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Old 10-02-07, 06:02 PM   #1
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The Darkside - friend has achieved Derelict status

My friend is a smart guy. He graduated with honors with a BS in Physics and then attended medical school for a period. His addiction to alcohol has ruined his life.

I found out this week that the friends he was living with kicked out since they found him drinking again. The past few years he has been living with different friends and repeating the same patter. He would stay sober a couple months and use up their resources and then hit the bottle again once it appeared that he had hope for a brighter future.

It is a sad story since the guy is an excellent writer and a very good athlete.

When he stayed with me, he left a rough draft of the story of his drinking life that he was putting together.

I am going to share it with you here in parts. I think it is some outstanding writing. I hope this story motivates others who are facing the same inner demons as my friend seek the help they require so they can overcome their addcition and avoid the hardships he has had to and continues to endure.
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Old 10-02-07, 06:07 PM   #2
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By all means, please share.

As someone who has survived his own self-inflicted Hell, it is always worthwhile reading the struggles of another lost soul. If for no other reason than to reinforce the strength I found one day to come out of it.
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Old 10-02-07, 06:07 PM   #3
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--- I have changed the names of people and places so no one will know who this person is ---

By Ira Fews

Chapter 1: Tapped

August 5, 2006 was the day I learned I would probably lose for good the one thing I hadn't yet sacrificed at the altar of alcohol. Intellectually, there was no shock in this; having relinquished jobs, a driver's license, a place to live, thousands of dollars, my physical health and every shred of my dignity and self-esteem in the preceding months, losing a part of my best friend's heart seemed almost obligatory.

But what she told me seemed to tear me in half. I wasn't ready to hear it.

It began as a reasonably good day in upstate New York, to which I'd just moved from Virginia on short notice, taken in - broke, desperate and suicidal with an eminently executable how-where plan - by a married couple in their fifties I'd "known" from online message boards for five years or so. I'd been released from a hospital at 3:30 a.m. after being taken in at noon the day before, drunk with a blood alcohol level well in excess of 0.40.

After an 18-hour bus ride had gotten me to Phil and Joan's - I had no car and no driving privileges in Virginia, having racked up a DUI in early March, the fourth of my life - I'd settled in nicely and had some warm and lively conversations with my new hosts, who were well aware of my precarious situation and, in Joan's case, highly empathetic as well as sympathetic.

But a week's worth of sobriety wasn't enough of a willpower buffer to keep me from raiding their small liquor supply - one they'd forgotten about themselves and that I'd discovered while hunting down a broom - after I found myself alone late that evening; I didn't know I'd drink myself almost to death this time, even though I'd been drinking as if harboring just that goal for a long time.

Joan had come home from her nursing shift at 7:30 or 8:00 and discovered within a couple of hours that I'd spent my very first night under their roof raucously intoxicated. She took me to a hospital in Glens Falls, about an hour and fifteen minutes away, because there was supposedly a detox unit there, but the only "detoxification" they performed at this facility was putting me in a bed in a unit run chiefly by security guards who ensured the safety of patients by preventing them from leaving. Once my BAC was sufficiently low I was discharged. That was that.

Rather than take to the streets or make phone calls at an ungodly hour, I'd waited until 6:00 to leave the hospital itself and then started walking toward Phil and Joan's, not wanting to phone until at least 7:00 - and dreading the call anyway. It was one more episode of alcoholic guilt in a lifetime far too full of such states to allow anything close to a proper accounting of them. Sure, the LaPoints had invited me to stay with them knowing how crazy I'd been acting, but did that mean I had to get emergency-room plastered right off the bat?
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Old 10-02-07, 06:15 PM   #4
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---- more ------

But I had, and now, about thirty hours later, I was sober. I took stock of myself as I ambled north along Route 9 through Glens Falls, which was still largely asleep. I was walking normally; one day of drinking, however prodigious, on the heels of a week of sobriety wasn't enough to bring on the uncontrollable shakes that had become a much a part of my day-to-day life as sneezing.

I'd had an abusive relationship with alcohol since I was around 20 years old - the earliest age at which I can recall drinking by myself, downing alcohol for the sheer sake of the warmth and dissolution of inner static, arising after a night of hitting it hard and immediately taking a drink rather than going about my day's business with a slowly subsiding hangover. In the decade and a half since, I'd been in and out of trouble constantly. I'd been to AA, to rehab.

I'd managed to be accepted by University of Colorado Medical School and secured a U.S. Army scholarship to pay for almost all of my graduate education. I made it to my third year (mainly by staying sober for 2 ½ years) and the top 10% or so of my class before perpetrating a series of drunken ****ups while serving an active-duty OB/GYN clerkship at Fort Sam Houston, Texas - a fiasco which led to the loss of my scholarship and to my dropping out of medical school.

Since that time, I'd gradually tried to mold myself into a writer and competitive mountain biker, with modest amounts of success with each, punctuated at irregular intervals by bouts of self-loathing and isolative boozing, binges that might last as long as ten days before financial depletion, a concerned friend, or simple exhaustion intervened.

---- more later -----
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Old 10-03-07, 08:15 AM   #5
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But I had, and now, about thirty hours later, I was sober. I took stock of myself as I ambled north along Route 9 through Glens Falls, which was still largely asleep. I was walking normally; one day of drinking, however prodigious, on the heels of a week of sobriety wasn't enough to bring on the uncontrollable shakes that had become a much a part of my day-to-day life as sneezing.

I'd had an abusive relationship with alcohol since I was around 20 years old - the earliest age at which I can recall drinking by myself, downing alcohol for the sheer sake of the warmth and dissolution of inner static, arising after a night of hitting it hard and immediately taking a drink rather than going about my day's business with a slowly subsiding hangover. In the decade and a half since, I'd been in and out of trouble constantly. I'd been to AA, to rehab. I'd managed to be accepted by University of Colorado Medical School and secured a U.S. Army scholarship to pay for almost all of my graduate education.

I made it to my third year (mainly by staying sober for 2 ½ years) and the top 10% or so of my class before perpetrating a series of drunken ****ups while serving an active-duty OB/GYN clerkship at Fort Sam Houston, Texas - a fiasco which led to the loss of my scholarship and to my dropping out of medical school. Since that time, I'd gradually tried to mold myself into a writer and mountain biker, with modest amounts of success with each, punctuated at irregular intervals by bouts of self-loathing and isolative boozing, binges that might last as long as ten days before financial depletion, a concerned friend, or simple exhaustion intervened.

At 36, nothing was different except that I hated myself more than ever. I'd become involved in three serious relationships in the past decade and had ruined each of them by drinking. Ditto a number of jobs, including one I'd taken 2,000 miles from where I and my distaff hostage had previously been living.

Throughout these ups and downs, I'd fought off long-term depression and frank thoughts of suicide, stubbornly believing I could quit for good and remain a decent if neurotic human being for the rest of my life. But after a series of misadventures in Florida and Virginia, I was finally ready to give up. I had decided that from a simple practical standpoint, I was unjustifiably taking up space in society and, in effect, stealing oxygen.

Desperately unhappy I was, yes, and escape from the daily burn of constant anxiety, guilt, rage and shame by any means seemed an almost orgasmic prospect. Yet there remained the practical, unemotional certainty that I deserved, needed, to die. In my view I was simply out of chances. The world did not need drunk-driving adult children too shackled by emotional dysfunction to contribute anything but mayhem to friends and strangers alike; the fact that I didn't mean to hurt anyone else had never held water to begin with and I no longer even thought this, much less tried to articulate it. I hadn't lived in a vacuum all these years and I had hurt more people than I cared to consider.

----- more later -----
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Old 10-03-07, 08:51 AM   #6
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That definitely is some good writing.
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Old 10-03-07, 09:10 AM   #7
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Luckily, I've never had the problem, but I did have an uncle who was a pretty bad alcoholic. Whenever I think of alcoholism, I always think of this song written/performed by Leornard Cohen about alcoholism.

Light As The Breeze
from The Future

LYRICS

She stands before you naked
you can see it, you can taste it,
and she comes to you light as the breeze.
Now you can drink it or you can nurse it,
it don't matter how you worship
as long as you're
down on your knees.


So I knelt there at the delta,
at the alpha and the omega,
at the cradle of the river and the seas.
And like a blessing come from heaven
for something like a second
I was healed and my heart
was at ease.


O baby I waited
so long for your kiss
for something to happen,
oh something like this.


And you're weak and you're harmless
and you're sleeping in your harness
and the wind going wild
in the trees,
and it ain't exactly prison
but you'll never be forgiven
for whatever you've done
with the keys.


O baby I waited ...


It's dark now and it's snowing
O my love I must be going,
The river has started to freeze.
And I'm sick of pretending
I'm broken from bending
I've lived too long on my knees.


Then she dances so graceful
and your heart's hard and hateful
and she's naked
but that's just a tease.
And you turn in disgust
from your hatred and from your love
and comes to you
light as the breeze.


O baby I waited ...


There's blood on every bracelet
you can see it, you can taste it,
and it's Please baby
please baby please.
And she says, Drink deeply, pilgrim
but don't forget there's still a woman
beneath this
resplendent chemise.


So I knelt there at the delta,
at the alpha and the omega,
I knelt there like one who believes.
And the blessings come from heaven
and for something like a second
I'm cured and my heart
is at ease.


Written by Leonard Cohen, Stranger Music Inc. (BMI).
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Old 10-03-07, 09:15 AM   #8
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Whenever I think of alcoholism, I remember growing up in an alcoholic househhold. The stories are always different but the effects are often the same. Nobody wins. Not the alcoholic or the people they are close to.
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Old 10-03-07, 09:24 AM   #9
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This is quite sad. I hope this guy overcomes/manages his problem someday.

I've seen too many lives ruined by alcohol or other addictive behaviors.
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Old 10-03-07, 09:25 AM   #10
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Sad story to read, and I see some similarities to my own problems. Please keep them coming.

cheers
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Old 10-03-07, 10:01 AM   #11
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whoa, this is very sad. it's awful to think of how much potential this guy is wasting with his drunkenness. he's obviously a very intelligent person. and i really believe he could turn things around with enough determination and willpower (i'm an optimist when it comes to human potential). it's just sad to catch a glimpse into how he's messed up his life.

anyway, that was some good writing. it drew me out of my normal 20-second attention span

As Maelstrom said, keep 'em coming!
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Old 10-03-07, 11:25 AM   #12
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whoa, this is very sad. it's awful to think of how much potential this guy is wasting with his drunkenness. he's obviously a very intelligent person. and i really believe he could turn things around with enough determination and willpower (i'm an optimist when it comes to human potential). it's just sad to catch a glimpse into how he's messed up his life.

anyway, that was some good writing. it drew me out of my normal 20-second attention span

As Maelstrom said, keep 'em coming!
I wish I could believe that. Unfortunately, I can't help but believe that the author is doomed, and sooner rather than later. And I think he knows it.

Don't get me wrong, Zinn-X: I hope and pray you are right. I used to feel that way about my very best friend of 35 years.

He died two weeks ago. "Intestinal hemmorhage directly related to cirrhosis". That's the medical term, but the truth is he drank himself to death. He knew at least two years ago that his liver had been destroyed by alcohol. (He hid that from almost everyone he knew, me included; he said he was having other medical problems.) He was told by doctors in so many words that if he continued to drink, it would kill him. He did, and it did.

He had just turned 50, only three days after I did. I was his Best Man, he was mine. He remains the single most broadly and deeply talented person I have ever known, and the most fiercely loyal friend I have ever encountered - and he wasn't that way just with me. This was a smart, artistic, multi-talented, engaging, hysterically funny, deeply contemplative man. Over the course of my life, only people I have been related to have taught me more about what is important and what is trivial in life. He saw me through some of the very darkest, most painful moments of my life, and did so without it ever occurring to him not to. He also had ton of will-power.

But alcohol was simply stronger than he was, to the point that he could never even admit that, to himself or anyone else. Like this author, my friend could stop drinking for extended periods - even for several years at a stretch. But every time, there came the day when he couldn't keep stopping, and then the floodgates would open. It reached the point where, in his last few months, he was clearly showing signs of hepatic encephalopathy. I only just learned about this one - it's when the liver is so damaged and its ability to screen toxins out of the blood is so negated that those toxins are going, virtually undiluted, into the blood stream, and thus to the brain, where they start impacting on brain function. My incredibly intelligent friend was literally becoming dumber by the day.

As the author's narrative shows, others can be as helpful, as generous, as supportive as anyone could wish, and it simply will not matter - not until the alcoholic (or other substance addict) makes a true committment to end the addiction. And it's a committment that won't work if you only make it once: that committment has to be renewed every week, every day, every hour, every minute. And even then, it might not work. That is how powerful the addiciton is.

I am delighted to see these memoirs, because they are about as powerful a statement as can be made, from someone who (I hate to say it, but I see no other likely outcome) will die from his alcohol addiction and has the self-awareness and the talent to communicate something of the experience.

But my recent experience, reinforced by what this author has written, convinces me that there comes a point beyond which even all the determination and will-power and loving support in the world is not enough to save someone. I fear that the author, like my dear friend, has passed that point.

God, I hope I'm wrong. But don't bet on it.
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Old 10-03-07, 11:34 AM   #13
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I'm sorry.

Is this the same guy you had to tell his wife and chance ruining the friendship and all in that one thread?

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I wish I could believe that. Unfortunately, I can't help but believe that the author is doomed, and sooner rather than later. And I think he knows it.

Don't get me wrong, Zinn-X: I hope and pray you are right. I used to feel that way about my very best friend of 35 years.

He died two weeks ago. "Intestinal hemmorhage directly related to cirrhosis".
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Old 10-03-07, 12:14 PM   #14
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I'm sorry.

Is this the same guy you had to tell his wife and chance ruining the friendship and all in that one thread?
Yup.
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Old 10-03-07, 12:16 PM   #15
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Yup.
That really sux man....I'm sorry to hear it.
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Old 10-03-07, 12:35 PM   #16
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That really sux man....I'm sorry to hear it.
Thanks, KT. Yeah, it sucks, but it had become inevitable. I didn't know that at the time (although I was afraid it might be the case), and I wouldn't have done enything differently if I had - I honestly have no guilt or regrets about how I dealt with him at the end, because (1) I never tried to do anything to him, although I know it appeared to him that I did, and (2) I took every opportunity to let him know how much I loved him and cared about him and truly wanted to help him recover. Doesn't make it suck any less, though.

The worst part is that there isn't even any way to blame Pheard for it. (And yes, I am firmly of the school of thought that holds that dark humor is a reasonable response to almost any occasion, and is often a necessary response for my sanity. Maybe that's why I like Foo . . . . )
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Old 10-03-07, 12:53 PM   #17
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Yup.
ouch....
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Old 10-03-07, 01:12 PM   #18
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(And yes, I am firmly of the school of thought that holds that dark humor is a reasonable response to almost any occasion, and is often a necessary response for my sanity. Maybe that's why I like Foo . . . . )
I agree 100%. That's how *I* deal with hard situations.

I remember back in high school when the 1st space shuttle blew up (Challenger), it was a tough time (especially for those of us who lived in FL and saw it in person). I was in with all the space shuttle and NASA jokes. Some got really annoyed, but that's how some of us "handled" the situation.
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Old 10-03-07, 01:40 PM   #19
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bikingshearer, I am sorry to hear about your friend.

You nailed some major points. His addiction cannot be controled simply by willing it away as it is a simple choice. It is a chemical addiction that he must consiously fight every minute as you pointed out. He does seem to think that a lot of life is deterministic, but I think that is somewhat of an excuse to not fight his inner demons. At the same time, I don't want to make it seem like I am discounting what he has to go through everyday. I realize he has to overcome a lot more than others to fight to defeat those demons everyday than most. At some point the chemical dependency will be stronger than his will to fight it. He may have reached that point.
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Old 10-03-07, 01:41 PM   #20
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Gallows humor has a way of relieving tension. Breaking through grief and help folks stay centered.
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Old 10-03-07, 01:44 PM   #21
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Thanks, KT. Yeah, it sucks, but it had become inevitable. I didn't know that at the time (although I was afraid it might be the case), and I wouldn't have done enything differently if I had - I honestly have no guilt or regrets about how I dealt with him at the end, because (1) I never tried to do anything to him, although I know it appeared to him that I did, and (2) I took every opportunity to let him know how much I loved him and cared about him and truly wanted to help him recover. Doesn't make it suck any less, though.

The worst part is that there isn't even any way to blame Pheard for it. (And yes, I am firmly of the school of thought that holds that dark humor is a reasonable response to almost any occasion, and is often a necessary response for my sanity. Maybe that's why I like Foo . . . . )


Dang bikingshearer, I heard about what happened, but hadn't realized the true extent of what went on. I'm so sorry, and if it makes you feel any better, you can use me as your blame doll. Aka voodoo doll. Burn me, stick pins in me, feed me slurpees, dress me in plain clothes(NO!!!!), whatever floats ya boat.

I've never lost a best friend, so I can't imagine what you're going through. I just hope you recover from the loss and feel better. <<manly cop a feel hugs>>
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Old 10-03-07, 01:48 PM   #22
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---- more ------

And so for two months straight, alone in an apartment near xxxxxx, Virginia, I thought constantly about suicide. I settled on a plan that seemed to carry a 100% guarantee of immediate death - jumping off a bridge that passed 160 feet above the very shallow xxxxx River. A local teacher had taken his life just that way not long before, so there was one testimonial to the effectiveness of the method, as if simple physics weren't enough.

The one person I talked to daily was Jana, the girlfriend I'd left behind in Florida and someone with whom I had an increasingly hazy relationship from afar, and I even explained to her exactly what I planned to do. I filled her ears with poison and blasé declarations of self-worthlessness; I tried to rein this talk in, as it was barely shy of abuse to continue bashing her with the venomous output of my energetically failing psyche, but I couldn't help myself. I thought I had better kill myself before she told someone in a position of authority what I had in mind. But for whatever reason, once I was flat broke and on the verge of eviction, I made a few phone calls and - to condense the tale for now - wound up on a bus to New York State.

After walking north through Glens Falls and into the town of Queensbury, I stopped at a Cumberland Farms with a pay phone in the front and called Phil. It was 7:00; I woke him up, but he promised to be at the store within an hour or so. I sat down on the curb and waited, contemplated; the only eventful thing that transpired before Phil's arrival was a genial Jehovah's Witness plunking himself down beside me, handing me a copy of “The Watchtower,” and making small talk for five or ten minutes. Ordinarily I would have shooed him away or gotten up and left, but on this morning I lacked the heart to act the contrarian even toward those whom I reckoned deserved it.

Chapter 2: First sips
My high-school graduating class voted me “most likely to succeed” and “most creative.” In my more wry moments, I've told people that I'd certainly found creative ways to be successful.

I could argue that the middle-class home in which I was raised was “alcoholic,” but not in any stereotypical, chaotic sense. I did grow up in the midst of a quietly powerful alcohol motif. One of my early childhood tasks - among the first things I did to help out my dad that I can remember - was fetching 16-ounce Budweiser “pounders” from the fridge and toting them into the living room, where my father was typically seated in an old recliner watching the Red Sox or the Bruins do their thing on the tube.

Occasionally I'd request permission to take a sip, which was always granted; every time I was reminded that beer tasted awful, yet there had to be something to all the fuss - my dad consistently threw back six or so of these every day without fail. “It's an acquired taste,” he once informed me upon my expressing consternation over the bitterness of his favorite beverage.

Even after I understood what that meant I didn't believe it. I still don't; I can't tell you how many thousands of beers I've drunk over the years, but I can tell you that I never once enjoyed the taste. Only the effect. I suspect this is a primary reason why so many people who say they enjoy the taste of beer make this claim, whether they know it or not. I've never known anyone to toss back a twelve-pack or more of non-alcoholic beer.

--- more later ----
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Old 10-03-07, 02:08 PM   #23
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Ten nine years ago, my son started playing organized soccer. It was the under 6 league, and most of the kids had no clue about anything, but the coach was very patient and supporting. He related to them, only raising his voice to shout encouragement, and spending a lot of time showing them the basics. I found out from talking to him before and after practices, that he had been a goalkeeper in college, and that he was probably one of the most knowledgeable coaches in the entire club. He was there because his son was that age.

The next couple years, our sons were on different teams, and then when they got back together, they were both on the travel team. By that time, my daughter had moved on to play soccer in Middle School, and I was one of the assistant coaches for my son's team, and this fellow's son was also on the team. I asked why we didn't see if this guy would help us out. I was told that he was quite ill, and that he was awaiting a liver transplant. It was looking quite bad for him, and some national television show actually came and did a story about him (which I didn't know about until afterwards). There was a big effort to show support for the family, and then, miraculously, a donor was found.

The next year, he was on the sidelines for some of our practices. I spent a good amount of time chatting with him, and had since learned (I can sometimes be naive about things) that his problem had been exacerbated by drinking. He was still a very likable guy, and was glad to have my ear as we talked about what we saw in players, ideas for drills, his past exploits on the pitch, his job prospects, and what he was having to go through medically. He sounded like he was picking up the pieces and making the best of his fresh start.

After that season, I lost track of him for a while, as he had moved out of the area, and my son hung up his cleats. I heard the next year through the grapevine that he had gotten a divorce. A few months after that I heard that he was not doing well, several months after that, that he had passed on, and then later still, that despite knowing what the inevitable result would be, that he had resumed drinking - and that this had led to the marital problems, and all else that ensued.

Like others have said here, I hope your friend is able to pull things back together. It certainly is possible, but the statistics are not in his favor. Do what you can to help him, but don't get caught up in either being an enabler, or showing excessive sympathy for his plight. That helps noone, and can wrap you more tightly in their problem than you need to be.

Good luck.
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Old 10-03-07, 02:22 PM   #24
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bikingshearer, I am sorry to hear about your friend.

You nailed some major points. His addiction cannot be controled simply by willing it away as it is a simple choice. It is a chemical addiction that he must consiously fight every minute as you pointed out. He does seem to think that a lot of life is deterministic, but I think that is somewhat of an excuse to not fight his inner demons. At the same time, I don't want to make it seem like I am discounting what he has to go through everyday. I realize he has to overcome a lot more than others to fight to defeat those demons everyday than most. At some point the chemical dependency will be stronger than his will to fight it. He may have reached that point.
Thank you, OCTFCU. I think you have your approach to your friend just about right. Just to reinforce what you already seem to get, you cannot cure him or fix him, or even make him want to cure or fix himself. All you can possibly hope to do is: (1) take such opportunities as may come along to plant a seed in him that may make it little bit easier for him to decide to make the effort; (2) do what you can to try to keep his actions from harmng anyone else - I know from recent personal experience that that can be excrutiating, though, even when necessary and absolutely the right thing to do; and (3) be ready to step in to help him follow thorugh if and when he asks for serious help - that's help him, not try to do it for him.

Thank you also for posting this man's writings. On a purely personal level, it helps me understand the inner workings of the alcoholic brain a little better, and that is oddly . . .well, comforting right about now. On a broader level, this provides insight that many more of us than any of us realize can use. Thanks.
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Old 10-03-07, 02:27 PM   #25
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Dang bikingshearer, I heard about what happened, but hadn't realized the true extent of what went on. I'm so sorry, and if it makes you feel any better, you can use me as your blame doll. Aka voodoo doll. Burn me, stick pins in me, feed me slurpees, dress me in plain clothes(NO!!!!), whatever floats ya boat.

I've never lost a best friend, so I can't imagine what you're going through. I just hope you recover from the loss and feel better. <<manly cop a feel hugs>>
I already do, Jon, I already do.

But seriously, thank you. I'm okay - I'm certainly doing better than my friend is. A lot has been going on in my life of late, provoking a lot of reflection. I'm not sure I know where the heck any of it is leading, but I can't help but feel it's all leading someplace good. And I very much appreciate your friendship and support along the way - and mine back atcha.






But I'm still going to razz your ass in Foo.
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