Monday, November 28, 2005

Alcoholism

My first memories of alcohol come from about age four. On a Sunday afternoon an uncle was laughing and telling about the “good” time he had the night before drinking at a local bar. He told about a fight and to illustrate he showed my father his suit that was splattered with blood. He laughed; my father didn’t.

Some older cousins gave me wine when I was in first grade. For some reason, I remember this clearly.

As a child I remember going alone into bars looking for another alcoholic uncle. A few years later I got a call from a cousin to come to her family’s help because this uncle was drunk and had a gun.

I watched an aunt with DTs. She was terrified and screaming because she saw snakes. He nine year old daughter was saying “I’ll kill them, Momma” and was stomping the floor wherever her mother pointed.

We had two cousins live with us for several months because their parents were too drunk to care for them. On another occasion my father sent money for an entire family to move over a thousand miles to live with us for a few weeks until they could get jobs and furniture and a place to live.

The stories could go on and on.

My parents never drank. I knew where my father stood on the issue but he never lectured me. He didn’t have to – I saw the risks and the effects of alcohol. I’m too rational and have too much of a kiss-my-ass attitude so I wasn’t affected by peer pressure to drink in my teen years. Oh, I did some drinking but very little. I remember going to a place as a teenager just to watch two girls dance and had to drink just to be there but drinking held nothing for me.

My son had a different life. He never drove an alcoholic uncle to a detox center. He never slept on the floor because some family was living with him to escape an alcoholic home. He never had to do without because money was being sent to buy groceries because an aunt or uncle was drunk. My son never saw me drink. He knew where I stood on the issue.

My son was an alcoholic by the time he was 21 and I never knew.

I thought I was doing all the right things. I added some money to what he had earned so he could buy a bass boat. Together we stripped in down, repaired it, painted it and reassembled it and all the time I never knew. I watched spend several evenings building a radio controlled model airplane and went with him to fly it for the first time and I never knew. Each year on the day after thanksgiving we would float the river and squirrel hunting and I never knew. Curfews and phone calls and doing all the right things and I never knew.

I feel like I can tackle any problem. Nothing is too hot, too heavy, too anything – I can beat it, dammit! But this? I’m powerless. I can’t change him. I can’t fight his demons. I can't protect him. I hate this feeling of helplessness.

For ten years it was rough and I was tempted to give up hope. It’s horrible to dread answering the phone because it may be the call that he’s dead.

About six years ago things started to improve. It’s been up and down but each up has been a little more than the down. He’s winning. Slowly, so slowly, he’s winning – I hope. I wonder how many years it will take before “I hope” becomes “I know”. It’s hard to let go of that fear. For now, I’ll hold on to the hope.

8 Comments:

Blogger Gaye said...

Powerless. Can't fight their demons. Helplessness. I understand all too well. I held on to hope for as long as I could; then I had to remove myself from the situation for my own benefit. That's possible with a spouse, but I could never remove myself from a child with this problem--just as you can't. I still have hope; still hoping that he will stop the madness and live in peace for his own sake.
"You never knew"--sounds like it haunts you. I knew and I was still powerless, couldn't fight his demons, and was helpless--knowing changed nothing. I'm cheering for your son!

11/28/2005 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger Thom said...

Your son can beat this. My dad did after many years. Hang in there with him. My prayers are with you both.

11/29/2005 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Some kids choose a hard and difficult road. It's not your fault; it just is. I'm glad the road is becoming less bumpy now and hope that it will soon smooth out completely on his journey.

11/29/2005 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's only something I could tell you: rely on God :) ;)

11/29/2005 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Bonita said...

May all of Gods grace console you; it is difficult when alcohol colors the family picture...AA can help all family members handle all of it constructively, and put them into better places.

I wish your son could fight his demons with music, art, a good hike in the country.

11/29/2005 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Thank you for sharing this. I have never been a parent -it must be difficult.

11/29/2005 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I can truly say this.
What the other 6 comments said: Ditto

Other drugs have had the same effect in our family too.
One thing about having a large family, you can point to a lot of problems in addition to a lot of great things.

11/29/2005 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger Smarts said...

Paul, what a sincerely moving post. My mohter grew up with very similar memories of drinking as you did. She hates alcohol! Your post helped me to understand her better. Thank you.

12/01/2005 08:07:00 AM  

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