My cousin A didn't make it to my aunt's yesterday. He was supposed to come to lunch and stay the afternoon. He'd been sober a week. I'm proud of him for the week he did do. But the heartache I felt when I heard he wouldn't make it was so familiar. I'm tired and sad and ready to go home. I haven't heard from S either and am trying not to worry. It's too soon yet to worry about him. And this visit has given me plenty to worry about, like A's son who's just 10 and sweet as pie, and my father living alone here. I want him out east with me, though after four intense days with him, I am ready to get back to my life where I don't feel the need to explain my man, my job and my finances. Aw, but he means well and just cares deeply. I try my best to live a good life. Don't we all?
Saying goodbye to my father breaks my heart and his, every single time. I've learned to handle it and the grief only lasts a short while. But I think Dad's heartache has never left him. I want him out east with me. I want to not worry about him, perhaps give him a little company and happiness. He and S are so much alike. I suppose that's part of what attracted me to S in the first place. I do feel the need to help S in the way that I was never able to help my father.
In these moments of grief, I wonder, like my father does, what is the meaning of it all? The rest of the time my usual optimism prevents me from asking that which I will never understand.
It's my last day of vacation out here in Indiana. I've had more good food than you can possibly imagine. My aunt is an old-fashioned cook--lots of meat and potatoes and cakes and cookies. Yum! She shows her love by feeding us all. In a way, food is her addiction. She's struggled with her weight all her life, even had the stomach stapling surgery. It didn't really help, and in fact she almost died from it. And like an addict, her patterns never changed. She still cooks like she's feeding a family of nine, even if it's just the three of us. And vegetables are corn covered in butter and salt. Her youngest son, A, has been around this weekend. He has always been the troubled one. Their father, my uncle, died when the kids were teenagers. A was probably13 years old. I can't say if that's what caused him to become an addict, but I'll bet it didn't help. This weekend I had my first real conversation with him about it. I'd always heard about his problems, but never got into it with him before. But now that my family knows about S and has a little better understanding of our situation, I think A felt able to talk to me about it. He's a lot like S. Once he starts he can't stop. But A isn't sure he wants to stop, even though he knows he should. He also knows he can't find a happy medium of just drinking a little, even though that's what he'd like to do. S went through that phase, and probably still feels that way sometimes. Some people can't just have one or two drinks; they are incapable of stopping at that point. And those are the people that can't/shouldn't drink at all. But that all or nothing ultimatum is a tough one. They want to be able to drink like "normal" people. But there's no happy medium in drinking for an alcoholic. While talking to A about S, he said something that really struck me. I was talking about how hard it is for S to try to quit, but that he is trying and really wants to. A said "I know how hard it is and it really says something about how S feels about you. I've had plenty of girls say quit drinking or quit me and I left them in the dust for the booze." I can't wait to see my man tomorrow to tell him how much I love him and how proud I am of him. I worry about A. He's gotten into trouble with is drinking. Trouble with the police, car trouble, woman trouble, trouble paying rent and keeping a job. Alcoholics don't have to hit rock bottom to realize they need to get help. I really think that an educated support system can help the alcoholic before he gets to that point. I don't want A to kill himself or some else while driving drunk. A's a good man and smart with a sweet and beautiful son who needs him. I know I can't save him, but I will do what i can. I'd like to buy the HBO Addiction DVD's and book and send it to my aunt. Education and knowledge can only help us bring the topic out into the open. We should be able to talk about without stigma. I'm sure A feels like the outcast of the family, like his doctor brother looks down on him for his "weakness". But if that kind of thinking can start to shift, maybe we can save a good man from tragedy. And save his family from any further, or worse heartache. My heart is full of love for the people in my life and for those I don't know who suffer deep inside from this disease. I must remember to live one day at a time. I must remember that I cannot save the world or even my dearest family and friends. The only control I have is over myself, my actions and my reactions. All I can offer is love.
I'm in the airport now, waiting to travel to Indiana. Things smoothed out after the other night. S came down around 8pm and we talked a bit. He really beats himself up after he drinks. By that point, I was over my annoyance and just wanted to love him. He doesn't want to act that way and it kills him that he can't control it. He still believes that somehow it's a character flaw--that if he was strong enough or man enough, he could will himself to act the way he wants to act. But the disease doesn't let him. My understanding is that we all have Stop and Go mechanisms in our brains. The addicted brain's Stop mechanism doesn't get a chance once the Go mechanism has been triggered. And the triggers can be anything and last the blink of an eye. Most of the time, the addict isn't even aware of the trigger. Some of the meds available work to rebuild that Stop mechanism. At least, this is what I pulled from the research I've done. I'm no doctor. A friend and neighbor of ours has a roommate who's addicted to crack. Now, we live in a really nice, quiet seacoast town. This is NOT the slums of Boston or anything remotely close. He's a nice man who works for a golf course. Addiction can affect anyone. In fact, one in four families are affected by addiction. The stigma and misunderstanding surrounding this disease is huge and detrimental to millions of people. I think about all the people thrown in jail because of drugs. Now, I'm not saying that drug dealers should be free, but maybe as a country we need to completely change how we think about drugs, drug abusers and addiction. I don't think we'd throw a diabetic in jail for buying a snickers. How different is it when an addict buys drugs from an undercover cop? So throw the big players in jail. But the addict is suffering from a disease. He or she is not delinquent, they need help and support and understanding. And lots of patience! The patience part is the hardest for me. Two weeks from today he sees the Pharmo-psychologist. We have a lot resting on what she says and does so I really hope she knows her stuff. The battle continues...
S didn't go to group last night. Said he got there too late. So he went to the marina and drank instead. He didn't drink much, which is unusual, and normally I'd take it as a good sign. But he drank again today. It's 6:30pm and he's asleep in bed. Passed out, I guess you'd say. I'm trying to be understanding. But really, I'm just annoyed right now. He's on vacation this week and he said he was pissed because his boss called him this morning. But what the fuck! Don't drink because of that! Christ. Even without meds, I really wish he'd make some kind of fucking effort. Like go to an AA meeting or two, for instance. The feeling sorry for himself routine just drives me up the wall sometimes. I try to be understanding, really I do. I know he can't look on the bright side of things, either because of his personality or brain chemistry or some combination of factors, but it gets old after a while. I'm going away for a long Labor Day weekend. I'm excited to see the family, and frankly, I'm glad to be getting away from this for a few days. Of course, while I'm gone he's hosting a little bachelor party on the boat. Probably not going to be a sober weekend then. Ninety five percent of the time I'm committed to working this out with him. But every now and again I feel like bailing on the whole jar of pickles and looking for a new start. But everyone's got their issues. Maybe it's time to call up Martha (our couple counselor) for a visit. It's been a few weeks, and she's a great way for the two of us to clear the air. I guess I'll have to wait until I get back from the weekend. For the moment, I'll have to do something with myself on this Tuesday night. Even though I worked hard all day and get home about 12 hours after I leave in the morning, there is still laundry all over the house that needs to get put away and some sort of dinner. I'm sorry but I'm pissed off about this. I guaran-damn-tee you if I was on vacation the house would be spotless and dinner would be ready by the time he walked in the door after a long day at work. I sure as hell wouldn't leave a mess and be passed out in bed. Here's where the brain disease part of this whole matter is really hard. I wouldn't be mad if he left a mess and was asleep upstairs if he had cancer, right? Is it the co-occuring mental disorders coming into play? Depression and addiction? As health issues, why are they harder to sympathize with than cancer or diabetes? Is it the diseases that keep him from seeking AA meetings and instead spending the day on the couch?
There's another layer to the madness that involves an issue of mine. In my past, I learned that attention from men meant I was accepted and needed. There's a history there that I don't need to get into. While S was drinking, I flirted with men and around the time of our divorce I crossed a line and exchanged some pretty hot 'n heavy text messages with another man. S found the messages and it's caused a lot of damage that we've struggled with over the past year. Through Martha, I've been able to see where my behavior came from and it hasn't been a problem for me recently (though we are still dealing with my previous behavior to this day). BUT, today I have the urge to go out and build myself up again by finding some man to stroke my ego. It makes sense, in some sick way. I feel shitty because he's drunk and passed out again. A little superficial flirting would give me that empowered high. Twisted, I guess. And I won't do it because I understand that it's superficial. Nevertheless, I wish he could show a little appreciation for me right now. And right now is when he's least able to do that. Signing off lonely and lost for now, M
Guilty. Of having a couple big glasses of wine while S is off to counseling. Sue me. I'm tired. I work my ass off all day and my back is killing me. I don't have a drinking problem. So I have the ability to come home, pop a couple ibuprofen and wash them down with a little pinot. But I still feel guilty. Monday nights have been a bit problematic in recent history. S attends a group counseling session for addicts, and then was hitting an AA meeting on his way home. But the pattern became counseling, AA, then drinking and coming home drunk. So he's been skipping AA. But still. Every night he's away, I have to wonder what state he'll come. I suppose it will be like this for the rest of our lives. There are worse burden's to bear. I truly believe that he can't help it. He knows I despise him drunk. And he hates to hurt me by coming home that way. He can't stop drinking to excess every time, without exception. The poor man. How can I not feel for him? He's not in control. Can you even imagine what that might feel like? So I stay. Because I've gotten to a point where it doesn't feel like the end of the relationship every time he drinks. Even though he's not the person I know and love when he's under the influence, i know he can't help it. My understanding of the whole issue has grown and changed.
We haven't been to our couples counselor in a couple weeks, and neither of us seem eager to go back. Martha was really terrific for a while and helped us tremendously. We learned a lot about patience and communication. But we haven't come to an understanding about the alcohol with her. Recently, it has felt as though she's lost patience. Does she want us to split in order to give him to room to address his addiction? Maybe she's frustrated with his lack of action. Understandable. But I'm frustrated with her lack of solutions. She thinks that when he understands WHY he drinks, he'll be better able to control it. But I don't think he drinks to deal with some trauma in his past. I think he drank a lot socially from a young age and the alcoholic gene finally caught up with him. Throw in some depressive tendencies and a construction worker environment that includes lots of beer and pot. Does there need to be any deeper reason?
S came home sober last night. I couldn't ask for any more than that. He's going to a pharmopsychologist (sp?) in a couple weeks. She'll be able to prescribe meds for the alcoholism. Most addicts also suffer from comorbidity, which means they usually suffer from another mental health disorder such as depression. Addicts have generally self-medicated their whole lives. My man has depressive tendencies, so hopefully she'll be able to address both issues. "Co-occuring mental disorders and drug addiction appear to be the rule rather than the exception." Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But I'm afraid he thinks her prescriptions will be miracle pills. But they will only be part of the solution. Behavioral therapy is also necessary to get this disease under control, and in the past three years he has not been able to connect with AA. More to come. For now, I beautiful late summer day on the boat with my man. I do love him so.
Alcoholism is a disease, an illness. Like cancer or heart disease. I knew this when I divorced S. But the sheer panic I felt at having committed my life to an alcoholic overwhelmed me, and I asked for the divorce ten months after we eloped. It's a disease, right? But S chose to continue drinking, and he chose to deny the problem. Or so I thought. Turns out, that's what the disease does. It's all chemical and the chemicals in alcohol changed the functions of his brain so that his choices were not choices at all. I suppose I should change tenses here. S still drinks. We're back together. Or still together, since we really only split for a couple months. He stopped drinking after the divorce (so he can stop, which makes it all the more confusing). When he's not drinking, he's the man I love and wanted to marry. That made it easier to get back together. Plus a really great couples counselor (more on her later). We've been together now for over six years. One year long distance, one year living together, one year engaged, 10 months married, two months not together, one year dating/pseudo living together but with separate places, and now living together again. The relationship is better, as is our understanding of his drinking. It's still difficult, and I think will always be. For a while, he would go for one, two or even three months of sobriety. I remember when we moved into our current home, only four month ago, he drank the day before I had to move my things out of my apartment. We were fighting while moving in together and I thought I'd have to start looking for a new place right away. But I didn't. And we kept going to counseling. The past month or so, he's been drinking more. Several times a week. I've stopped keeping track. In fact, since he's not home now, I'm worried that he's going to come home drunk. And knowing that he can't control it, through no fault of his own, does help me to cope. But it's not easy. Any readers of this (whoever you may be), may wonder if he really is an alcoholic. Perhaps I will post on that in depth at some point. But for now, please trust me when I say that he is. It's a disease. Do you question the person with cancer if they really have it? I think writing about all of this will be very difficult. I feel drained after four paragraphs. He left at 5:20pm to go work on the boat and pick up pasta sauce for dinner. It's now 7:40. I can't help but wonder in what state he will come home.