This is a personal post. It’s not designed to anger or offend. These are just words, written imperfectly by me without a great deal of redaction, except to protect people’s privacy, even when such protection isn’t warranted. For the gatekeepers who inevitably say, “Don’t put that on social media,” it’s likely that you’ll continue reading, anyway. We’re all voyeurs. Surprisingly, our lives are amazingly similar, no matter what veneer we cast to cover our craziness.
On another note, I’m writing this as myself. It’s my story and one that is mine to tell. Anyone who feels they have the right to question the content or motive of what I share should probably put on a life jacket and then go find a lake to jump into.
It isn’t easy to engage meaningfully with someone if you can’t determine if they are connected to reality or not. With addicts and alcoholics, it can be an exhausting exercise in futility to invest your time and energy communicating with them. I’ve dealt with angry alcoholism all my life. I’m still terrible being myself around it – if that makes sense. It’s one of my most profound faults. I know that the only rational choice is to jump away from this type of addiction due to the short length of time we each have to live. Knowing and doing are opposite sides of the canyon for me. I get irritated with myself when I forget the lesson I’ve learned at least a dozen times.
Like most people, I happily find that my phone rings less often. When it does ring, I find myself dreading to know the identity of the caller. If there’s a voicemail, I don’t even listen to it, all due to one caller. The stupidity of it all is disheartening. I don’t want to dread the call.
While it might be an excuse I differentiate between garden variety alcoholism and angry alcoholism. The impacts of the two kinds yield staggeringly different results. I’ve struggled with an abnormal number of angry alcoholics and rarely had issues with the boring ones. I suspect that most people know exactly what I mean, even if they can’t put it into sensible words.
The truth? I can’t stand angry alcoholics. They give regular alcoholics a bad name. Am I kidding? No, not really. I owe it all to the angry alcoholics of my youth. Each subsequent angry alcoholic stupidly things he or she has magically figured out something new or that he or she has everyone fooled.
If you don’t have a daily connection to the world around an alcoholic, as is the case with many of our friends or relatives who are elsewhere, it’s especially difficult to navigate the pitfalls of maintaining a real connection. We all recognize that we lose touch with the essential part of someone’s life and personality in the best of circumstances. Illness or addiction further erodes our connections. You can forget the idea that you can peacefully navigate someone’s alcoholism AND discuss and address their addiction out in the open. You’re going to get burned.
I’ve learned that anyone who can openly discuss their addiction, previous or current, is probably going to do well in life. Those who demand silence are the worst kind of addict. They’ll ruin your life to avoid dealing with their issue.
The very nature of addiction demands secrecy. Once you see past the curtain that addiction demands, everything you see is infected by that peek.
I’ve found myself in that position. I can’t get past the inability to know if I’m dealing with someone communicating with me authentically.
An alcoholic put me in this position last year. Only by accident did I discover that he’d fabricated an elaborate and false narrative around almost all of his life. He’d lost his job, his health, and his ability to be rational. By accidentally comparing facts with a family member of his, the complex web of falsehoods collapsed. It was a confirmation and revelation, one which still makes me feel guilty; initially, it brought up the anger from a few years ago, when the same alcoholic almost caused me to have a literal nervous breakdown.
Those of us with self-doubt don’t respond well when guilt is thrown into the equation. Because of the malignancy of the alcoholic’s need to maintain the façade of normalcy, I even doubted what was plain to me – and my instincts, which have been honed by a lifetime of exposure to such behavior.
The revelations that erupted from the mess changed the way I looked at the last twenty years. It corrupted my memories of anything that happened since I was a child.
When I tried to force a confrontation to get past it, it went to a very dark place. It’s one that I haven’t pulled myself out of in regard to the alcoholic. I spoke in anger – and righteous anger at that. It sounds unfair to say it, but righteous anger in the face of that kind of behavior is the most human response possible.
After a while, another family member of the alcoholic who was my touchstone for the alcoholic’s reality told me that there was no upside to keeping me informed. While I understood the family member’s fatigue of the melodrama that resulted from the collision between reality and fiction, it robbed me of my ability to distinguish the truth. They stopped bridging the connection between us. The alcoholic used deceit and misdirection to avoid real conversations about the consequences of his addiction.
The result of this, however, is that it’s been almost insurmountable for me to talk to the alcoholic, which makes me feel even guiltier.
My upbringing has damaged my patience in dealing with such behavior. It’s easier to stay sane and balanced by avoiding the spectacle of addiction consequences.
If I talk to the alcoholic, I’ve no way to know which parts aren’t true. Given the huge disparity between this,truth and fiction that I discovered last year, I’m convinced I’m still being “had.” While I can talk to the alcoholic, it almost feels like roleplay – and I’m an actor forced to adopt the role that I’m crazy and that the alcoholic is normal.
It pisses me off.
My guilt with the recognition of the abhorrence I feel toward having fake conversations makes me immobile. I can’t call – and I can’t answer calls from the person.
I would love to write the person in question and have him write in return. That option, though, is not available for reasons that don’t make sense. The alcoholic can read and write as an incident involving my blog proved.
So, I can superficially engage while struggling with my guilt and distress, or I can continue avoiding contact. Given that the family member of the alcoholic probably doesn’t want to expose old wounds again, I’m left with terrible options. All of them diminish me and diminish the alcoholic.
Many people, like me, have lesser lives because we’re forced to exorcise people from our lives to live with any joy in our hearts.
It’s an imperfect world.
I sit. I wait. I dread.
P.S. “Agreeing to things just to keep the peace is actually a trauma response. When you’re doing this you’re disrespecting your boundaries. No more making yourself uncomfortable for others to feel comfortable. You have control now. Use your voice. Take up space and use your voice.” – I close with these words because someone posted it on their social media around the time I was having the most difficulty with this issue. There’s no doubt that these words would evoke an anger response, for reasons that are complicated to explain.