Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt

nileAn old friend met with me for lunch one day. It was a nice encounter since, even though I have known him for over two decades, we rarely cross paths, since he lives in Ontario, and I am in British Columbia. However, he was out visiting his elderly mother, and thought he would give me a call.

I didn’t realize when he contacted me that he had a motive other than just a long-duration friendship. He wanted to share some thoughts with me. This became apparent part way into our lunch, after we had exchanged all the usual pleasantries.

I had been sober for a number of years then, and during my sobriety I also gained credentials as a certified addictions counsellor. So, my friend wanted to tap into my embracing of sobriety after many years of alcohol abuse, and he also wanted to tap into my counselling skills.

I knew that Rob (not his real name) was a bit of a pot smoker. It was a substance that was never my drug of choice, although I tried it a number of times during my drinking days. Quite frankly it did little for me. But, a mind-altering substance is a mind-altering substance, and having worked for some time in a drug and alcohol rehab I was highly familiar with all intoxicants and how they worked.

I should add that about a year prior to our meeting, Rob had undergone a personal tragedy in the death from cancer of his beloved wife. She was only about fifty at the time of her death and Rob (about the same age) was still reeling from that and having a difficult time getting centred. In that, he was also smoking a lot of cannabis.

To look at him, you would never suspect it. He is a very successful man, high up in the Canadian bureaucracy, and the farthest thing imaginable from the stereotyped image of the sluggish, slacker pothead.

He told me that he appreciated how I had managed to kick booze (I was about eight years sober at the time), and he felt he would like to do the same with marijuana and wondered how difficult it would be for him. I asked him how much he smoked. He told me that his consumption was at least six high-test joints per day. By any standard, that’s a lot, especially considering the THC levels of contemporary pot. But, I made no judgment, and I let him continue with his story.

It came to me after Allison (not her real name) died that never, in all the years we’d been together had we ever made love when I hadn’t been using,” he said. “We never once were intimate when I was completely straight. I’ve been smoking for so many years that I would have no idea what that feels like.”

It was a sad statement, but it was one with which I could empathize. In my brief duration and highly tempestuous second marriage I don’t believe I even once bedded my wife when I was fully sober. In fact, she was rarely sober, either, since we both abused alcohol. Needless to say, the drinking was a huge factor in the demise of the marriage because, with a colossal booze intake on both our parts, if we weren’t making love, we were making war. Many things about that failed marriage fill me with regrets, but alcohol-fueled intimacy is one of the greatest regrets of all. As an aside, I might add that in my current, very happy marriage, I have always been sober, and my wife and I have never been in an ‘altered’ state during our ‘close’ moments. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that was essentially what I told Rob, when I conveyed my story. I said that it was too late for him to do something about it now but, should a future relationship come about – and I would have little doubt that such a thing would happen; he’s a good looking, highly intelligent and charming man with a vibrant career – then perhaps he should look into getting away from that particular intoxicant. I added that maybe he should also ponder the fact that substance abuse had perhaps not let him go as far in his career as he might have hoped for.

We finished our lunch that spring day, and he told me he had to return to Ontario the next day, but that he would be back out later in the spring, and we would get together again for further conversation.

That never happened, and it has now been many years. I tried e-mailing him but was informed that his e-mail address was no longer operative. He, of course, has never e-mailed me again. Perhaps I was too truthful. Perhaps I told him something he wasn’t prepared to hear. Whatever is the case, I hope he has found the strength to address his ‘problem’ much as I was allowed to address my own.

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