An Innocent Glass of Wine
Alcoholism: the ripples have such a far-reaching affect
Alcoholism is an illness and it not only has a devastating affect on the person who is addicted to alcohol, but it affects all those around them. Throw a stone into a pond and watch the ripples go ever wider. That’s what it’s like being related to an alcoholic.
For the longest time, I had no idea. I lived abroad and the only contact I had with my family member was by email. I couldn’t tell if she was drunk or not. I’m going back to the days before cell phones were a permanent feature in all of our lives.
By the time I realized there was a problem, it was too late. Three times in rehab and she was still drinking. There were short hiatuses but they were never long enough to give us, her family, hope. We knew that she would always prefer the bottle to us.
Feelings that overwhelm me
The worst part is the helplessness. You can talk to somebody until you’re blue in the face, but if they don’t want to help themselves, forget it. Talk to a brick wall. Just don’t waste your time and energy on them. Regardless of how much you love them and how many times you tell them that you want to help them, they just will not listen.
I am speaking from thirty years experience. I have lost count of the number of hours, days, weeks, months I have ‘wasted’ trying to convince her that life without alcohol is so much better than with it. Even children and grandchildren can’t entice her away from the vice-like grip that the bottle has over her.
The second overwhelming emotion that I have is sadness. Such a sense of waste and loss of the person I once knew. I could know her again if she stopped drinking. When she is drunk, I don’t know her. She’s not the person that I know.
I used to feel ashamed but now I just feel sad
She is in a dry phase now, so, the roller coaster ride begins all over again. Excitement kicks in: is it this time? Will she stay dry? Can she do it? We’re all rooting for her and are here for her 100%. We always have been. But each time she succumbs, it feels like a kick in the teeth. Two fingers to all of us.
We know she is ill. We have tried everything. Talking on the phone, racing to her home to talk face-to-face, reasoning, getting angry, upset. Even the silent treatment. Nothing works.
The decision to seek help has to come from the person themselves
Recently, she told me that she has finally sought professional help because - and this is the first time that I have heard her say this - she wants to stop drinking. Hooray! She said it. At long last. She wants to stop drinking.
How did it all start?
It all began when she started working from home. A glass of wine with her lunch and then another. Building up a successful business and the pressures that that can bring probably led to a few more glasses with her evening meal and bang. Before we knew it, our beautiful, funny, lovely family member is dependent upon booze to the extent that she can’t live without it.
Alcoholism is, broadly, any drinking of alcohol that results in significant mental or physical health problems.
By her own admission, my family member has an addictive personality. As a close relative, I don’t. I enjoy a glass of wine and used to have ‘wine lover’ on my profile. I didn’t remove it for any other reason than I want to make a full-time living from writing so I thought I had better sharpen up my game.
Dealing with the demons
We all have our demons to deal with. Mine relate to a former toxic relationship, which I have written about. After a lot of heartache, hours of counselling, and with the help of family and friends, I have been able to pick myself up, dust myself down and start again.
The hardest part of watching my close relative wrestle with her demons is not knowing what those demons are. She is convinced that she has something physically wrong with her and that she has never felt truly happy. That makes me sad. I can recall countless times in my life when I have been really happy.
I am happy now. Sitting at my desk in my lovely den, writing. It’s a Sunday afternoon and it’s raining outside. I played tennis this morning, did some paid freelance work, and have settled down to write this article. That’s my ‘happy’. I don’t honestly think that she knows what hers is.
What is happiness? How can we define it?
Of course, there are so many ‘happy’ moments in our lives: spending time with close family, playing with grandchildren, interacting with our significant others. The list goes on and on. Time down the pub meeting up with friends. Chatting on the phone to a mate.
Perhaps our ‘happy’ benchmarks are all different and what brings happiness to one may not even make a dent in another person’s ‘happ-o-meter’ — who knows? All I know is that it feels like a life wasted. Despite producing three beautiful children, who are all very supportive and loving, and three amazing grandchildren, that still isn’t enough.
I only ever want to see my sister happy.
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This article was first published on Medium where you can find more of my work including some poetry and fiction.