve poor treatment. Good luck!

    9. LW, you are a very thoughtful and conscientious friend to Jake, and I think you need to be just as mindful of how Jake’s behavior impacts the people around you. If I were a work acquaintance and an old friend of my host behaved in a way that made me uncomfortable, I may have voiced my discomfort to that person, but I wouldn’t necessarily tell the host because I don’t know them well enough to speak that freely. Most likely, I’d just stop responding to invitations. Never underestimate the pressure to not make waves. There is a very big chance that if you acknowledge that Jake’s behavior was inappropriate, the coworker will heave a huge sigh of relief.

    10. One of the things that makes this hard is that I have never had a substance abuse problem, and I feel its important to have sympathy for addicts and those who have had less privileged experiences in life than I have, like Jake (on several axis). So a part of me just thinks “when Jake acts out this way, he is expressing trauma and mental health stuff that I cannot possibly understand” so it feels uncomfortable to try to control or manage his actions, or even take any type of judgmental stance on the coping mechanisms of a person who is more marginalized than I am. Hope that makes sense.

      Jake’s trauma and mental health issues (if he has them) are not an excuse to be a jerk. Also, you might consider your guests, who may also have issues which could have been triggered by the rotten behavior he chose to display.

      I do sympathize with you- it’s hard to take a stand when it’s someone you love. But letting this slide because you’re uncomfortable means that other people you like will be hurt.

  25. Speaking From Experience, I’d like to thank you particularly for your insightful comments in this thread. As you say, alcoholism is complex and alcoholics are not all the same, but I think many among them experience high levels of anxiety and shame and the drinking is a coping mechanism. That being so, it is profoundly misguided to shame them further. In that connection, I’d like to expand emphatically on a point that others have alluded to. On this blog where sweeping generalizations about those with mental illness are not tolerated, I have been disappointed to read comments implying that a person’s worst actions when they have lost their inhibitions represent their real self. Are we all phonies when we act in accordance with the social contract, and only our worst impulses are the real us? Not really, surely. I don’t have expertise in psychology, but as I understand it, personality is a complex combination of traits and plastic to some extent. Since there’s good and bad in everyone, surely the real person is always a mixture. I am NOT saying that the bad behaviour of a disinhibited person should be tolerated it or that others should not set boundaries with them, they absolutely should. I think the advice that the LW should take some responsibility and apologise to their friends is spot on. But to take things to the level of condemning someone as bad in connection with their illness is disturbing. Please have some compassion.

  26. how to deal with other people affected by his out of control behavior on the rare occasions that I am present to witness to it… I invited Jake to my recent birthday dinner

    I think you’ve got a bit of a disconnect here, LW – when I read this, I thought the “being present to witness Jake’s behaviour” was going to be some kind of coincidence, but then it suddenly turned into “I invited Jake…”

    You invited him: you aren’t responsible for him drinking, but you are responsible for him and your colleagues being in the same space, which turned out to be really bad judgment! That’s what you’re apologising for. You inflicted your drunk, out-of-control friend on your colleagues, where he proceeded to harass and insult them. You need to apologise abjectly and swiftly for that, and also recognise (as Mel Reams said) that it is entirely reasonable if someone does not accept your apology. Hopefully if they are people you invite out to your birthday party, your colleagues are people you know well enough and who will trust that you aren’t someone who would willingly or carelessly inflict your drunk friend on them, and they’ll accept your apology and assurances that it won’t happen again. But they’d be completely within their rights not to.

    That’s part one. Part two is how you deal with Jake.

    I think you have two pieces of important information about Jake, which may be new, or may be things you already kind of knew but were in denial about. Firstly, Jake cannot be trusted around any other friends. I’m guessing that you assumed that he would either understand that your birthday party was supposed to be Sober-Time, or that he would be Drunk But Appropriate. Apparently not. What you now know is that he can’t be trusted not to drink, not can he be trusted to drink and behave well, at social occasions which are important to you. So if you’re going to keep being friends with Sober-Jake, you need an absolutely strict Jake-quarantine separating him from other friends. You don’t inflict Jake, sober or otherwise, on anyone else.

    Secondly, Sober-Jake doesn’t take responsibility for Drunk-Jake. That is pretty typical alcoholic behaviour, but it is also shitty. This is where Sober-Jake is still Alcoholic-Jake: he may not be as obviously vile as Drunk-Jake, but Sober-Jake is still enabling and excusing Drunk-Jake’s behaviour. So being friends with Sober-Jake still means dealing with Alcoholic-Jake and his shitty behaviour. You can’t entirely separate Sober-Jake from Alcoholic-Jake.

    You are totally within your rights to decide that the cost of being friends with Sober-Jake is still too high. You are also totally within your rights to decide that you still want to be friends with Sober-Jake. You are within your rights to still be friends with Sober-Jake, but to be angry with him for this particular incident. You don’t have to tolerate or ignore his behaviour just because it’s being driven by alcoholism, but you also don’t have to cut off contact with him. You get to make the decision about how much and what you can handle. You also get to decide how much of the decision-making you share with Sober-Jake: you could tell him that you’re pissed off that he was vile and aggressive to your colleagues and that you won’t be inviting him out to any events with other friends again, or you could just quietly make that decision and carry it out without discussing it with him. You’re probably the best judge of how he’s likely to respond if you do raise it with him, but remember that it’s not just about his response: you should make this decision based on “what’s best for LW”, not solely “what’s best for Jake”. Part of not enabling someone means remembering to take your own reactions and feelings and needs into account, not focussing everything around what you imagine is best for the addicted person. You might genuinely be resigned to the fact that Alcoholic-Jake is kind of shitty and that it’s not worth being angry but still worth being friends, but make sure you’re making that decision positively, for you, not because you think you “have” to behave in a particular way with your alcoholic friend.

    Best of luck, and aaargh alcoholism. 😦

  27. I agree with those who say “I’m friends with the real Jake, not the distorted person he becomes while under the influence” is a sentence that puts you as firmly in denial as your friend Jake. Drunk and sober Jake are both “real Jake”. Sober Jake is a lot more fun to be around, so limiting your exposure to drunk Jake sounds like a good coping mechanism, and one you use.

    But I wanted to address the question you actually asked: how do you smooth things over with your work colleagues? And you are aware that you can’t apologize FOR Jake, you can only apologize for your own behaviour in inviting him in the first place, or not sending him home when he started being abusive. And “Sorry my friend harassed you, he’s an alcoholic” is not the phrase because it IS actually apologizing for his behaviour (“sorry my friend harassed you”), not yours, and it is also excusing it (“he’s an alcoholic”).

    Your apology has to be “Sorry I exposed you to my drunk friend, and then from instead of sending him home in a cab. I had forgotten that he gets that way and I just froze. It won’t happen again because I won’t ask him to gatherings in future.” YOUR behaviour. And no excuses or apologies for his.

  28. I have a friend who can’t be trusted around other friends and it is so hard. You have my sympathy. He’s bad when he’s drunk, but he can be wildly inappropriate when sober too so I’ve learned he just can’t be around people who don’t know him. He is the Missing Stair. He has a raft of reasons why he is the way he is, but the reality is that he is never going to get to meet most of the people in my life because I can’t trust him to not be a total asshole to them.

    And if you ask me why I put up with it? Honestly, not always sure except that he has been one of the best supports of my life when going through something really awful. So I just have to make sure I protect other people from him.

    1. Whether to be his friend and draw those boundaries as a result is absolutely your choice, but….friendship is not something you owe him because he helped you in the past.

      1. Yupp. I mean, there is no reason in the world to end this friendship if you don’t want to. But you didn’t seal a contract either where him helping you meant you would not ever be allowed to end the friendship. Yes, it is super hard to end relationships like that and it also feels mean. However, when I’ve done it, I thought about the resentment I might develop towards the person because I was not listening to my needs. I thought that it would be kinder to end it now when it would only hurt them, as opposed to later when they might really need me and suddenly couldn’t count on me.

  29. “I’m friends with the real Jake, not the distorted person he becomes while under the influence.”

    They’re both the real Jake. Drug users or addicts aren’t actually any more divergent in their behavior in different contexts than most people. I think we tend to notice it more with frequent drug users becasue we tend to only see other people in similar contexts, which regular and heavy drug users can and do shift the context in which they are functioning right in front of our eyes (through heavy drug use), while for the observer the context remains the same.

    I have nothing to add to The Captain’s excellent numbered advice except an affirmation that apologies often go a long way to mitigating social harm. I think sometimes people talk themselves out of apologizing becasue they’re worried about making a bigger deal out of something rather than just letting it drop, but in my experience, even if the person thinks the apology is unnecessary, it’s nearly always well received (when it’s actually sincere). Obligatory note to apologize once and then let the matter drop (while trying to work to prevent the problem in the future of course, whatever form that takes – in this case, it’s suggestion 2), as apologizing over and over for the same incident can be anything from irritating to harassing (and if other people keep bringing it up after one has apologized and then moved on while striving to do better, they’re probably the jerks).

    1. This is what I’ve been thinking too. Also, substance abuse changes your “sober” brain as well. People mentioned memory and encoding problems. There’s also the tendency for alcoholics to be thaimin deficient, which affects brain functioning in real-time. I cannot have a conversation with my alcoholic father because his neurons fire in such weird ways I can’t follow, even if he hasn’t had a drink since the night before (I hesitate to say “is sober,” because sometimes there is always a low-level of BAC as well). “Sober” and “Drunk” Jake are false dichotomies – they may be useful in classifying behavior at certain times, but they are the same person.

  30. Another thought on “the real person” and inhibitions: a French minister famously told his staff never to act on their first impulses, because “first impulses are always generous” and he needed them to think about whether their personal generous reactions were good for France, or just for the recipient/foreign country.

    Sober people are less likely to randomly blurt out either “you’re ugly” or “you’re gorgeous, let’s screw” to a casual acquaintance at a party or a stranger on a subway train. In addition to what LW has reported, maybe Jake sometimes wakes up, finds that his wallet is empty, and doesn’t know whether he spent all the money on beer, or gave it to a stranger who asked for change to buy a cup of coffee. That shape of disinhibition would both be less likely to harm other people, and less likely to be noticed by the LW or Jake’s other friends.

    However, this possibility doesn’t significantly change what the LW should do here; a friend who added “let me buy you a drink, gorgeous” and insistence on tipping the waiter $30 on a $10 check to the described behavior still wouldn’t be someone to hang around with while he was drinking.

  31. I love the Captain’s advice here and thought I’d chime in to say how far an apology can go. If I were one of the co-workers, I’d have been extremely offended, not just by what was said, but by being subjected to that behavior in the first place. As an ACOA (adult child of an alcoholic), that kind of thing is extremely triggering. There’s a culture around ignoring alcoholics’ behaviors and down-playing it in our society. Inviting an alcoholic to a party and expecting things to be fine IS enabling. The advice is really perfect, and I would definitely be very receptive to an apology and probably feel fine after hearing something like this if I were in the co-workers’ place.

    1. Not just alcoholics, either. To a disturbing extent all kinds of behaviour that’s hurtful or even dangerous to others can routinely be excused by ‘Oh well, but he was drunk’.

  32. “My question is not about my relationship with Jake, but about how to deal with other people affected by his out of control behavior on the rare occasions that I am present to witness to it.”

    LW, you can’t separate these two things. Your relationship with Jake is affecting EVERYTHING about your dealing with – and let’s be blunt, enabling – the results of his awful behavior. You like this guy, and he’s been good to you, so you have the World Class Rationalization Parade going on here: You talk about ‘damage control’ rather than prevention. You invited him to be around people who aren’t aware of his behavior because you “sort of” forgot what he was like, and you rationalized it by telling yourself the new people wouldn’t show anyway. Despite having dealt with Awful Drunk Jake on many occasions, you cringed and said nothing when he behaved badly. Your confrontation afterwards was to ask him if he remembered what he did, and then apparently to drop it when he said no. And you tell yourself that because he’s sick and you’re more “privileged”, you conveniently can’t bring yourself to draw boundaries with him.

    If you want to keep Jake as a friend AND be a decent friend to others, then you have to drop the excuses and look at the situation clearly. That situation is “Jake cannot be trusted around anyone but those who know him and have affirmatively chosen to hang with him”, i.e., you and your childhood friends of his. You have to stop lying to yourself that it’s OK because those co-workers won’t show up anyway, or he had a hard childhood, or gosh that’s right he’s acted this way before. Otherwise, all you’re doing is insisting that other people deal with your jerk friend because he’s your friend too.

    (Also, LW, did you not notice that both you and Jake seem to have memory issues about his bad behavior – his prompted, possibly, by alcohol, and yours by embarrassment?)

    1. “Jake cannot be trusted around anyone but those who know him and have affirmatively chosen to hang with him”, i.e., you and your childhood friends of his.”

      Actually, maybe those childhood friends are tired to being around Jake….

  33. Delurking to jump on the bandwagon of gratitude for speaking for experience. As the grown child of two alcoholics and someone who spent their wild teenage years hanging out with Soberparent at AA meetings (I have eaten many stale cookies, avoided many gallons of piss-poor coffee, and heard many recovery stories), I just want to say that every thoughtful word you posted resonates deeply with me, too. So thank you so much for sharing your perspective and presenting with clarity and self-compassion how complex living with addiction (and living with addicts) can be.

    From what I’ve seen and experienced, addiction can do terrible things to people and addicts can do terrible things to other people. In my case, Soberparent was a traumatized kid who drank to escape, became a full-tilt alcoholic when I was a youngster, was a really shitty parent for a while, and in sobriety has become a good-enough parent (apologies rock, y’all) with some lingering issues (around these, there be boundaries). Otherparent was a violent abuser, a full-tilt alcoholic and a shitty parent who had a few decent moments. His addiction, though not its primary cause, absolutely contributed to his death. It took me a long time and a pretty amazing therapist to hold all of that in my heart at once and grieve for my lost childhood, the one where I didn’t need to know the numbers of the local bars by heart. So yeah, the topic is way more complicated than alcoholic = asshole, especially for friends and family, and the way the illness presents depends on the individual and their social context.

    For the LW: Jake’s gonna roll the way folks with alcohol dependence roll, so just make sure he doesn’t roll all over your boundaries. Mend fences with your coworkers as per the Captain’s excellent suggestions and only put up with as much Jack as you would any other person who doesn’t reliably acknowledge your needs, wishes, or limits. If at some point you find you have to restrict contact with him even further, do so — you are not throwing him under the bus by limiting your interactions, he and the alcohol are already taking care of that. I know that there can be a lot of guilt involved in this kind of boundary setting, especially with so much shared history between the two of you, but I can only recommend it. Best of luck to you and Jake! I hope he finds a path to recovery and the strength to walk it.

    P.S.: Thanks, Captain, for this amazing space. I have learned so much here.

  34. A general good rule is: never apologise for somebody else’s actions. Do apologise for your own.
    You did do things that you should find a way to apologise for, and you should absolutely apologise for those things, and your work-friends are *also* owed an apology for Jake’s actions… but it’s not on you to give it. It’s not that you don’t have responsibility over what happened, but you do need to distinguish between what you were responsible for and what you weren’t.

    You didn’t show up drunk. You didn’t harass and insult your guests. Your friend’s actions are on him—his choices are on him, and it’s his responsibility to apologise and figure out how to deal with them, and that is something you should hold him to (even if it does mean saying, “so I can’t have you at parties any more”).

    You did allow someone that can’t be trusted to act appropriately around people to harass and insult people who definitely hadn’t signed up for that. That’s what you apologise for. You apologise for inviting him and/or for not kicking him out or doing something to quarantine him/for not shutting him down/for putting them in a situation to feel unsafe or unhappy, etc. because those were your choices and your actions (best accompanied with some kind of “and this is what I’m doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again”). You absolutely should acknowledge your responsibility there, because that part was on you.

    But Jake’s actions =/= your own and the last thing you or Jake or anyone needs is for you to start acting like they are.

    1. I agree so much with this. Apologize for what you did, which is to invite a known badly behaved person to the same party they were invited to, and you didn’t act to protect people from him.

  35. Chiming in (if my IP isn’t blocked yet) to say that chances are, Jake knows what he’s doing, and what he’s like when he’s drunk, and chooses to drink anyways. He made the decision to drink at a party with LW’s coworkers, which means he accepted the risk of some harm to LW, or their reputation. He doesn’t sound like the greatest friend, to me.

  36. The guy I had a crush on since my brother brought him over to hang out at our parents house when I was 9 would become a much different person because of his alcohol consumption. At my brother’s wedding “Evan” was the best man, and as amazing as the fact that he got through the toast at the reception without saying anything repugnant “Evan” was still drinking when the shuttle to the airport arrived with our family members and it was only 8am. My brother stopped talking to him because he was tired of his friend always asking him about me, and I had to cut the guy out of my life because I couldn’t watch him drink himself to death. You’d think that the many other moments with “Evan” and his drinking would have been enough to walk away; the time his mom called me and asked if I could take him out of her house for a while and arrived to “Evan” arguing with her while stark naked, the time he got into a public fight with a woman he was seeing and she ended up being arrested because the glass she threw at “Evan” hit someone else, all the get togethers with mutual friends where “Evan” got loud and grope-y with other people’s girlfriends (including me) and things got heated – which brought the whole evening to an early end more than once or twice.

    It felt like I was giving up on “Evan”, abandoning him in the midst of this problem. In the years since I’ve realized that there never was anything I could do to fix him and sticking around to watch his descent was harming me too. When I walked away I told “Evan” that if he ever decided to get sober we could be friends again, I just couldn’t bear to watch him or tolerate his behavior when he was drinking.

    LW, it sounds like you might be reaching a point where it would be a good idea to cease interacting with Jake much like I had to do with “Evan”.

  37. The longer I live, the more I see the wisdom of the etiquette rules of the Jane Austen era.

    Introductions were really important–when you introduced someone you were essentially giving them a recommendation: “This is a reasonable person that it is safe for you to know. I stake my own reputation on it.”

    That’s what was going on at the party–the OP staked her reputation on Jake’s behavior. And was wrong.

    In that era, you might have friends who were unsavory–but you NEVER invited them to anything that other “savory” people were invited to. Even if you thought they might not come. You spent time with them elsewhere.

    You NEVER introduced your female friends to your sort-of-an-unreliable-asshole male friends. Not even with a warning–you never had them around.

    And men weren’t to speak to women they didn’t know, and if they did, everyone around would back her up if she slapped him down.

    So, the OP needs to never invite Jake to anything, ever again.

    Listen, even if I were a friend who knew about Jake–I wouldn’t want to go to the OP’s party if I knew Jake was going to be there. Just because I’ve known him a long time, it doesn’t mean I want to put up with asshole behavior from him.

  38. Betsy, the LW, said this in a response (to the question of why she had invited both sets of people) in the comments:

    “The best answer is that I truly didn’t think my casual work friends would show up (they usually flake). I thought it would be Jake, me, and our other close childhood friends who know what to expect re: Jake.”

    So I wanted to stress this:

    Never, ever invite people without assuming that they WILL come. Do not issue “courtesy” / “form” invites. Every invitation should be a real invitation, and you should assume they will come.
    So if you need to craft your guest list, you figure that everyone you invite will come. And you don’t invite the people that you don’t REALLY want to be there.

    Since I saw this comment from Betsy, the LW:

    “LW again.

    . . .

    Another old friend (who is fine with Jake) threw the party for me at their house, so yeah I couldn’t have kicked him out really.”

    An indicator that the work friends shouldn’t be invited, since the old friend is sure to invite Jake.
    Or, that Betsy, the OP/LW, should discuss the Jake Situation with the hostess, and insist that Jake not be invited. And that he be escorted out.

    But as has been said, making him leave is problematic, and it’s better to simply never cross the streams.

  39. Addict or asshole, Jake needs to experience consequences for his unacceptable behavior. OP already knows this, because she excuses herself from Jake’s company when he starts drinking. She needs to keep doing that. It’s one thing to walk out on Jake when they’re alone together, or in a group where everyone knows Jake and “how he gets.” It’s quite another for the guest of honor to walk out on her own party, with “outsider” guests present, when a fellow guest starts misbehaving.

    Jake needs to stop being invited to this sort of event. Period. I get that OP’s friend, the party host, is OK with Jake, but OP needs to lay down the law in the future and either tell host “If you invite Jake, this party doesn’t happen,” or work with host on a plan to get Jake out of there the second he starts misbehaving.

    If Jake is left out of enough things because his behavior under the influence is unacceptable, that might be the wake-up call he needs to stop or cut back on his boozing.

  40. If I attended a CW’s birthday party & a friend of my CW proceeded to insult, harass, or otherwise rudely accost me & other guests, I would react w/ shock, disgust, anger, & then (I follow Mr Darcy in this response) implacable resentment. I don’t think I am setting the bar too high in expecting a pleasant social interaction w/ all the other guests at a party, & I might be hard-pressed to accept any apology w/ more than rather cool civility.

    I really don’t care what motivated the rude person to behave appallingly. It just is not acceptable. I might question the judgement of the CW in enduring such a friend, but I know that the friend’s choice to act like that was not her fault.

    1. I would question the judgement of — and hospitality of — whoever invited me to this party where I was made a target, and didn’t stop the situation. I would certainly not be terribly interested in going to gatherings with such people in the future, especially if — as seems to be the case with the LW’s work friends — I didn’t typically go, so this was the main example I had of this social circle.

      I’m concerned that Jake’s behaviour is potentially having an isolating effect on the LW and the rest of their close circle of friends. It may be that they’re all quite active in other circles as well, outside this particular group, but someone who trots out their worst behaviour for new people can be essentially getting rid of the new people and making the group more insular. In the case of someone whose behaviour gets a lot of allowances from his long-time close friends, he could be pushing away from the group anyone who is less likely to give him a pass. It’s not uncommon with Missing Stairs; the group becomes defined by who’s attached enough to be willing to put up with the crap they pull, and who isn’t as badly affected by said crap, which essentially puts the Missing Stair in control of the group. Newcomers get hazed, established friends keep putting up with it for the sake of their long close relationships to all the others, as they all ignore that they’ve ceded control of their social lives.

      While keeping those outside this circle away from Jake is necessary, it shouldn’t be done by simply leaving the others out. Jake shouldn’t get a veto over who the LW celebrates a birthday with.

  41. Nesting seems to have run out, so…

    LW, you say, ‘Ugh now I’m kinda feeling like “drunk” might be a slur? Since it denotes a disease?’

    ‘Drunk’ might be, depending on the context. People here are calling him a ‘mean drunk’, though, and that’s not: it’s a negative description of a negative behaviour. There’s no nice way to say it, because it’s not a nice thing. That doesn’t make it a slur.

    But … do you see what you did there? In one of your comments, you’re worrying a lot about him being marginalized and therefore beyond your rights to judge. In this one, you’re worrying about whether a word that describes his problem is a slur. You’re jumping a lot to worries about the politics of language and judgement that really don’t have much to do with the practicalities of your situation. What’s up with that?

    Jake’s putting you in a really uncomfortable position: you love him, you don’t love his problem – you probably hate it, because it’s harming him. If he was struggling to get sober, there wouldn’t be a conflict for you because you could comfortably say, ‘It’s not his fault he’s got a disease, I’m just here to help him get better.’ But it seems like he’s not. That leaves you with a blunt fact: this guy you love is doing something you hate.

    That’s got to cause some mixed feelings. Probably some of them don’t feel generous or nice; no one here’s a saint. You can’t control his drinking, and you shouldn’t be expected to control your feelings about it either. Trying to work out a politically impeccable position can feel like a way of taking control. But actually, it’s giving up control, because it’s changing the subject from what you’re empowered to do to what you, and other people you can’t control either, *shouldn’t* be doing. That’s not going to help you, or him.

    It feels to me like you’re trying really, really hard to find some way to avoid saying ‘Jake sometimes does bad things and that’s part of who he is.’ It’s not the ‘real’ Jake, it’s because he’s ‘marginalized’, maybe it’s a ‘slur’ to use blunt language about how he acts when he’s drunk. But if you’re going to be his friend, that’s just not sustainable.

    I’ve been in situations where people I loved had serious problems, and I get not wanting to believe it. Really, I do. It hurts to accept that the problem is part of who they are. But take it from me: it hurts more to resist it. The pain that comes with acceptance only happens once; the pain that comes from struggling with acceptance doesn’t stop. Sometimes you have to rip off the Band-Aid.

    Please understand that I’m not saying Jake is a bad person. I’m sure that he’s a great person in many ways; we all of us have our bad side and nobody acts perfectly when they’re sick. You don’t have to think a person has no bad side in order to be their friend. But if you stopped thinking of it as political and started thinking of it as personal, if you allowed yourself to feel some negative things about what Jake is doing to himself and others, would it be the end of the world?

  42. LW, there’s having sympathy for addicts, and there’s infantilising them. You can have all the sympathy you like for Jake’s mental health problems, but having that sympathy doesn’t mean you have to opt out of setting boundaries on the behaviour you will and won’t accept from him. In fact, genuinely having and showing sympathy means those boundaries have to get stronger, harder, and much more definite. One of the unfortunate truths of life is Jake doesn’t get to opt out of being a grown-up just because he has a jerk!brain – and I say this as someone who is mentally ill themselves.

    Accommodating someone’s illness is putting up with things like twitches and mumbling from someone who is on heavy-duty anti-psychotics, or high-level mood stabilisers – the sorts of medications where physical side-effects are an unfortunate reality of the game. Accommodating someone’s disability is providing a quiet space at a party house where people who have sensory overload issues (such as getting stressed out by too much noise) can go and recover as needed; or alternatively, ensuring friends with those sorts of problems are warned ahead of time about planned expeditions to noisy environments, so they can make their own choices about whether or not to attend. Accommodating someone’s problem is making sure if you’re friends with someone who’s on medication which conflicts with alcohol or who’s in recovery from a drinking problem, you’re not forever planning expeditions to areas where alcohol service is a priority (pubs, wineries, breweries, etc). You’ll note all of these are largely centred around issues people are dealing with themselves – that the person with the problem is doing something to deal with their problem, and what you’re doing is co-operating in their recovery, and giving them a chance to continue recovering by, for example, avoid triggering situations.

    Jake is not yet in recovery. Until he is in recovery, you aren’t able to co-operate with him in it. Instead, what you owe Jake as a friend is firm boundaries, set rules about what you will and won’t put up with, and a willingness to enforce those rules and boundaries. Until he’s started doing something about his problems, what you need to do is protect yourself, and those around you. Put on your own oxygen mask first, then the masks for others, and then worry about the person who’s spraying the poison gas around.

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