The office door slowly opened, Tina’s face peered into the room she glanced around until her bloodshot eyes met mine and her silent finger drew me into the corridor. I made my excuses, slipping from the hot office to the cool corridor. Tina’s words were fast, agitated and broken by sniffles. I caught the main gist quickly
Brenda’s unconscious in the toilets
Oh my goodness, Have you called an ambulance, what’s happened? As we stride out towards the toilets
No, she wouldn’t want us to call an ambulance. I’m confused, this seems odd to choose not to call an ambulance on request from a currently unconscious person who isn’t a doctor
She can argue with us when, IF, she regains consciousness. Let’s call an ambulance. As we walk briskly Tina seems to be calming down. Maybe it’s my clarity of belief about what to do
She’s an alcoholic, there are 3 empty bottles of wine by her, she’ll probably recover and be really angry with us. Now I begin to understand. Alcoholism has destroyed people I know, suicides, broken families, debt. An alcoholic might not even admit they have an addiction and hiding the symptoms is something they’re extremely good at doing. I’m angry and more determined to get medical intervention from professionals
Are we able to know that she’s unconscious just because of the alcohol, are we sure she hasn’t had a heart attack or brain haemorrhage? We’re not doctors, we can’t know, she might die for all we know I’ve already dialled 999 while talking. Tina clearly can’t break a promise to a friend. Tina stopped crying, we walk into the women toilets.
Brenda is on the floor wedged against the door, I take advice from the paramedic. Angela is pacing the toilets, tears streaming down her face, her crying is more like screaming. I want to slap her. I suppress the urge and hug her. Angela and Tina have been trying to sort this out alone for several hours. Trying to talk an alcoholic down to get help, trying to use what they think is a mutual friendship. While we wait for the ambulance Angela and Tina pour out their stories of Benda’s long history of alcoholism. So much pain and they’ve both taken ownership of it, they’re both seemingly paralyzed by their friendship with Brenda and what looks to me like overt Machiavellian manipulation of that privilege by Brenda.
The paramedics arrive and quickly assess the situation, taking Brenda away. I explain to Tina and Angela that I’ll take full responsibility for the decision to call the ambulance, they should point Brenda to me when she comes back. Then I had to deal with my own anger. I hate alcoholism. I have my own addiction (smoking), I have some empathy with addiction but I can’t deal with alcoholism. For me it dehumanisers the addict, they cease to be a person, they become a manipulative being who’s sole aim is to feed their habit and they trample on so many good hearts along the way.