The 15 feet that I would have to walk across always looked like a mile because there was no way I could get into the dining room without passing by the monster in the chair. Every time I got close to that chair, the monster’s hand would snap out and grab me right above my knee. I HATED THAT. I still do. No one can touch me above my knee. Maybe my grand father thought it was cute to terrorize me, and obviously the parental units in the room thought so too because no one ever asked him to stop.
My only memory of my grand father is of him smoking a cigarette, while watching TV, a glass of whiskey on the book shelf, and grabbing me above the knee as I went by. Yet, years after he died I saw him again. Lloyd Thomas Aiken, and I refer to seeing him in my writing I See Dead People. I like to believe he dropped by to apologize to me.
Over the years I had more exposure to the alcoholics in my family. There was my Uncle Shorty. Of course that was not his real name, but that is what he was called at work and it stuck. There was my Uncle Al, who had actually been in vaudeville with the immortal stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. He could toss back the booze and tell great stories, he was also a homesexual. That was the politically correct term in the 1950′s. His long time male friend was Joe Shoes. Of course that was not his real last name, he sold shoes for a living, so that name stuck. Both of them were fun drunks to watch as a kid, but not fun for real. I am sure.
When I went into nursing alcoholics were treated in the hospital on a regular medical floor. They were admitted for 10 days to “dry out” and the staff got the pleasure of getting them through the DT’s and withdrawal. Back then we put these patients on IV drips with a lot of multi vitamins because they were usually so nutritionally depleted. To get these patients through the anxiety of withdrawal, we gave them Valium. I think we did that to keep them from disturbing the rest of the patients on the floor as well as us.
I also saw the worst cases. Sobriety is a great thing, but after all those years of self-medicating with alcohol, their bodies had many physical problems that had them in and out of the county hospital as if there was a revolving door. I saw a lot of GI bleeds. Those are a lot of fun. Nothing prettier than seeing all that blood being thrown up all over their gowns and hospital linens. What is even more fun is putting a nasal-gastric tube down a patient in between episodes of throwing up. Then there were our liver cases. If you have ever seen someone in liver failure one time, you don’t want to see it a second time.
OKAY now you have a visual sorry, I did get ahead of myself.
Yesterday I was watching Dr. Drew Pinsky being interviewed about his rehab show for celebrities. The actual numbers of addicts in this country that he shared with the viewing audience is astounding. 1 in 8 adults are either addicted to alcohol or drugs or both. Look around you, count up 7 other people besides yourself, got the visual?
1 in 8 people, and 16 million people in the US are in critical need of medical intervention and treatment right now. 16 million people need help today, right now, not tomorrow. Shocking isn’t it?
Dr. Pinsky was asked if people don’t get help because they can’t admit they need help. His answer was that is a misconception because with all the information available about what alcohol and drugs do to a body, people know when they have a problem. Choosing to do something, now that takes courage.
The friend whom I have had discussions with regarding someone we personally both know, shared with me that she has another friend whose husband is an alcoholic and she won’t leave him. She has two young children, and he is the sole provider for the family.
That is why I found these next statistics so interesting. 1 in 10 women married to an alcoholic will leave him. Only 1 in 10 and obviously many of them stay because they can’t afford to leave for financial reasons. I won’t even go down the road of how staying destroys children.
It is just the opposite number for men married to alcoholic women, 9 in 10 leave. Again, they have the bucks behind them to leave but it also makes me wonder what the other reasons are. Another girl friend recently used the phrase “for better or worse” with me, and it makes me wonder if women take the vows more seriously then men. I don’t know. I am only quoting statistics.
Staying with an active alcoholic is something I could not do. I am selfish. I would not stay with someone and share him with his addiction. I am not talking about if he got sober. I am talking if he did not get sober. An addiction inhabits your body and you are no longer the person I married, it is a perpetual menage a trois and I don’t do three-ways.
I dug into this topic more, about why women stay and I came across a posting on a message board written by a woman who had finally left a husband who would not choose sobriety. She wanted to know how to move on, reach resolution and forgive herself.
The answer came from an advice columnist and recovered alcoholic and I am going to print his reply here and warning there will be blunt language!
As an alcoholic, I can tell you that’s what we do! We do it because you don’t think we will do it. You don’t think we are capable of it. You don’t think we’d dare. You think we’ll forget and move on. You think we’re like other people but we’re not. You think we’ve got some shame but we don’t. We don’t stop when others stop. We don’t slow down when others slow down. We just speed up! We will do anything and that’s our awesome power.
We will not be deterred by shame or pity or self-consciousness. Whatever happens, we can take it because we have our medicine. We’ll do anything as long as we have our medicine. We’ll take it as far as it can go. We’ve got the medicine to keep us going. We’ve got the stuff that kills the conscience so we don’t have to stop halfway on account of our little conscience. Conscience? Nah. Watch this. We’ll take it where you can’t imagine anybody would want to go. Why? Because we can. Because we’re drunk! Because we don’t give a fuck. You just watch.
And just when you think it’s over? Ha! That’s when we’re just getting started: Have another drinky-poo, we’re not even tired, we’ve been drinking all night and we’re still going, and wait till you see what’s coming next!
Not only can I channel that voice but I even, in a twisted diabolical alcoholic way, appreciate what he is up to–the awful terrible spite of it, the wounded caged-animal desperation of it, the stealthy, secretive, maniacal mad-scientist glee of its sadism and depravity. And beneath it all the whole time I know there is that poor little abused soul, which he can trot out every now and then to win your sympathy and pity. Ans he will do that if he can; he will put on his little “Howdy Doody Show.”
Detach. Detach. Don’t get too close of he’ll pick your pocket. Forgive yourself for being human. Align yourself with other women who have been there. If he has friends who have sobered up and can commiserate, commiserate with them. You have to heal it. He is not going to help. He is going to make it harder if he can. Don’t let him, Heal it up. Use everything you’ve got.
This guy is not on your side. Pity, if you wish, those he owes things to, but do not pity this man and do not try to help him. Take care of yourself instead.
It might not feel like it is over, but it is over for you. It is not over for him but it is over for you.
Detach. Detach. Wait. A change is gonna come.
As I stated I give credit to this letter Cary Tennis, whose advice is found in “Since You Asked” column, Salon.com
Go there – Cary is a great writer, a good advice giver, and who would be able to answer any questions you have on alcoholism better than a recovering alcoholic? I wish I knew him personally because I believe he would be a terrific friend.
His answer to this woman in great emotional distress is something I learned from, all that fixing I tried to do for all these years right up to yesterday has been a real waste of my time and energy.
When we live in a sober world of course we want to take the alcoholic and make them better. Our sober world is better (in our eyes) and it becomes our personal mission to get them to stop drinking. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Yesterday I had to finally admit to myself that I have someone very dear to me who likes her role in life, even though it drives her family crazy and even though her children won’t come home very often. No one talks about the elephant in the room in that house, her husband who is drunk every night. Alcohol inhabits his body, he is married to the bottle, not her. I have to accept that she is where she wants to be and let it go. I can’t fix her, she doesn’t want to be fixed. I get it now.
Golly this got long, and I still have a breast cancer posting to do, but gaining a better understanding of alcoholism is something I needed to do also. Note the similarity in the numbers 1 in 8 – until yesterday those numbers only meant to me how many women would get breast cancer in their life time. Now it has a whole new meaning.
Next time I will reveal my interpretation of who- oh wait -drum roll please……and The Biggest Loser is…………….