Why on Earth do some people pretend to be alcoholics?
James Frey wasn’t the only person to lie about being an alcoholic. In a less cheesy fiction, Jennifer Beals played a woman in the Lifetime movie My Name Is Sara, who follows “an exceptionally handsome” man into his regular AA meeting, and has to admit her truth to retain his affection. I’ve found these fake drunks to be more common than I ever expected.
Stacy and I met in a book club. She was funny. We always laughed about whatever book we’d have to read and text about it incessantly. One night she asked me to coffee afterwards.
“I know I can talk to you about this, since you’ve been sober for awhile. My husband drinks too much and I do too. So we’ve stopped. He’s even gone to a few meetings.” They ceremoniously poured all of their hard liquor down the kitchen sink. I bought her a copy of Living Sober, she loved it, her husband loved it. We exchanged daily texts about how things were going. Being that my fiancé was nearly 10 years sober, we attempted to set up double dates. She insisted that after their vacation to Miami we would get together.
“People get all weird when I tell them that we’re sober now. I can’t wait to have friends we can chill with that don’t drink.”
I had a sinking feeling I wouldn’t hear from her again after Miami. I sensed they were both ticking time bombs. The texts stopped, she didn’t respond. She avoided eye contact with me at our book club, and wouldn’t sit next to me. There was now awkward tension between us. Then the drunken pictures surfaced on Instagram. I didn’t hate them for not staying sober. I felt as if I had lost a friend who no longer felt comfortable to be honest with me about something I had been so honest about with her.
The “fauxcoholic” is a strange breed. I’ve noticed throughout my sobriety, the people who tend to get sober and stay that way, tread cautiously and “come out” after a number of months. The ones that aren’t serious, dwell in drama. It seems like alcoholism is their best bet for a faux addiction. Drugs are more costly, and can come off as shady. Booze can be obtained anywhere, almost anytime.
“I drank a whole bottle of wine this morning and I couldn’t go to work,” a friend in DC emailed me. “I know I have a problem.” Of course I lent my support. The emails came pouring in. She said she was attending meetings, then the emails slowly dwindled. I feared I was again dealing with a fauxcoholic. When I went to DC for business, I asked her if she was still going to meetings and she quickly changed the subject, saying, “Yeah…uh…yeah, they’re cool.” A few months later she let slip that she had never been to an AA meeting in her life.
I seem to attract these fauxcoholics. My friend Tess referred Amy to me, saying, “She thinks she may have a drinking problem and she’s not into the idea of AA.” Amy and I quickly bonded. “I just don’t want to feel pressured from AA people,” she told me, confiding that she had been sober for three weeks. We’d have our own mini meetings, saying, “I’m Amy/Randi and I’m an alcoholic.” Usually I was the one vomiting at the mouth about some intimate detail of my life. She would share as well, about things that happened in her childhood. Then things got weird.
After being dumped by a guy that she was casually dating, she called me upset. Being afraid she would relapse, I spent $40 on a cab ride to Harlem bringing ice cream and candy to comfort her. She said she was more scared than wanting to drink. I still hadn’t pressed her too much about why she had decided to get sober. Then the truth came out: “I didn’t drink for a year, then on my birthday I did a lot of coke and drank so much that I realized I should stop.”
“Oh, so you had been sober before, and relapsed?” I asked her as she sat there sobbing.
“Well, not really, I mean, I would just drink wine with dinner, maybe half a bottle? Wine doesn’t count.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that. I never want to discount anyone’s feelings, or be dismissive when they think they have a “problem.” I had invested time and emotional energy in this friendship. There was no “problem.” She had simply gone on a massive binge on her birthday. Which is perfectly normal for people to do. Does it make them qualify as an alcoholic? Probably not. It’s more likely a bad chemical reaction to not having alcohol in your system for a year, then going on a substance free-for-all.
After that I blew her off. I felt ashamed for what I had revealed to her about myself. Did that make me a coward for not saying anything? Completely. I wanted to phase her out of my life. Then Tess called. “Amy said you accused her of being an alcoholic! She told me she’s not.”
“She told me she was an alcoholic.’”
“Did you ever think that was just her way of dealing with things? Something she said to make herself feel better? It didn’t mean it was true. She said you shared some really personal shit Randi. I can’t believe what you told her.”
That’s what you do in sobriety, you trust and share and want the same. Our little meetings weren’t “AA” but I thought they were at least confidential. Amy was going straight to the top of my shit list.
Amy did try to start a dramatic argument with me. Typical fauxcoholic. Thanks to social media and texting, we never actually argued in real time. I cowered away. To me the friendship wasn’t worth fighting for. For all I knew it was a lie. I believe that one of the worst side effects of sobriety is wanting to help everyone who struggles with addiction.
In being completely open, you’re faced with the possibility that you give away a little piece of your soul that you can’t get back. Maybe at least when that happens, the fauxs are too drunk or high to realize it affected you the way it did.
Unless you’re Jennifer Beals, in which case you get to live happily ever after. Article Link “the fix”…