Several times over the last few years, I’ve come face to face with the question: Should I at least try to help?

But really, who’s to say it’s for any of us to try and help someone who has not asked for our help?

Maybe I should just go about my business and pretend nothing is wrong.

That’s all. Overlook it. Move on. Act as if my friend isn’t sliding off a cliff; sliding because she is drinking too much.

I am trying really hard not to say what I am thinking. But I can’t help myself. She is not just drinking too much. She is getting sloshed, soused, blotto. On a regular basis.

She arrives at the restaurant and her words already slur. She can’t focus, and she is really bossy. She doesn’t eat what she ordered, maybe a tiny bite; not enough to sate a wren.

But it doesn’t really concern me. Does it?

God, I sometimes wish I could be this unaffected by the actions of those I love, I really do.

This situation between friends is much more complicated than I can present in one column, but the reason I’m going to try is that the whole question can feel like holding on to the big white elephant I need to let go of.

That, and the fact that the number of times this has happened has escalated, while my know-how of how to handle it has not.

I hadn’t known in the beginning how serious my friend’s drinking was, so I thought nothing of offering a glass of wine when she came to my home, or asking her to join me at the Black Bottle because it’s within walking distance of her condo on Second, and mine on Fifth.

But half a dozen times now I’ve been in her company when she drinks so much that she disrupts everything, and things suddenly feel as complex as I ever want things to become. My voice becomes deliberately more measured when she orders yet another drink because the waiter is raising his eyebrows to me with alarm. And the question on our mutual friends’ minds becomes, “Is she all right? Should one of us walk her home?” These are not questions that generally occur at our age. Not in my circles anyway.

I suppose I’m afraid to have the conversation because it’s such a risk. You never know if the person will react by thinking, “Now, there’s a good friend.” Or the exact opposite.

Above all, I know aging means relinquishing criticism and approaching our relationships with caring and acceptance. But what about concerned acceptance? In “The Art of Loving,” it says, “Nothing especially love, can be mastered without practice, and practice involves discipline, patience, and supreme concern.”

Rhonda lives in my neighborhood and works as a behavioral therapist. I wasted no time in sharing my concerned question with her.

“Oh, you’d be surprised how many people who swear they only drink casually or socially are actually full-blown alcoholics,” she said.

I was somewhat-kind-of-fairly-certain she was talking about me.

So, even something as simple as enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day, as I’m doing now, becomes a self-examination of hypocrisy.

I think, is this drinking too much?

I also think, to some it would seem so. Apparently.

But there is a difference between a glass of wine — maybe two if it’s a weekend — and drinking until your eyes, your whole face, looks lost and ready to drop. I know this. And yet, my thoughts cast doubt on my sauvignon blanc until I wind up pouring the last few swallows down the drain.

Rhonda said, “This kind of awkwardness happens all the time between friends.”

I know she is right. It’s happening more and more in my own life.

She warned me how tricky the conversation can be. She emailed me a set of guidelines, since I’d got it in my head to try to help my friend.

I followed her advice to a T.

I practiced what I was going to say beforehand. I tried to pick the right time and place. Steepologie Teas at noon instead of a bar at five.

When we met, I didn’t go so far as to touch my friend’s cheek, but I spoke gently. I kept to positive, supportive words. I avoided using “I” statements. I let her know I was worried. I wondered if this was a bad “I” statement? Or a supportive one? I braced myself for a negative reaction.

And I got one, sort of. The last thing I remember her saying when we were leaving was the worst cliché at a time like this: “I don’t really have a problem. It’s been a stressful time, that’s all.”

I felt my insides drop down a long shoot.

I tried not to take the situation personally.And lastly, I will give her time and space.

I can accept failure. I can’t accept not trying. I really appreciate what this means now.

Mary Lou Sanelli has published seven collections of poetry, three works of nonfiction, and her forthcoming novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs)” will be published by Chatwin Books in September 2019. For more information about her and her work, visit