Helping an Alcoholic

I’ve virtually been a shut in now for the better (better?) part of six weeks. Even cleaning the dog poop from the back yard has been challenging because of the uneven ground. Now the foot is actually approaching being truly healed. I suspect that’s the most vulnerable time for a sprain, so I’m being cautious. I’m pretty sick of it, though. I’ve even passed the point where I miss taking out the dogs — I look down the alley at the golf course and points beyond and it just seems so far away. Meantime, the Bike to Nowhere and I have gone on some brammer rides in European mountains. It’s not the same as walking out in the world, but it’s been OK.

A friend of a friend has been struggling with alcoholism. Well, he hasn’t been struggling. He’s fine, anesthetized and numbed. His friends have been struggling. He’s lost his apartment. A posse of allies moved his stuff into storage for him and then there was, “Where does he go now?”

Naturally no one wants him to live with them. The man is at the point where it’s literally quit or die. He’s physically disgusting and unable to care for himself. The talk was “Assisted living” “Rehab” “the hospital.” He did go to the hospital yesterday after the social worker and his friends staged an intervention. The hospital treated him, but released him. There is no room in hospitals for alcoholics. “He needs to go to a shelter,” said the nurse/doc someone. Naturally, his friends were outraged at the hospital, but where else would he go? Then my friend learned that all the detox facilities connected to the hospital are full. The hospital had no where to send him but the shelter.

It hurts so much to learn that the “system” doesn’t (apparently) care for the person who means so much to you. It isn’t immediately obvious that the “system” is overburdened by substance abusers. Hospitals don’t have beds for alcoholics. Hospital beds are for sick people or injured people. People who can be helped.

Ouch.

My friend is naturally outraged that the “system” doesn’t step up and save her precious friend. Because the users have abdicated the use of their rational mind and are in the power of whatever substance drives their lives, to the experienced eye, users are not fully human. That sound horrific, doesn’t it? But daily life logic and rationality don’t exist in alcoholic reality. A rational mind would say, “Whoa, my drinking caused me to lose my apartment. I’m up shit crick. I’d better stop drinking.” Some alcoholics might immediately make this connection; some won’t. Who knows? In my experience, as soon as the alcoholic sincerely moves toward sobriety, he/she reassumes their full humanity and thousands of hands reach out to help them.

It’s the saddest thing I know. Keeping my brother housed was a constant concern for me. In the early 90s, he got married to a girl who’d loved him since high school (some 20 years earlier) my mom said to me, “I don’t know. Do you think we should tell her?” meaning should we tell her that sooner or later the bubble is going to burst and all hell will break loose? We’d both suffered that with him. We decided not to say anything. Who could say but what all my brother needed was a good woman, a nice house and life in California? I didn’t think his wife would believe us, anyway, love being blind and all that. What we really felt was that — for however long it lasted — my brother was somebody else’s problem.

My own personal experience trying to rescue my brother taught me a lot of hard lessons, and the biggest lesson I got from it is that the alcoholic might be suffering but his/her suffering is NOTHING compared to the suffering of those who love him/her and want to save him/her. Even if the alcoholic goes into detox and rehab it doesn’t mean he/she will stay sober. The family/friend’s hope soars and then? My brother was in three serious residential rehab programs — for which I paid (and yeah, I resent that) — and ultimately he died of alcoholism.

For more than a year I worked with a friend — former junky — counseling families of users. Over and over I experienced how it’s almost impossible for the sober person who loves the addict to wrap their head around the reality that no one can do anything until the alcoholic/addict makes a sincere effort to do something on his/her own behalf. You KNOW that alcoholic/addict is incapable of making decisions, and his/her life is totally out of control. How can he/she do anything? You — the sober person — MUST do it for them but wait…

It’s not your job to live their lives for them. We are all compelled to live with the consequences of our choices. Why not the addict?

That serenity prayer is right on, more for the friends and family than for the alcoholic, maybe, especially at first.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 The wisdom part is the key, especially for friends and family. While I was attempting to help my brother, I dismissed this prayer. “Yada yada,” but then one day I paid attention to it. “The wisdom to know the difference.” Damn. Since then, it’s been one of the guiding principles of my life. “Can I change this? Is it my job?” is a useful question.

It’s so hard to let go of wanting to control the outcome. There’s this completely unreliable (and needy) person in front of you, someone you love, and, at a certain point, to a large degree, you have to let go and let the unreliable person blunder through the darkness. And you just pray he moves toward the light of a sober life and all the things that offers, means, one of which is…

You. ❤

You really want your friend back. It hurts that he/she might not want you as much as he/she wants booze. In a way, it is that simple, yet far more complicated. The alcoholic has a relationship with alcohol that’s become almost symbiotic. Alcohol becomes a kind of entity preying on the alcoholic, and the alcoholic lives for the numbing effects of alcohol — a kind of demonic possession that ultimately kills the “host.”

In my recent, temporary, house-bound life, I’ve been alone most of the time. I’m mostly OK with it. In going out with the dogs, I always saw and talked to people, or I saw and (talked to) the river, the mountains, the birds, whatever was there. We yearn for the companionship of others and the outside world. I might yearn for that less than many other people, but I can feel the absence of it after nearly two months of semi-isolation. Isolation can do weird things to your thoughts.

My friend’s friend is alone. I don’t think that’s his optimal living situation. I don’t know him well, but he seems to me like the kind of guy who would like to be part of a partnership, a guy who’d probably do better with people around him. Loneliness + alcohol = kills a lot of people. I hope my friend’s friend finds a community to help him. And, strangely, that’s one of the purposes of shelters.

It’s just fucking sad.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/rdp-wednesday-brammer/

Why It Matters… The Deep Saboteurs….

As I get ready for the big event (big for me) this coming Saturday, a book launch for my little memoir about the year I spent teaching English in China as one of the first American foreign experts to have that opportunity, I’ve found myself confronted by very powerful shadows.

The most palpable was that of my artist brother — now dead from alcoholism. He was also an artist and, in our family (meaning my mom) he was THE artist in the family. My work was minimized or mocked, whether it was writing or visual arts. By ridiculing my efforts or ignoring them completely, BOTH of them made sure that I never got “full of” myself. At the same time, they both used me to maintain their lives to a greater or lesser extent depending on how sober each of them might be at any given moment.

My job was to be dependable in case they needed me to enable them, which meant nothing I did could be the most important thing in MY life. My job was to be prepared to shore things up, to listen to them. For neither one was I able, ever, to do anything well or even right. My mother insisted — even after I’d been teaching for nearly 20 years — that I was not a “real” teacher because I didn’t have a degree in education and the students in my classes had a right to expect more. When I shared newsletters from the wilderness park I was instrumental in forming, that had articles I’d written about hiking in that park, my mom said, “I had no idea nature had any meaning to you at all.”

Where was she all my life?

Once, when I was showing some drawings to some of my mom’s friends after Thanksgiving dinner, and one of them said to her, “You must be proud of Martha Ann.”

My mom just turned to me and said, “You did a good job cleaning up the kitchen.” She never looked at the drawings. My mom was a master at making me feel good only when I was helping someone else but even then I could never do really well.

I have dozens of stories to illustrate this in which my mom or brother figure in this way, but there’s no point in relating them here. The point is that these two people still live somewhere in my mind, and in moments like this — when I’m trying very hard to pull things together to do something that is VERY good for me — one of both of them will appear. I know they are not real, I know their power has been defused by death, and yet…

Do we live for our family’s’ approval? I think as children it is very important that approval from them is for the person that we actually ARE. That might be one most important things they can give us. That approval says, “Yes, this is YOU, pursue your talents, refine them, enrich your knowledge, BE yourself.” My mother and brother both seemed to think that to keep me there to function as they needed me to, they had to keep me down, and they conspired to do that. What this says to me tonight of their sense of self-worth is that they knew they had none.

And truly, they did not.

OK, yes, I know I’m 67 years old and my past should be behind me and all that, but the thing is that it isn’t until we push forward toward something we have not pushed for before, or have turned back from in the past even when we wanted it, that we learn a lesson like this.

There are some good songs about this, but maybe not for here (Eminem, “My Mom”). These lines from Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” say it pretty well.

Master of puppets, I’m pulling your strings
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
Blinded by me, you can’t see a thing…

What matters is what we do ANYWAY.
Survival is the best revenge.

Trail Confidence Marker

“I’m uncertain whether to comment. Again. I want to know do we all feel this? Why? Take your time.” Tracy

Yesterday I wrote on the prompt “Transitions.” The post turned out a lot deeper than I thought it would when I commenced writing it. Then Tracy asked me that serious question after she read it.

Damned chain reactions (Neils Bohr)

In the post I talked about myself and how, as a young person, I was extremely uncomfortable with uncertainty and confusion, how I wanted to know answers to my questions RIGHT NOW. The whole thing (post, life) culminated in the understanding that letting things be is often the only rational “choice,” not even a choice because that’s what’s going to happen anyway.

I learned, finally, beginning in the late 1990s, that what I was really seeking was reality. Life as I had always known it was built on lies. I didn’t know the whole story. All I knew was that on some visceral level, I was aware that things weren’t right. I wanted to stand on solid ground, but I didn’t know where it was and why I wasn’t standing on it.

So what’s the story, Morning Glory?

I think everyone feels restless sometimes and wants to know what’s going to happen, like “What’s Santa going to put in my stocking?” I’m not sure everyone is continually apprehensive. I think, in my case, it’s probably something shared by other children of alcoholics.

Why?

In all my reading 20 years ago or so when I first began to come to grips with this, to comprehend this, I learned that the people in families like mine have “roles” and my role was to keep things going in a semblance of normalcy. The alcoholic parent is a puppet-master, giving and withholding love as a way to retain control over his/her life. The “keeping-things-going” (KTG) kid has to be constantly working to earn that parent’s love or the KTG might (good god we can’t let this happen) relax and see reality for what it is.

An added factor in the unreality of life with my mom was that no one knew she was an alcoholic until she was a month or two from death in 1996 (she was 74) and the hospital, trying to figure out the sudden onset of severe dementia, did a brain scan. The brain scan found masses of lesions and scar tissue consistent with long term alcohol abuse. I did not even have the chance some other children of alcoholics have of KNOWING my mom was a drunk. I couldn’t even say, “Well, she’s been drinking,” because I didn’t know. Part of the strategy she employed was making sure I couldn’t see what she was doing. Why?

She didn’t want to stop? She was ashamed? Only she would know why, but the upshot was that until that phone call with her doctor, I had no idea about the truth behind my uncomfortable life.

My mom was a master at keeping me off balance. One day I was her best friend, the next day the worst thing that ever happened to her. All I wanted was to know — for once and for all — that she loved me and that I was doing OK. Naturally this affected every aspect of my life. Regardless of what happened, all the bad things were my fault. Mean childhood friends, “You have to learn to get along with people. Go to your room.” Abusive first husband? “What did you do to make him hit you? You married him. You stay there.”

And the good things I did? She refused to notice other than to say, “You think you’re so great, but I know who you really are.” Or, “I have no use for art. It’s a dirty word.” Or, at a dinner put on by the Rainbow Girls group of which I was a member, “You have these people fooled. They don’t know you like I do,” accompanied by a hard pinch to my upper arm.”

She was a mean bitch.

What’s more important, a healthy sense of self and the ability to accept love do not grow in a family agar culture like that.

The journey to reality has been long and I’m still on it. It began with therapy in the late 90s when I began to learn about the dynamics of the alcoholic family and heard from someone else how the mechanics of such a family work. I was shocked to the core by what I heard from my therapist, by its accuracy. She explained why I never knew what I really FELT. I didn’t. I didn’t recognize feeling, emotion, as information I could use, a color that completed life’s painting.

There was a moment — 2000? or so — when, having met Goethe, I got the “answer” that allowed me, has allowed me, to at least “fake it until I make it.” He said to his secretary, Johann Peter Eckermann, who was pondering whether to take a teaching job that had been offered him and leave Goethe, “Hold your powers together for something good and let everything go that is not for you and is not suited to you.”

That became my mantra(?) It was clear instruction about what to do until I had a better understanding of life, the universe and everything. It told me, simply, what to do until I understood, until I found solid ground. My lifelong instinct to get away from the family madness into the woods, hills, rocks, rivers, mountains was sane. I was looking for reality at the very source of reality.

It’s been a long journey and I’m still traveling. A few years ago, when “the man” first expressed his feelings, I was shocked and confused and, well, felt like a moth trapped in a light. I didn’t respond for a long time. I had understood that I needed to think about it, about our sketchy past and where I am now. After a while, I reached a conclusion about love — all love, friendship, romance, whatever — that it demands consistency and kindness. I saw that is what love is. I finally responded and from that began a long correspondence that covered all the mistakes and blindness of the past 25 years that we’ve known each other. At this point, I’m just amazed that two people could successfully communicate about feelings and build a relationship. For me that’s a huge step and measure of personal growth.

I think on all our journeys we reach trail markers. Sometimes they are clear and give us direction; sometimes they’re obscure like the markers on the mountain bike trail at Penitente Canyon that are just a number and the words “Trail Confidence Marker.” But clear or obscure, they are information.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/08/03/rdp-saturday-commence/

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Once upon a time I thought it was cool to say, “Change is the only constant in the universe,” but I don’t think that phrase so cool anymore. The phrase, its meaning and internal paradox, is one of those things a twenty-something (or older, in my case) thinks is profound. At this point I’d be likely to say to the girl who said that, “Yeah? So? You have no clue, sweet cheeks.”

Unfairly, too. At twenty-something I’d already experienced some pretty ugly changes, and that phrase was my way of giving myself courage and a more stoical world view. It was a way to assuage my fear of more ugly changes by being glib about it.

I understand now that a constant in some of my life’s changes is dragging my feet. I remember not wanting a cell phone, not wanting to use email, not wanting to learn PowerPoint, not wanting this or that and holding onto marriages way past their “throw-out-by” date. Why?

Sometimes moving forward into a change is just a pain in the ass. “Oh shit, this is a crappy marriage. Now we have to face that, and do a divorce, and have conversations about THINGS and move on.” Well, husband number 2 had already “moved on” (several times), and husband number 1 had moved out so what was the big deal? I don’t know. I was afraid of things that were not even related to me or my marriage — like my mom would be disappointed, like I was as awful as husband No. 1 said I was or as boring and ugly as husband No. 2 said I was, like I’d never amount to anything on my own (Mom, husband No. 1) — the list of irrelevancy is very long. Reality was clear. These were bad marriages to husbands who didn’t love me and that, probably, I didn’t love, either.

There was the big change when I stopped supporting my alcoholic brother. That was a terrifying change. Would he die? Would my family hate me? What would happen? So many “ifs” and they all came true — but the savior was, as always, objective reality. Was my help actually HELPING him? (No.) If people in my family hated me, would it make any material difference in my life? (It didn’t. Those who mattered understood). Would he die? Absolutely, if he didn’t stop. Could I make him stop? Had all my efforts made any difference in his habits? No. When I stepped away, felt I was falling over a precipice…

Often we don’t see change until it’s happened, and we’re standing on sand that’s being pulled out from under us by the resolute tide of time. When the status quo is already shaky, letting go can be scary. What if the whole thing crumbles into dust? That’s happened a time or two. The crumbling is terrifying, but surviving it turned out to be liberating. It definitely gave me a less hesitant view of change.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/rdp-saturday-change/

Sibling???

I had a sibling. I liked him a lot, but he didn’t last very long. Plenty of people still scratch their heads over that one wondering what they could have done, asking the usual questions people ask when a friend dies of causes related to substance abuse, all questions without answers. I don’t. I know I did everything in my power and out of the experience I learned that 1) I’m not god, 2) everyone will live his/her life, 3) my life is my job, 4) logic is not the most powerful force in the universe.

Out of that ONE brother, I got three sisters. When my brother died from the multitudinous complications of alcoholism — in this case he bled out of his, well, never mind — his friends rallied round each other (and me, though I was a thousand miles away). One of my soon-to-be sisters organized a party. Another attended the party and in the video posted on my brother’s memorial Facebook page, I saw she was the only one who cried. The third is the little sister of one of my best friends from high school, and one of my brother’s friends.

Our relationships are very sibling-esque. Sometimes we bug each other. Sometimes we have to talk things out. We laugh, reminisce and talk politics. Very, very, very often we are shoulders for the other and a listening ear. I love my sisters very much and sometimes we look up at the sky and say, “Thank you Kirk.”

Without him, we wouldn’t even know each other.

The featured photo is two of my sisters and my “sister-in-law,” the great woman one of my brother’s best friends married. We were all at the Calhan Paint Mines on Halloween several years ago. Connie, my “sister-in-law” and my sisters, Mary Ellen and Lois. This photo ought to be an album cover. My third sister hates having her photo taken.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/rdp-wednesday-sibling/

Not that PBR

I’m sorry but what? My family? Two dogs. A couple of cousins in the wilds of Montana (one of whom flirts with me, very creepy) and a couple others here and there. Family is not all it’s cracked up to be. Some families are just fucked from the getgo. Some fall apart over time. This joyful holiday get-together-with-family BS is just an added pressure this time of year, and I’m at the point in life where I get to choose my “family.”

Last Christmas I spent with some of my chosen family in Colorado Springs. Providence brought me a sister not long after my brother Kirk died from alcoholism. “Here,” Providence said, “from Kirk.” We thank Kirk from time to time because without him dying we wouldn’t know each other. To learn about that, you can read my post on the Kindness of the Gods.

The Christmas Eve get-together of family and friends was hilarious and grim as only family Christmases can be. The “brother-in-law,” we’ll call him “M,” got drunk and spent the evening sitting on the “going to the basement” stairs of the split-level house my chosen sister (CS) had borrowed from her second brother (who was not there) because it had a dishwasher and more space than her house. Probably 30 people attended. I knew most of them, but didn’t get to talk to everyone. I was in a lot of pain from my hip and couldn’t stand for more than five or ten minutes, so I had to spend the party sitting on a comfy chair (“No, no, not the comfy chair!”)

My “son-like-thing” was depressed and mildly inebriated, in a bad relationship and lost in life. My nephew, one of the sweetest people on the planet, a developmentally disabled guy in his 30s, sat with me on a small sofa with his head on my shoulder staring at my tits. My CS’s oldest brother and his piece-of-work wife interviewed me about my education and credentials to see if I merited their attention and conversation. I passed, but that didn’t mean we had anything to say to each other.

After about a couple of hours, my CS noticed that “M” was MIA.

“He’s on the basement stairs. He’s been there all night.”
“Is he OK?”
“He doesn’t look so good.”
“I’ll take him home,” I said. I’d signed up for that job early in the day.

Some friends helped “M” to my car. No one knew if he (blind and arthritic and drunk) could walk on his own, and the thought of him falling was not to be borne. “I’ll meet you there,” said one of my CS’s friends who was there with her son and his new girlfriend. I was pretty stove up at the time, needing hip surgery and unable to easily climb stairs, so I wouldn’t have been able to help him into the house. We’d have sat in the car godnose how long.

Absurd.

“Great,” I said, relieved. On the way “home,” I dropped off my CS’s very pitiful ( 😦 )alcoholic musician friend, then took “M” home. The friends drove up, ready to help, but “M” was fine. He went in by himself, headed directly to the basement, his hangout, with the mini-fridge and the 20 pack of *PBRs.

“You going back to the party?” asked the friend.

I shook my head, thinking how amazing life is that even with everyone in my own dysfunctional blood family dead, I could still have a Christmas Eve like that. ❤

~~~

*PBR stands both for Professional Bull Riders and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.

Family…

This time of year families gather together. For many years, I traveled to Montana, first with my mom, dad and brother to stay with my grandmothers. Then, as an adult, I flew up to Montana from San Diego to be with my mom and then, after she died, I flew to Montana to spend Christmas with my aunts. 

There was a period in there when I broke off with my family — I made some choices I had every right to make, but my mom disowned me, leaving me feeling confused and ashamed. I can’t say the estrangement was a bad thing or a bad time. I now believe it was necessary. In those years I belonged to a new family, this family was in Zürich, and for a few years I flew “home” to Zürich for Christmas. I look on that time as one of the sweetest and magical of my life. 

My mom and I attempted to make amends after one of my cousins died suddenly of a brain tumor, and my mom realized it could have been me. From that came one of the three times she ever called me on the phone (it was my job to call her) and asked me to come “home” for Christmas. I did. It turned out to be the last Christmas of her life. It was a strange, joyless Christmas for both of us. We didn’t like each other. I wasn’t the daughter she wanted, and I had never found anything in common with her, feeling only a sense of duty and the wish for love. My aunt Dickie called me up while I was visiting my mom and attempted a heart-to-heart about my mom’s drinking. But, as my aunt Dickie didn’t want to bad-mouth her sister, and this is the cowboy American west where some things were just not spoken of directly by the older generation, I didn’t get the point. I didn’t even get it when my mom almost crashed the car into a curb… I would learn the truth three months later when a scan of my mom’s brain revealed brain lesions from alcoholism.

The years of Christmas with my aunts were wonderful, fun, warm, friendly, loving, and I savored those times knowing they would not last forever. All of my aunts are gone now and my reflection in the mirror is a collage containing features and expressions of all those people. Interestingly, only the bird finger on my right hand resembles anything about my mom. Go figure.

I think there’s a point in most of our lives — especially those of us who don’t have kids — when we’re the sole survivors. I don’t mind. I loved my family and I miss them, but I’ve understood for a while that we all stand on a curb watching the passing parade. It’s an interesting parade because though we stand and watch, we are also in it, moving at different rates of speed toward the moment when we turn a corner and are no more. 

Ultimately, I found my home in a place on the map my family only passed through. I could have come sooner, but I guess I wasn’t ready or didn’t realize what “home” was. I love Montana, but the winter nights are very long and I like sunshine. I ended up in exactly the right place for me. I began to get an idea about 10 years ago and a search that began in 2002 for a job in Wyoming became a search for home in a small town in Colorado where I could live on the rather frugal income I’d have when I retired. I also wanted mountains, to live at a high elevation, to have snow and sunshine. 

I found it.

And, family, too. Family-less, the blank spaces in my life have been filled by those to whom I have an affinity and they to me. Some are close, some are more distant, but the heart-ties are the same or even more wholesome, cleaner, without some of the loaded expectations we have of family. 

25 years ago I was given a collection of Rumi’s poems by a woman who was a very precious friend and soulmate, both she and her husband. I felt she was my older sister, and in the passage of time, her husband — who was born the same year as my dad — offered me affection and support very like my dad would have if he had been alive. In that collection of poems, I read this one and decided to use it as instructions for finding the right direction.

Anyone who genuinely and constantly with both hands
looks for something, will find it.
Though you are lame and bent over, keep moving toward [it]. With speech, with silence, with sniffing about, stay on the track.
Whenever some kindness comes to you, turn that way, toward the source of kindness.



Thoughts on My Brother’s 65th Birthday

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My brother, his ex-wife, and daughter, 1979

The other day I read an article by a guy who’d lost his brother to alcoholism. I got very angry with the writer. His whole point was that if there were a scientific and methodical way to treat alcoholism, no one would die of it. The writer (I wish I could find the article and if I do, I will insert it here) railed against AA and other 12 step programs because, mainly, they put the cure of alcoholism in the hands of the alcoholic.

Statistically, AA works for only between 10 and 20% of alcoholics. Personally, I don’t think the statistics matter when one sober person is enough (IMO) to call the program a success, at least for that person’s family.

I get it. No one wants to rely on the drunk to cure his/her own problems. Who is more unreliable than an alcoholic?

Anyone who loves an alcoholic wants a powerful outside force to come and wrest the problem from the drinker and awaken that person to the wonder of a sober life. I wanted that for my brother every single day of his life. For a time I thought I could BE that power. Later I thought I could ally myself with that power (various rehab programs and hospitals that tried to help my brother). I busted my ass working extra jobs to pay for my brother’s rehab, housing, food, medical care. In all that I learned something important.

There is no such power.

The United States already spends about $35 billion a year on alcohol- and substance-abuse treatment, yet heavy drinking causes 88,000 deaths a year—including deaths from car accidents and diseases linked to alcohol. (“The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous” The Atlantic)

Science continues to research the problem of alcoholism (which is as old as humanity, I think, since we started brewing brew and vintnering vino early in our history) and comes up with chemical aids to treat and help alcholics. The bottom line THERE is that even with the help of science, the alcoholic has to be motivated to use the medications or the psychological treatment.

It’s a pretty common-place notion now that many alcoholics have underlying psychological problems and that booze is self-medication. My brother very likely suffered something like borderline personality disorder. Both our childhoods were traumatic at key moments in our development, and we were very different kids. Some people are intrinsically more reslient than others, less dependent on others, react differently to stress, able to develop alliances outside the family. I am a survivor; my little brother wasn’t. Even as kids if someone picked on him, I beat them up. My reaction was to fight back or leave. My brother’s was to stay there and take it.

In 2004 I realized that though he called me, he didn’t even know where I lived, what my life was like, or much about who I was. I was just an open wallet to him and he would — and did — lie and con me to get money. It was hurting me teaching 7 classes and holding down a 20 hr/week clerical job. His life wasn’t worth more than mine. “Don’t call me again until you stop drinking,” I said on the phone, feeling like my heart was being pulled from my chest.

“Fuck you,” he said.

I never heard from him again. I was totally OK with that. I had realized that I couldn’t do anything to fix my brother. It was 100% beyond me. I wasn’t mad at him, I loved him as much as ever, I wanted him to pull his shit together as much as I ever had, but I finally understood that it wasn’t my job. I had a lot of help reaching that point, the kindness of loving friends who’d experienced something like this in their lives and some of whom knew and loved my brother, too. I took a lot of shit from some of my family over my decision, but those who understood really did understand. I will always be grateful. ❤

No one ever saves anyone who isn’t already clinging to the shore asking for help while he or she tries to pull him/herself up.

My feeling now about alcholism is that there isn’t, and will never be, a “one size fits all” cure for this problem other than the one we know and that is that the alcoholic can stop drinking if he or she is motivated to do so. I’ve known several people who stopped drinking because something outside of them mattered more to them than drinking. My dad’s sister, my dad, my grandfather — just to name three, but my list is longer than those three family members. People do stop, but my brother didn’t. He died of an alcoholism related stroke in 2010. I didn’t even know until five months later.

Today is my brother’s birthday and he would be 65. The ONE thing he refused to try was AA. Who knows?

In any case, I miss my brother, and I would much rather be baking a cake today than writing this. I think I’ll go take a walk. ❤

Two songs for my brother and me:

 

 

The best song about addiction I know:

Doors of Obfuscation

Our life’s dreams are often slow to realize and some of them are simply strange, like my dream of someday having a LOT of dogs. That was a dream I had as a kid and tried to realize as a teenager with a big red dog I brought home. The moment wasn’t right. It was not the right age/time of my life to begin my dog pack, so the dream didn’t come true. I forgot all about it for a long time, so long that when it DID come true. and I remembered it, I was in my 40s. All I could do was laugh.

But some night dreams are scary/important. I think we do work things out in sleep, some hidden conundrums — some very old ones — can work their way up the levels of our unconscious mind and teach us things using strange but perfect symbolism.

When my little brother was 10 we were visiting my Aunt Martha in Denver. She lived in a late 1950’s three story apartment next to Cheeseman Park. Now the building is condos and they sell for quite a lot of money ($213,500), but back in 1963 it was just a small, 600 sq ft, one bedroom apartment in a great location. My aunt lived on the first floor but elevated. The basement apartments had big windows so the first floor was pretty far off the ground. It had a “lanai” and to get to the lanai you went through a sliding glass door.

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The actual apartment! Thanks Zillow!

I don’t know if sliding glass doors were newish back then or that we just hadn’t had much exposure to them, but my brother walked through it. He could have been badly hurt, but all that happened was a cut on his thumb that didn’t even need stitches.

The other night I dreamed I walked into a room and my brother was there sleeping. There was a sliding glass door hanging off the rails. I was so afraid my brother would be hurt, or someone would come in and hurt him, that I began fussing with it to get it to close. When I got there I found DOZENS of attempts at repairing that door and NONE of them worked. I discarded one after the other — some made with wood and chicken wire, some with wire reinforced glass. I could NEVER get the door to close; I could NEVER make my brother safe.

In my dream, my brother slept through my Herculean efforts on behalf of his safety. He never knew. He was completely undisturbed. Then a voice in my dream said, “You have to go. You’ve done everything you could.”

Behind everything else in the dream was the fact that my brother had chosen to sleep in that room, in that bed. A very obvious cliché right there.

I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s reached the point of walking away from a beloved family member (my brother was a hardcore alcoholic) who is an addict feels conflicted, maybe forever. In my dream I answered that statement with, “What about this door?”

 

Legalize It (Am I Really Writing About This?)

I thought I was pretty witty back in the day when I said that surrealism is the accurate perception of the world as it is. I wasn’t talking about elephants on stilts or melting clocks. I was talking about plain, ordinary reality. We cushion the blows of its weirdness through our relentless illusion and hope and general obtuseness, but it’s just all around surreal.

I live with three hairy dogs. They are large. The smallest is 60 pounds. I am a little person and the two I walk with most of the time come up to my waist. Yep. We trudge through life as if that were the normal state of affairs for every 65 year old lady. In fact, every single person trudges through their life as if it were “normal” but there is no normal. There is only relentless weirdness.

Here’s weirdness. We have a legal drug, booze. Booze is a cheerful glass of wine at Thanksgiving for some, the propulsion behind a deadly automobile for others, and death itself for others.

An estimated 88,0009 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women9) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities). Source

But it’s legal. Anyone over the age of 21 can buy as much of it as they can afford and drink it as often as they wish.

My brother was a hardcore alcoholic who died in his 50s after a horrible life and tremendous physical debilitation and at an extreme cost to the people of the states where he lived. He often said, “If pot were legal, I wouldn’t be a drunk.” I would add, if pot had been legal, he might be alive now. That would be really nice. The other day I donated some money to one of my brother’s old friends who’s got meningitis and has no insurance. Her children wrote me a thank you, “Hugs to the Kennedy family.” Yeah. That’s me, Dusty,  Mindy and Bear. I felt so sad at that moment. No one wants NOT to have their brother. But that’s booze for you. “You don’t understand, Martha Ann. I like being drunk.” Drunk to death. Fuck you, Jeff Sessions.

Marijuana, in contrast, is not physically addictive and has never (directly) killed anyone. There are a couple of people (literally 2) known to have died of marijuana use — being high brought to the surface underlying physical disabilities. AND my experiments with it made me think I was dying (or that someone was coming TO KILL me) all an argument for me not to use it, but here are thousands of people who actually derive measurable benefits from it. But it’s illegal, according to federal law. A short, logical explication of the dangers of marijuana use can be found here.

I find that surreal. It’s also surreal that I, after forbidding hundreds of college freshmen from writing a “Legalize Marijuana” essay am doing that right now so, moving on, with one more point. People have ALWAYS liked to intoxicate themselves. While early beer and mead were low in alcohol content as their main purpose was to provide pure, non-disease laden ways to prevent dehydration in a world of putrid water, there are enough drinking songs and odes to wine from all cultures and all times to prove people like being intoxicated. So, logically, is it better for people to be intoxicated on something lethal or something that’s not lethal? That I have to ponder that point is surreal.

There’s so much surreality in this world. It’s surreal that people have taken to painting rocks, people who never painted anything in their lives. It’s surreal that Sarah Palin was EVER a serious candidate for anything. It’s surreal that fascism is rearing its ugly head, it’s surreal that people don’t know what fascism is because, it seems, at some point, our education system stopped making kids watch black and white films of liberating Nazi death camps. I saw them twice a year. It’s surreal that there were Nazi death camps. It’s surreal that our recent presidential election was apparently hacked on all sides, a rain of dirty politics only possible in this era. It’s surreal that after finding Colorado too small, too confining I left in my late 20s only to return at the end of my life to a small Colorado town that’s stuck in the 70s. It was surreal that I went to Switzerland to stay in an 17th century barn (remodeled to an apartment) in the area in which my ancestors lived, and my hosts were from Australia. It’s surreal that I wrote a novel describing the lives of my ancestors before I knew they were my ancestors.

Well, the list goes on. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of surreality in your day to keep you occupied and perplexed.

On a cheerier note, a song that’s been in my mind. It’s weird. You might call it surreal.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/surreal/