December 16th, 2015
“Why waste your time with these people?” my friend asked. Though nearly ten years ago, I can still hear his frustration. ‘These people’ was an alcoholic who wanted something from us, who was putting us to a considerable amount of trouble. In the vein of ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, I said, “I'm hoping somehow, somewhere, a seed is sown toward more enlightenment.” But it did not satisfy. Alcoholics take more than they give. One can but humour, or visit, or spend time remonstrating and pleading and hoping and even praying. Mostly, in my experience (and evidently in my friend’s too,) to no lasting avail.
I sit in the dark of my car and type this. I'm deeply affected by the moment. I recall as a child the fears of fragmentations of the senses. Drunk adults could never be trusted. Their promises were broke. Their tears were crocodilian. In the morning, or later that day, or at least all too soon, they'd eschew their vows and along with it my hopes. The obligations to stay beside them, to attend them, to nurse them, or even to humour them grew in me like so many prison sentences. Disgusted, I wanted so much to be out and free and beyond their reach. For always.
I sit in the dark of my car on the street outside a house and type this. Inside the house some poor sick soul is hurting and succumbing; and with his own inability to surpass the disease, he takes up an other’s time. I understand it to be more than psychological. I understand it to be more than physiological. I understand it to be a congenital condition handed down by the proverbial sins of our forefathers. And I understand addiction. We each have our own little demons to bear. Mine is to be productive; it seems harmless enough. But it swallows up time from others who would have more of me. So, in the darkness of your own being, what's yours?
I sit in the dark in my car on a cold December night outside a person’s house; I am not the one prepared to go in there and talk to the drunkard. Words do not register. And the ill-one cannot but help to tell a story, over and over. No, from my car I can see into the living-room window where that demised head bobs while in consort with his interlocutor. And should there develop a problem, why, I'll move from my car, and male-like, go to the rescue. There’s enough fire in my bones to do that. Yet I feel guiltily impatient with the afflicted. They've a wound that won't heal because they won't, cannot, and don't let heal. Worse, they draw on the attention of others to have themselves attended. Then, alone, they rip off the bandage! Booze does that.
Others are very much better at this than I: Doctors; Nurses; Psychologists. I confess to an ugly impatience. Say it, do it, and move on. Even if it's your dad or your mom or your wife or your husband or your uncle or your friend. “Why waste your time with these people?” It resonates.
I am a lot like my friend. Not like the one in the house helping the drunkard. Certainly not like the drunkard himself. No, I'm like the one who challenged me, “Why waste your time?” (After a hand-up, help yourself!) But alcoholics, once given a shoulder, keep up a never-ending need out of the very despair of their own illness. How sad. How suffocating. Surely it's different if one’s loved one is stricken with a physiological disease. They need nursing. But drugs? Alcohol? Surely after attending the most expensive programs the result is the same: “Look after yourself!”