In Sickness Or In Health
November 1, 2015
Lincoln County Medical Center
Ruidoso, New Mexico
Perhaps we all have the inclination to spare our readers the honesty of the trials in our lives but so we wish to share them also. I have been honest for the most part as I am a memoirist but so I have tried to avoid the more dire reflections. All the same, those too are meant to be shared and even as I ‘witnessed’ the same with a lovely young nursing tech to whom I will dedicate this entry, so I will share it with my followers. A favorite quote comes to mind, “We are all teachers and we best teach what we most need to learn.”
In Sickness Or In Health
The funny thing is that two years ago I wrote a piece called “My Kind Of Whiskey” (See June 6, 2014 post) about my affinity for the drunks in Mescalero, New Mexico. I still love those guys, and one in particular is an active part of my life, but so I have learned the lessons also. I have always loved the drunks and if I am to defend that stance it is that they are so wholly themselves. These men are at their best when they are at their worst, spontaneous, joyful, exuberant, free to express their jubilant voyage through their lives, and tragically, so willing to do so at any expense. Add the fact that they glory in women like me who, as the song by ‘The Band’ called ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ states, “A drunkards dream if I ever did see one,” it is basically a recipe for disaster. That be me! I share their exuberance without the strong whiskey and my sense of self-worth is strengthened by their dependence on me.
Perhaps this is all well and good in its own way but so it is destructive also. If I am hard wired to be a caretaker, given my own mothers failings, so I am inclined to choose partners who challenge me also. I no more want to be cared for than I want to be controlled and as long as I am holding down the fort and helping someone else in the process I have the balance I require, or so I imagine that I do. Toss in some charm and keen intelligence in the form of a handsome yet troubled man and I am off on another adventure. Having found that yet again, after many years of solitude since the last one, I have again embarked on a journey which has been both rewarding and disastrous.
I have haloed the finer moments, you need but explore my previous musings to affirm that. He is my kind of whiskey and I get drunk on his company……three years later he still does that for me which for one such as I is a rare and wonderful experience. If I am not anti-social so I am not entertained well by mankind in general. I walk to the beat of a different drum and glory in my freedom and individuality. My temple to life lies deep in the wilderness and my finest moments are often shared with utter solitude. I need not the noise and distraction of our modern lives but prefer the sound of the wind and rain. It has always been hard for me to find someone to share these experiences with, someone who can appreciate the silent wonder of the deep woods and the glory of the mountaintops, let alone the effort to reach them. Having found that someone, no matter how troubled he is, or perhaps because of the depth of his struggle which of itself parallels some of my own I have in essence created my own perfect storm.
Our adventure has come down to the cycle of his drinking, a week or two on, a week off…..for years now. He drinks more than he is sober, we have counted the days and in the past year as of two weeks ago it was 150 days drunk and 120 days sober. Do note when I say ‘drunk’ I mean inebriated as he consumes a steady diet of alcohol when he is drinking, from dawn to dark, a nap in between as often as not, until he sleeps for the night. He tapers off sometimes and he tries to avoid the whiskey, but he does not always succeed. He has a huge capacity for either and even if the beer is more subtle after a day or two his color darkens as the battle ensues, and he drinks himself sick before he stops. He can’t stop until he is sick as the ‘hangovers’, the delirium tremens, are so horrible he can’t face them until then, he says that is why he won’t stop drinking once he starts. I challenge that sometimes but the truth of it is that his brain short circuits as soon as he drinks, it is a form of self-inflicted insanity but that is exactly what it is. He only has control for a moment and then he is lost, he has had too many years of the same to alter the pattern and I doubt he ever will.
It is the seeds of doubt that make it so hard to leave, even when it begins to injure me also, as it has from the start. I know the pattern, I have lived with all of my life and it is a difficult one to change. In fact, the degree of insanity is the same for me as it is for him and just as familiar. If the liquor triggers his dysfunction so it also triggers mine and I stand at ready when he starts. He calls me now when he starts, like a recalcitrant child. The conversation goes like this; “Hey.” I can hear the slur in his voice and the excitement as well. “Are you ok?” is my response. “No, I’m drinking. Come get me.” I will be on my way……
How do you leave someone alone when you know that in your absence they will destroy themselves? If this is not a certainty it is very close to one. He was doing it when I met him and his friends are doing the same; I see them every day and they die, often. If the same process occurs in our society every day it is even worse and even more visible on the Reservation where I live and work each day. You can see them everywhere, they all sit together and share the same illness, the “Alcohol Disease.”
Who am I to reach into this world and try to rescue someone? If this is yet another faction of the adventure of my life it is yet another tragedy also. I have no regrets even if I am sorry that I have done this to myself. Things would have been different if I had not but I have gone here all the same. That I have shared some joyful times with a most amazing person leaves no reason for remorse, but I have caused myself great suffering also. Such suffering as to have made myself ill more than once, which is regrettable. I have taken on his pain at the cost of creating my own, and that is not worthwhile. I cannot cure him without his help and at some point I will have to accept that. Having made myself so ill as to be in the hospital says enough!
I am better now, having braved the storm, again. If I stayed strong through this latest binge so I weakened afterwards and it seems we both get sicker when he stops drinking. I fractured a little this time and it landed me here in the hospital for two days running though I think I will leave today, I feel well enough anyway. I feel wiser also. A young woman named Jessica appeared in my room this morning, an angel in her own right and leading me towards the solutions. God works through all of us and we are teachers as well as messengers. She and I witnessed for each other without even knowing why but our questions were all answered. I shared with her my reason for being here and how in my efforts to help relieve my friend of his sickness I had taken some of it on as my own. She reflected the same experience in an uncanny parallel which led to deeper discussion. I shared with her a most recent reflection of how I had glimpsed a news flash of a young woman who was being prosecuted for encouraging her boyfriend to follow through on a suicide attempt. I told her how I could relate to the same and that in a moment of desperation I had even alluded to buying a gallon of Vodka for my friend so he could just “Get it over with.” Seems she had faced, and done, something so the same…..and she humbled me by sharing that with me. Need I say more?
If we are all teachers so we are messengers also. Jessica is a messenger and so am I. She told me what I needed to hear this morning and I can pray that I have done the same for her. I am a grown woman and she is but a child, raising a child of her own, the daughter of he who she parted with at his own hand, with her support I might add. I know how she felt and have had a close encounter also, not that close though I still believe she was right. If life is that hard for someone they have the right to choose and the choice is up to them. I had a man I loved make that choice years ago, which is a part of why I am where I am today. I don’t want to go through that again but it is not my choice to make for him. It is his alone to do and whether he does it gradually or in one fell sweep it is not my choice to make. I can only offer solutions and point out the realities, no more and no less, he must then decide. What I can do is choose for myself, no matter how difficult that is to do. The jury is still out but I already know the verdict. In sickness or in health….till death do us part.
Jessica is going to make it and so am I.