It’s a slow process; takes many years to kill; doesn’t only ruin your life, but the lives of those who care about you. It’s a dangerous addiction; causes many accidents and highway deaths. Many have stopped abusing it, yet many others are doomed to be forever addicted. Alcohol can be a deadly killer when it’s continually abused for years.
The story that follows is real. It’s based on a lifetime of watching people I care about abuse alcohol. It’s not a pretty story, and at times will be a cruel story. It is however real. Because this story could be too much for some, only the story will be real. The names of the people and the place will be changed, to protect those who are still too young to realize what is going on around them.
For as long as I can remember there have been alcoholic’s in my family. Not just on one side, but both parents have close relatives who were, and are, addicted to alcohol. Alcoholism holds many among my family members in its grasp, and has turned many wonderful people into cold, uncaring, mean and often cruel animals. Its reign on this family has held since long before I was upon this earth, and unless changes are made somewhere down the line, will continue to do so. Of those who have wished to change, none of them have been able to quit. Temporary though it may have been, the times they were free of alcohol were some of the most memorable of my lifetime. During those times, we had fun together, and spent quality time with each other. Now, I’d like to be as far away from them as I can be so that I don’t have to watch any more of them slowly kill themselves.
All in all, twelve close family members, five since passed on, and one friend, lost to suicide, have been and are currently alcoholics. There is never a day that passes that the ones who are still living aren’t drinking or drunk, and five of those live within a block of each other.
Alcohol, when abused for many years, has detrimental affects on the body and the mind. For anyone who lives with alcoholism or someone addicted, life becomes hell over time. Slowly their bodies begin to show the neglect, and they seem to age before your eyes. Seeing how each day that passes seems to be worse than the last one, is difficult to get through. It’s also difficult to understand how anyone can let something take complete control over them. Sadder still, is the knowing that there is nothing you can do to make them understand what they are doing to themselves and others, and the hardest part is watching it all happen. Of the relatives who have passed on, one drank so much and stayed continually drunk for so long that his mind stopped working right. At times he didn’t realize what he was doing or where he was, and finished his life reliving the 1980’s. He died alone and wasn’t found for over a week afterwards.
A close Uncle, I’ll call Ed, was never sober as long as he had money to spend on beer. As I grew older I remember so many times that the money would run out and he would be sobering up. Delirium Tremens aren’t fun to watch someone suffer through. Ed would shake constantly, his whole body jerking in spasms; cramps tearing his insides apart, and he would be in an almost constant sweat. A sweat that had such an unbearable odor that to this day, I find it hard to be around anyone drunk. He started drinking when he was still in High School. - A boy, wanting to fit in with the crowd; a basketball player and math whiz. He kept the same friends throughout his life, who also turned out to be alcoholics. Every job he held lasted only a short time. Every car he owned, he wrecked, and luckily he never killed anyone while driving. His driver’s license was revoked after the last accident he had while driving drunk when several people in the other car were injured.
One day Ed walked down to where one of his friends lived. Both were drunk, but his friend Will had yet to permanently lose his license. They sat for a while talking and drinking and when the beer ran out, both jumped in Will’s truck and started out for the store to buy more. Will was driving. Somewhere between his home and the store, Will lost control of the truck, and ran it off into the ditch. He was driving too fast and weaving all over the road. Ed was thrown through the windshield and sustained several life threatening injuries. Will walked away from the truck with a few cuts and scrapes, and some bruised ribs, while Ed spent four weeks in the hospital, and almost two weeks of that time in a coma. He had a feeding tube, a catheter and a rectal tube, among other IV lines that were connected to him. He was lucky not to be on life support. While he was in a coma, he was given alcohol so that his Delirium Tremens could be controlled, and his body could be gradually cleared of it. When he regained consciousness and was well enough to leave the hospital, he went to live with one of his sisters while he finished recovering.
Ed’s sister Dawn refused to buy him beer. At that time he also decided that he wanted to quit drinking. The accident and the stay in the hospital, was something he didn’t want to have to go through again. As long as he lived with Dawn, he was sober, and after three months was well enough to return to his home. Three days later, he was drunk, and he pretty much stayed that way until he died. His only thoughts seemed to be on beer; how much he could get in a day, even if he had to walk to the store to get it. He lost weight, became malnourished even though Sara, another of his sisters, brought him plates of food on a daily basis. He would be too drunk to eat, and as soon as he started to sober up again, he found a way to get more beer. If he had no money to buy it, he would get if from friends, or another family member. He seemed to have a never ending supply. He stayed drunk for months at a time, only to find a way to get more beer once he realized he was sobering up.
While walking home from the store one spring morning, Ed fell over dead. He lay in some stranger’s yard for hours until some children found him. The police arrived and called the county coroner, who had to rule out foul play before he would let Ed’s body be moved. The day my Uncle died, at age fifty-three, he had a six pack of beer, a pack of cigarettes and forty cents. He never married, nor did he have any children.
Two others, I’ll call Sam and his wife Carol, are both alcoholics. Unlike my uncle, they have two boys. One is grown and the other still in grade school. Being alcoholics is one thing they do finally realize, and so when they know they have had too much to drink, they send their youngest son to his Grandfather’s house for the night. They will also leave the house for an entire weekend and leave him there. What they don’t see is how their alcoholism has affected everyone else around them, especially their oldest son. He went through hell as a child. Carol blamed him for everything that ever went wrong, whether it was in her marriage to Sam, or something else, and she still blames him today. He has been cursed at and called too many names to count, and also been thrown out of the house many times. Unlike some, he has no problem calling his Mother a drunk when she plays her mind games with him.
Sam is what they call a functioning alcoholic. There have been very few times that he has been noticeably drunk, although he would be. The urge to drink starts as soon as he awakens in the morning, and he has been known to be drinking or drunk at work, and then drive home without weaving or having any kind of impaired vision. Rarely is his speech ever slurred. He is, however, a mean drunk. He’s just not a heartless, uncaring mean drunk like his wife. When Sam gets to the point that he realizes how drunk he really is, he tries to go to bed and sleep. What he usually gets is an argument started from Carol, who, even when sober is a drama queen. There is nothing too small that doesn’t need to be made into something much bigger, and when drunk, there is no shutting the woman up. Sam will leave home until she sobers up. What he usually does is move his truck out of the driveway and park it in another yard so that she can’t see it. She won’t have a clue that he is close by, but the only way she will stop the drama, is when there is nobody around to listen to it. Too many nights I have heard her yelling at their oldest son, as they live next door. He has been called a worthless piece of shit by his own Mother countless times. She even compares him to his friends, telling him how much smarter than him they are, and that she wishes he were them.
There is never a dull moment. When those two are sober, another uncle is getting drunk. Life is a constant flow from one alcoholic’s dilemmas to another’s. All I can hope for is that somewhere down the line, in generations to come, that there will be a turn in the road where there won’t be any alcoholics in the family. I’m not sure how many generations it will take to get there, and it may be something that will never happen.
As for me, I do not drink. I have tasted alcohol but find that I do not like the taste. For that I am thankful, as I can only imagine that had I ever started drinking, I too might have become an alcoholic. What I have learned over the years, is that no matter what you say or do, you cannot make the person addicted stop drinking. This is something they have to want to do and then be willing to stay sober for the rest of their lives. Admitting that they are alcoholics is a huge step, but unless they want to stop drinking, they aren’t going to do it.
Another hard aspect is to realize that you cannot feel guilty because you can’t do anything to help them. The hardest part is knowing that you have to distance yourself from it, and not fall prey to their drama. The alcoholic, no matter who they are or how close you are to them, has to be willing to quit drinking. They will also have to face the ramifications of their actions sooner or later, no matter how bad those may be. As long as you give in to them; find yourself taking them to the store with the excuse they need food, while knowing full well they are going to buy alcohol, you are feeding their habit; being an enabler. Telling them no is not easy to do, but it’s the only way they will stop asking you to drive them. Either way, if they want it, they will get the alcohol no matter what.
Of the twelve family members both living and dead, who have been and are alcoholics, there are three uncles, two brothers, an aunt, grandmother, great grandfather, great grandmother, and a sister-in-law, and a couple of long gone ancesters. Only one of those family members has not been cruel while drunk. She is a loud, bold and happy drunk with a foul mouth.
The friend I lost to suicide just this last summer was unexpected, but not really as surprising as one might think. He was not just addicted to alcohol, but a drug user as well. After sobering up, cleaning up and finding that he couldn’t face living with the things he had done while drunk, high or both, he thought it best to end his own life. He had not been able to stay clean and sober and one day, in front of his wife, and with a shotgun, he shot himself in the head. It was a tragic end to a tormented life.
My hope for all those who read this story and know someone who is an alcoholic, is that you cannot make that person change. They must be willing to make that change for themselves. Realize too that constantly abusing alcohol will eventually kill the abuser; one way or another. Distancing yourself from the drama is difficult to do, especially when it's someone you love, but it's the only way you can keep from watching them slowly kill theirselves.
*Story may not be copied or used in any way without permission from the author.*