The Disease

detoursFor the last four weeks I’ve been quite busy.  During this time I have set to one side the task of blogging; it had to take a lower priority.  And as is typical in life there are sometimes distractions or obstacles that get in the way of things we want to do, like blogging.  I have had such a week; more like several weeks.  Each time I wanted to continue and finish the humorous post I had started and planned for publishing days ago, life would throw a curve ball.  Seven out of ten times I am able to easily manage the distractions or setbacks.  But as many of you may know, life doesn’t always cooperate with our wishes and plans.

There are two significant factors that every single person alive must address and manage at some point in their life:  family and aging elders, or death.  The timing of both these factors is almost never convenient nor are they always pleasant when it is a family member.  Family has the distinct uncomfortable privilege of reaching too often the deepest parts of our heart and soul.  For the last 31-years I have had the “privilege” of witnessing my sister’s chemical-addictions, soon exacerbated with psychological issues, burden my mother and her usually huge warm energetic heart with every passing year – with every single perpetual relapse by my sister every month to three months – take off two, five years of my mom’s health and vitality each time.  We have been a three-member family since my father’s suicide in 1990, and guess who is always counted on (by default) for strength, understanding, and eventually some comic relief?

I have to admit…it gets really fucking exhausting.

diseaseFor the last thirty-plus years I have done a LOT of screaming; screaming at the sky, screaming at the walls, screaming at my dead father wherever he is, and screaming at my three different therapists who’ve had the “privilege” of helping me through the bad times.

But those screaming sessions cannot compare to the decibel levels I’ve screamed (mostly in my head) over and over when I listen to alcohol-drug support groups and leaders talk about “The Disease.”

I have no hesitation in confessing that I am apparently on the outside looking in.  There are support groups for family members of chemical-addicts that not only offer emotional support, but also educate family members of addicts (often the issues of enabling and co-dependency) how to manage themselves around an addict’s pathology.  What is taught and what is often embraced by these groups, sometimes makes me want to scream with my already strained exhausted vocal cords!

Is it right…is it best to give, to surrender so much power and control to the disease?

If I examine my sister’s 31-plus years of addiction and never-ending relapses, I would wonder.  Fuck, who am I kidding?  I do wonder…but from a very frustrating “disadvantaged” viewpoint.  So I continue to scream, apparently until I have no vocal cords left to scream because apparently this fucking “disease” will never go away.  Apparently it can never be cured, only managed until the day she dies.

Is that the way it will always be for the brothers and mothers of addicts?  I have to accept it?  I really have a serious fucking problem with that white flag!  I have always had that problem, which for the last 15-20 years has sometimes caused my already aging, tired compassionate mother perhaps more stress than comfort and hope!  And that makes me want to scream more!

When is passiveness or surrender unhealthy?

After three months in counseling soon after my father’s suicide, my therapist, with tears rolling down her cheeks said “You are one of the most remarkable Survivors I have ever counseled.”  The four major life events I was forced to deal with in 1990 was blowing her away, let alone her clinical concern for my mental-emotional health.  She confessed to me years later that she had considered diagnosing me with major depression with suicidal precautions.  Apparently statistics show that immediate family members of suicide victims have an increased likelihood of suicide themselves.  I understood all too well that concept play out on 9/11 when watching people jump from the top-floor windows of the World Trade Center towers to their death — sometimes it just seems to be too unbearable.  I have felt their pain, but then I scream back at life with my best warrior face.

Laurel Land Cemetery where my Dad is buried & Mom has her plot. She & I have discussed too where to put my 49-yr old sister.

Laurel Land Cemetery where my Dad is buried & Mom has her plot. She & I have also discussed where to put my 49-yr old sister.

It seems with each passing month and each passing year a survivor-of-suicide has an exponentially greater chance of becoming a uniquely advantaged super-human, or so the clinical data shows.  So what does it mean when one is also forced to support an aging 73-year old elderly mother – cut short of ten happier years by a pathological relapsing addict-daughter – who physically and emotionally has either reached or is damn close to her life-limit?  How much are we supposed to endure?  How much are we obligated to endure my sister’s 31-years of repeated insatiable relapses which are always around the corner ready to devour?  How many more damaged exhausted victims have to fall in her wake?

I am one extremely pissed-off brother (again) as I watch my sister – who consciously chose to consume those chemicals as a teenager – inflict again on my undeserving mother, inflict again on her undeserving AA and NA support friends, and inflict again on society as a whole, who with their tax dollars or donations throw away give and give, and give to a disease that can only be partly managed with unpredictable results…always.

This is the way it has to be?

Signed angry, exhausted “Survivor” brother and son who doesn’t feel very super-human!

(paragraph break)

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15 thoughts on “The Disease

  1. Oh, Professor. Oh, my dear sweet friend.

    The complexity of the life-experiences you describe can be crippling.

    There are no rules to enduring. Make it as loud or quiet as you need.

    There is something I can do, albeit small… I can hold your hand through the screams and silence.

    Kelly xxoo

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    • Thank you Kelly. You mentioned at an earlier time how “complex” I might be. Well, you are getting a glimpse of that. Remember the song I sent you by the band Covenant… “We Stand Alone”? I feel that way more often than I enjoy at times with my family. It truly is exhausting to be the “stable” one.

      Is it any wonder why I have so many alternative lifestyles! Hah! Man, I am SO human to say the least! LOL

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  2. I am so, so sorry. Sometimes I think (though I, too, am on the outside looking in) that it’s actually easier to be the person suffering the illness than to be the loved one who unwittingly signed on by default to be a life-long caretaker. I’d say this applies to both “diseases” such as you describe, as well as debilitating Diseases.

    *hugs*

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    • Thank you Jennie.

      You are so right about ‘innocent bystanders’ who happen to be loving family members! You touch on indirectly what I had to confront with my dad: he took the ‘easy’ way out, or the one suffering easy way out without thinking about the ripple-effect! And he was a former US Marine whose honor was more important than family, immediate and extended…including eventually his two grandchildren born three and seven years after his death. I think what I hate most about “the disease” is how self-consuming, self-absorbing it makes addicts and victims…which in turn creates co-dependents in subtle ways due to the self-absorbency!

      Love (and empathy?) can be a very powerful or destructive hormone…as ironic as it sounds.

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  3. Professor,
    Sharing the events of your life stops one in their tracks. For what it’s worth I, and I’m sure your readers, could feel the blows of life that you and your family have experienced. If you have not read A Course In Miracles, many recovering addicts came to add it to their library. It is spiritual writing and can be read online at courseinmiracles.com. The first part of the writings are heavy duty psychology, then evolves into more spiritual passages. Will pray that you and your family may experience release from the pain and suffering. Know that you are not alone and friendless.
    Peace be with you,
    Jerry

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    • Jerry, thank you for your kind encouraging words. I will most definitely checkout the course and website! I know this…I am constantly frustrated with seemingly wasted time, energy, and funds spent on “programs designed to only manage” rather than conquer.

      Yes, I am not alone with this disease; millions deal with it as well, so it is comforting that I/we have strength-in-numbers…if I can put it that way. It’s sad but true. And thank you for your prayers of RELEASE. That is exactly what this Survivor and doctors ordered! I don’t like it when people tell me “it can’t be had/done” because it’s an incurable disease. Grrrrrrrrrr!

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  4. I’ve been trying to figure out how to offer solace or wisdom. I realize that when trying to compare life experiences in the realm of awful, it can sound like a pissing contest, rather than empathy.

    I’ll just send a hug instead.

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    • Kinky…you’ve done enough; thank you. The “hug” was perfect! 🙂

      Yeah, “pissing contest” is not something I wallow in very long. I guess I have too much self-confidence and hope/faith that most things in life (barring death) can always be understood, improved, and changed with commitment, loyalty, and determination.

      But I’ve also been told (accurately I must add) I can be VERY stubborn and head-strong. LOL

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  5. Of course you know you are safe to rage here. Who could blame you? Family issues can be oh, so complicated…and rarely ever are they actually fully solved. If it were just a friend or passing acquaintance it would be easy to declare the person a “cancer” to your emotional and psychological well being and cut ties. Unfortunately, that’s not an option when you are the emotional head of household; the person everyone goes to for support. These are the moments when unconditional love truly gets tested.

    You are definitely a strong man. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that, and it’s something one picks up on very quickly as they become acquainted with you. There’s not much we can do or offer you but our selves as sounding boards when you need to vent… And maybe a cyber hug. You get both from me, my friend. My issues may not be quite the same, but I understand that anger and frustration all too well.

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    • Kitt, you understand. Thank you.

      Yes, though we often believe or express our unconditional love, is it REALLY ever unconditional…particularly in this case? I’m not sure any human being ever is capable of always giving, never receiving. We all require rest, recuperation, and nourishment (love?) in return and in many forms. It has been a test of endurance and determination more than anything. No matter where or who you are people who matter most to you have an effect on your world. Indeed, we are stuck with the family we are born into unless we cut-out the cancers you so appropriately described — which in some ways IS NOT a bad alternative but is it the best? Many ‘recovering addicts’ describe this “disease” as genetic, or mutating into the genes that form the disease; so do they deserve to be cut out if it was in their DNA prior to birth? Yet the same could be argued for cigarettes. Do you see how maddening this fricking “disease” can get!? LOL

      Anyway, I’ll make you my screaming partner Kitt! 😉

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      • It’s tough, isn’t it? Especially when part of their “healing” process is to apologize and deal with consequences. The problem is that despite all the hurt and damage, no matter how cathartic it may be for you to “lash out” and let them truly feel the depth and extent of their damage, they’re family…and fragile. Which means you bite your tongue. Choose your words carefully. And share with them an extremely watered down version of how their “disease” has impacted you. Because in the back of your mind you wonder….if you spew all the bile that’s been festering, could they really handle it? Doubtful. The last thing you want to be is another excuse for a relapse. And really, what good would it do anyway? The instant gratification might be okay….until you had time to think about all the things you said and did. That regret would be much harder to handle than simply holding back and saving it for us.

        I was lucky. I’ve been able to minimize contact with the cancer in my life…but it took me almost 40 years to get there… with a lot of heartache in between (on my part anyway).

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        • The shaming part of her disease is just as frustrating because it too often ties my hands & my mom’s hands behind our backs & often gags our mouths when we’ve been ‘victims’ of her repeated relapses & repeated “amends” of 30 plus years. Enough is enough already & mom and I are NOT timid quiet people…in the least! LOL

          Many of us feel she’s learned to manipulate too well under the disguise of her disease. We’re talking 30 plus years of this! When she’s on her psych meds she is a smart clever addict. When she relapses back into “her disease” is when that brilliant “disease” turns EVERYTHING to it’s me, me, me…it’s all about when & how can I get my (empty) fix at the expense of my family, friends & world — extremely self-absorbing!

          And the AA/NA communities TEACH that this damn disease is so damn powerful & so damn stealthy, it must be “surrendered to” — i.e. an addict must become a prisoner to it in order to “manage” it! Seems like a conflicting oxymoron to me but we’re outsiders looking in; a position mom & I have NEVER liked!

          Sorry. Rambling and ranting…

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        • Don’t apologize. There’s no need! You’re saying exactly all the things I’ve thought re: addiction for years. And I couldn’t agree more about it being the excuse to manipulate, etc.

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