Solving for Z

Swenny and Cher need help. While my posts here aren’t a direct call for such, they do include an unwritten refrain acknowledging a lack of resources for people managing an alcoholic life. In my experience, what I do find available is either financially out of reach, medically unsupported or simply insufficient in its capacity to help an alcoholic move beyond his or her normal to a state of sobriety that is lasting, sustainable and life changing.

I know I’m not alone in this because I hear from others of their frustration with their own alcoholic life, in some cases wishing aloud they could have done something to save their alcoholic from hitting bottom before realizing that the rebound is sometimes just recovery lore. With understanding that the hard work rests with the alcoholic, I do wonder how those of us in the first ring of the alcoholism community can help them by helping each other.

After being party to a series of failures to launch a life free of alcoholism, I am becoming adept at reviewing what resources are available and measuring their potential to help Swenny and me succeed. In a formula where and y represent cost in terms of finances and relationships, I try to solve for z, the elusive answer known as sobriety.

Still standing at the blackboard without a solution, my strategy has evolved. I understand now that this is not a linear equation; it’s too large a problem. But because I am navigating a recovery system founded on anonymity, some of the most helpful factors remain unknown to me: family, friends and neighbors who have also struggled with alcoholism. They are possibly the best resources I have in my quest to find a solution before my piece of chalk is so used it’s merely dust.

And because it’s true that the only source of knowledge is experience, their wisdom is always welcome here.




Fall Away

Alcoholism is a family affair. It impacts relationships and shifts standings.

Years ago, our son exclaimed he was the man. THE man. The top of our family tree had room for one, and he felt the spot belonged to him. Alcoholism, and the past three years especially, has made a prophet of him. With his sister away at college, and his father often struggling, he became a sound voice in our shared experience of loving an alcoholic. He became the man. And last week, I drove that man to college.

The impact on him of living with an alcoholic father has yet to fully play out, but I think in recent years it has made him steely. Whereas our daughter won’t leave a room before exclaiming her love for everyone in it, our son is reserved with his emotions. When I ask if he loves me, he replies that until I hear otherwise, I should assume it to be so.

Respectful of my son and his preference for subtlety on important occasions like this, I said goodbye at the end of move-in day by wishing him well and heading quickly for the door. Swenny and my daughter protested, expecting a warmer good-bye. And while I believe that flowery sentiments can diminish sincerity, I knew, too, that I needed something more. So when my son opened his arms for a hug good-bye, I fell into him. And then I fell away.

He has held me up long enough. The time has come for me to release him from the daily struggles of living with an alcoholic. He’s adopted my habits of searching for bottles, and of confronting Swenny sternly. Unlike me, though, he is less forgiving of the behavior, finding no favor with harmony. His actual position one branch removed from the top of our tree grants him that luxury.

The night before he left for school, he was clear about what he would do if he were me. With the scent of vodka wafting between us as Swenny came in and out carrying boxes, we agreed to disagree. Because as alcoholism continues to shift standings within our family, it falls to me to do what’s right. And while I remain uncertain about what that is, I think the quietness of an empty house may help me figure it out. Finally. For all of us.