Giving Up the Ghost


Giving Up the Ghost: to die; to stop working; to stop trying to do something because you know it will not succeed.


A friend of mine says he’s “done with sobriety”. He says he wants another option, a different plan, and that sobriety has brought him nothing but problems. He says when he was drinking he had less drama – that sobriety has done nothing but create more problems in his life. He wants to give up the ghost on the sober life: swim in a bottomless pool of iced vodka (drown more like).


How do I respond to that? How do I answer? Is this one of those tough love situations where I remind him that his life sucked as a drunk? Do I list the reasons he has used his last stay-out-of-jail chit and explain how, even though it is hard sometimes, being clear headed is always better than the other option? Do I stage an intervention? Run around with my hands in the air shouting, “MAYDAY”?


I’ve thought about this for a few hours. Ever since he said it really, and I am grappling with some strong emotions myself. I am angry. I am disappointed. I am certainly worried about him. I know his issues are unique, and he has been through a lot, so I am empathetic, but I am also wondering why he can’t look past the hugeness of himself for a minute, to all the things he will lose if he drinks. To all the pain he will cause the people who love him…


So, to my dear friend who is thinking about drinking:

This is your life and your choice. But here’s the deal – this is also your last chance. We both know how one drink will end for you. Drunkenness is not some threat you pose when things don’t go as planned. It is not some schoolyard taunt, it is not something to be whispered in the confessional or mentioned blithely at dinner when recounting your day. Drunkenness is more complicated and more insidious than that.

I know you are suffering. I think you should consider going to rehab. I can advise you and feel with you, but I think you need help that is above my pay grade. Because this is your last chance, and because I know you are bigger and better than these ultimatums you spew.

No one can stay sober for you. There is no mercenary to pay. The choice is yours. And if this sounds like platitudes or clichés it is because it has been said so many times before – to others just like you. I will always be there for you, but you need to get some professional help.

And here’s another platitude that has been repeated since the first alcoholic decided it was time to take control of their life and stop the madness: Take it one day at a time, my dear. One little day at a time…



Today I’m not drinking because I gave it up, but I did not give up the ghost.


How come you’re not drinking?