When I entered the working world, I didn't think that I would meet the person who would later become my best friend. Kate* was the cool girl I wished I could be – even though she always laughed this off and told me I was amazing too – and we soon started socialising outside office hours.
Over the next five years, we partied all over Singapore. Every Saturday (and some Fridays, too) night was our time to shine, as we got dolled up in our best outfits and let our hair down in spectacular fashion.
Then Kate started asking me to go out for drinks in the middle of the week, too. While I did enjoy winding down with a drink, I didn't want it to affect my work the morning after. But Kate was insistent. I gave in sometimes but always just nursed one drink throughout the night, while Kate guzzled three or four.
But the mid-week late-night outings were taking their toll on me, so I began turning down her invitations. After a few weeks, she stopped asking, which was when I found out that she had started going out with other friends.
Partying four times a week
Kate and I still met every weekend, although she wanted to stay out later and go club-hopping each time. She didn't seem satisfied just to stay at one place and enjoy catching up, she was only interested in how many bars we could patronise in one night and how fast the bartenders could mix her favourite drinks in each of them. I asked her why she was so frenzied and she said that her boyfriend was travelling a lot and she found it hard to cope.
After a few months, I knew that was just an excuse as she was partying at least four times a week and didn't have time for me. It suddenly became me joining Kate and her friends, instead of me and Kate hanging out, with some of our friends. What made it more difficult was that I couldn't connect with any of her friends. I found them to be snobbish party animals that I couldn't – and didn't even want to – compete with.
Kate soon drifted out of my life. We still spoke to each other over the phone sometimes but the connection we had was lost. She no longer confided in me and, if I ever brought up anything that I was going through – be it happy or sad – she just brushed it off and changed the topic. She didn't seem interested in my friendship anymore so I pulled away and left her with her new friends.
We didn't speak for almost a year. It was very tough for me and felt worse than any break-up I had ever been through. I sent Kate the odd text and she sometimes replied, saying that she was “doing okay”, but nothing more. I spoke to our mutual friends and they were all baffled, too. I bumped into Kate's boyfriend one night and he told me that they had split up and he was not in touch with her. It seemed like Kate had disappeared off the face of the earth to everyone who had known her.
Then everything unravelled when she texted out of the blue asking if we could meet for a coffee sometime. I rushed at the opportunity and we met the week after.
Best friends in tears
I hardly recognised Kate. Anyone who didn't know her well wouldn't have noticed the difference but I could see that she had lost weight, and was out with no make-up on. I don't think I’ve ever seen Kate without makeup; she even wore it when she was buying groceries at the supermarket.
We chatted for hours, catching up on each other's lives. Then she finally divulged the reason for her going MIA – Kate realised she had a drinking problem and decided to get help. Her partying ways had got in the way of her work and she decided to resign after a heated exchange about her “problem” with her boss. Then her boyfriend told her the same thing and left her.
It was then that it dawned on her that she had isolated all her friends, as she discovered she no longer had anyone to turn to. Kate felt that she needed to get better and address her alcohol issues before she could rebuild her friendships. She apologised for cutting me out of her life and this conversation left us both in tears. I was so proud of her for getting help to becoming a healthier and happier person, and told her so.
This was two years ago. Kate and I are back to being best friends and, even though we no longer paint the town red together, we see each other a few times a month, catching up over brunch. For what it’s worth, Kate has never stepped into a bar or club since she started getting help and is okay with it.
These days, every time Kate and I share a laugh, I'm reminded of how glad I am that she's better now, and how proud I am of her that she was brave enough to take that big step towards recovery.
*Names have been changed.