Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Damage Done

I debated writing this post, and once it was written I debated publishing it. But I think I needed to. Sorry to be a drag, today.

You guys know I like a nice cocktail now and then. It's not a big secret. But here's the thing: I'm a social drinker. If no-one will join me in a drink, I don't have one. I've always been that way. I'm not judging - I know a lot of people who enjoy a solitary libation from time to time and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. From time to time. But it ain't me. Drinking has never been a compulsion. I enjoy it. A lot. But I can take it or leave it.

Today a memorial service will be held for my cousin. I will not be attending, as I am currently visiting relatives from the other side of my family on the other side of the state. But I'm thinking about him and memorializing him myself the only way I know how. I hope I can do so with some degree of kindness. You see, for the second time in the course of a year, I find myself mourning the loss of someone way too young. Both were victims of the same killer, and that killer is kind of a nodding acquaintance of mine, too. I'm talking, of course, about alcohol.

My cousin was 45 years old. But he didn't live 45 years. I was thinking about that this morning when I thought about the people he's left behind. He didn't really leave anyone behind when he breathed his last breathe on Sunday. He left people behind, one at a time, years ago - when his addiction started to take over. He left his mother behind, only to return to her when everything else was lost. His wife, his children, his friends, his employability - when everyone else had finally had enough and turned their back on him, his mother took him in. He thanked her for her unconditional love by stealing from her to finance his habit.

It would be easy to hate him. He became something quite ugly and unrecognizable. There was nothing left in him of the playmate of my youth.

I don't hate him, though. I can't. None of this was him. It was his demon. The demon that licked at him for years - seducing him - making itself look playful and fun - before devouring him completely. It left a path of devastation in it's wake - a destroyed marriage, sons who wanted nothing more to do with their father, an able-bodied, educated man who couldn't find or hold a job. A man who didn't even care about any of that as long as he knew where his next bottle was coming from.

I don't mourn that man today, but I do mourn the man he might have been.

As wrong and contradictory as it may sound, I may mourn him over a glass of wine. If I can find someone to join me in one.

RIP, my cousin. May you find the peace in death that eluded you in the last years of life.

26 comments:

Housewife Savant said...

Wow Tammy, this is some skillful writing of words that are both endearing and horrible to read.
I'm sorry for your cousin, losing himself in the bottle. I'm sorry for his fam, losing so much only after [I'm sure] fighting to hold on.
I'm sorry for you. I understand the cousin/playmate thing, and even though they're peeps I haven't seen in years I'd be torn if they came to this kind of ruin.
Here's to your cousin. RIP

Pam said...

You've written a very powerful post about the loss experienced by everyone when a family member is afflicted with alcoholism. I salute your ability not to judge, but to mourn - not just his death, but the life he lost years ago to the bottle. My condolences.

Eternally Distracted said...

A very honest post. I can totally agree and empathise with your feelings as I 'lost' a brother a long time ago to drugs. He is still intent on destroying everything around him, including himself and I am of the opinion that so many years have passed that he will never change - Of course there is always the hope it might.

Sorry for your loss.

Sandy said...

A sad but all-too-common story. I'm sorry about your cousin. You have such an amazing writing talent.

A friend of mine recently lost his older brother, late 50's, to the same demon. No one was surprised but everyone was sad, mostly for his mother. My heart breaks for her. He, also, was sad in life for many reasons caused by alcohol so I hope he rests well, too.

Badass Geek said...

I'm sorry for your loss. It is always hard to lose someone, but it gets to be more painful when the situation could have been avoided.

Tania @ Larger Family Life said...

It must be so hard when an addiction changes someone you love beyond recognition.

I'm sorry for your loss.

Tania (via SITS)

mzbehavin said...

wow......................


I am moved beyond words........ Not that there are any left....... you used them all...... skillfully, beautifully, with great insight and articulation......... ( as usual....)

but this post......

This touched me to my core.......

I wrote about my Dad the other day......

I spoke of him as loving "The Drink" a little too much.....

This was my nice way of skirting "Those Things We Don't Speak Of".......

My Dad was an alcoholic..... ( he was recovering in his last 20 years.... he was my mom's caretaker, and had many. many, wonderful qualities)

Thank you for having the courage to put it ALL into words.......

Kathy B! said...

Thank you for sharing that, Tammy. You are a beautiful writer. So much so that I could *feel* your struggle. I pray that you cousin finds his peace and that you find peace as you sort through your emotions as well.

Vivienne said...

This is a horrible post to read, yet at the same time, it was amazing to read this. I echo the other comments when I say you are a very skillful writer.
Times like these are extra sad, given all of the people on the side of the track, yelling to the train that the bridge is out up ahead, but the train goes over the edge anyway.
Your way of mourning what he could of been strikes a chord with me. I lost a very talented (very troubled) friend to a suicide several years ago and I cry for that lost potential and the complete absence of hope he had at the end.
I'm so sorry for your family's loss.

mama-face said...

Mommakin, you are such a good writer. I was compelled by this story. I feel badly for your cousin; what a trap he was caught in. So sad. Thanks for sharing this personal moment with us. It is a reminder of the sanctity of life.

ModernMom said...

Oh dear. Condolences and hugs.

Brandy said...

We all know someone that has succumbed to that demon. For me, it's my Mother...and she left everything that was important to her (at one time anyway) in order to surround herself with people that only push her further into that hole. She will never get back what she had - her family, her health, her youth & though she's still here, I've already mourned her many times over.

In short, I understand.

Gibby said...

Wow, Tammy, this was so beautifully written, that there are no other words to say. I so feel for his mom, as I have sometimes wondered what I would do if any of my kids fell into that abyss. A mother's love is unconditional, yet something like this would test it as it should never be tested.

Thank you for sharing it. I will keep your family in my prayers.

{Katie Lane} said...

I love your take on it "I don't mourn that man today, but I do mourn the man he might have been." That's so perfect.

carma said...

so sad. To basically destruct by the young age of 45. You are kind to remember what he could have been and not judge him.

BONNIE K said...

I wish that everyone with an alcohol addiction could become acquainted with AA. I have seen it save so many lives.

MiMi said...

Horribly sad. Thinking of you right now, sending hugs your way.
So sad that he was in that trap and just couldn't get out. And your friend Janice too. : (

SparkleFarkle said...

How about I make mine a wine glass full of Blizzard, or Tang, or maybe I’ll just raise a plastic bottle of water? Unlike your unfortunate cousin (such a sad end of young man’s life), I stopped drinking alcohol the day I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. (Puppet will be 17 on September 5th.) and I NEVER looked back. Now my "drinking" is limited to an occasional VIRTUAL glass of Pink Riesling (and even then, I don’t feel it’s the right thing to be doing. Cheating? Ghost-nuns breathing Catholic guilt down my collar?) Anyway, “living” was the best choice I EVER made. Here’s to your cousin. ***raises glass of milk with graham cracker floaters (Hey, it’s what I was drinking as I sat down to blog-catchup.)*** May you and your family find comfort in knowing his soul has healed and that pain is no longer a part of his world.

SparkleFarkle said...

P.S. Thank you for this blog entry, Tammy.

Becky said...

How very sad for the his children that never knew the great man he could of been, and for all the family that is left today hurting. I am so sorry.

Anita said...

Tammy, so well said, and I know it wasn't easy. What a tragic and early death, and yes, an addiction like this just eats a person up,and often leaves nothing.
I would consider myself a social drinker too, we have very little alcohol in the house, never a beer, often wine, but I cook with it too.
I think a post like this is good, for you, for all of us to remember that you can have mixed feelings, loving your cousin, but hating his disease.
Take care.........and I wish I was with you, to give you a hug and share that glass of wine with you.

Unknown Mami said...

Addiction is a bitch. I'm sorry you lost him a long time ago. Your post was touching and I'm glad you can still remember what he used to be.

FranticMommy said...

(((hugs)) Tammy. You're right though. Remember him as the joyous playmate of youth. Hang in there.

Ginger said...

I'm very sorry for your loss, especially the one that happened before he actually passed away.

Melissa B. said...

RIP. Sending some positive vibes to you and your family. About this time last year, I lost a former student to a heroin overdose. As you know, this is not a pleasant path to travel

the girl with the pink teacup said...

I'm weeping.

This was heartbreaking and beautiful. I hope your family is able to find some peace – just as I hope your cousin finally has. Thank you for having the courage to write this, Tammy. You will never know just how much others need to read powerful, honest words like these.

xx