Every time I write about my new sober life I get a flurry of messages. Strangers get in touch and friends quietly put their hands up to say they’re struggling.
It always makes my heart hurt to think people are drowning alone. And yet, I know it happens because I did it too.
Trying to help someone who’s leaning on booze too much is a very tricky tightrope to walk. On one hand you love them and want them to be full of all the happiness and contentment you believe they deserve.
On the other, you can’t do the internal re-wiring work for them. You can’t put the bottle down on their behalf, wipe away haunting memories, read with an open mind, or have conversations with sober people that start switching on the necessary series of light bulbs.
This week, Nicole Kidman gave a rare interview talking about how she helped her husband of ten years, Keith Urban, in his battle for sobriety. Speaking on The Jess Cagle Interview, she offered advice to anyone who’s trying desperately to support their partner.
“Get help, put your hand up, reach out… there is absolutely help out there,” she said. “It’s a very big thing for people like me, who go, ‘I can take care of you, I can do it’. As much as I thought I could do all the work for him and said ‘I can help’, at some point you just have to say, ‘I love you, and I’m here when you decide to do the work and if you don’t, then that’s it.”
She adds, “You cannot save a human being, they have to save themselves. But you can love them and give them enormous support.”
It reminds me of a brilliant quote, “The worst thing is watching someone drown and not being able to convince them that they can save themselves by just standing up.”
I was still drowning when I first read that. It was a light bulb moment – but it wasn’t the only one it took. A long series of light bulbs needed to switch on for me to realise it was time to stand up. Some came from books, others from friends.
Let me say this: life really does keep getting better and better every day you’re sober.
So, yes, it’s certainly true that someone has to stand up, re-wire and ultimately save themselves. But, if you know someone who’s struggling try to keep giving them light bulbs.
P.s. I’ve got plenty if you need some!
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