Copyright 2021 by Joyce Benedict
The word ‘addition’ for most conjures
images of unfortunate people caught up in alcohol or
drugs, that they lack willpower, that they must all
mentally ill. There is a far more
emotional addiction which can be as lethal, destroying, devastating
as succumbing to known substances. This is my story of a descent into
darkness as deep as one can get. The long road back
sanity. An experience I would never have dreamed, loving life as I
I never became addicted to anything until
entered my life. I don’t think I had a tinker’s
clue before him what being ‘addicted’ meant. I
observed certain indulgences in others and had simply felt that they
ignored the fact that they were doing harm to
themselves. Some drank too much, others ate too
while others smoked too much. A friend’s brother
gambled too much. Another got ‘high’ on peanut
butter for several years! My inner judge reproached
they try a little willpower?
Actually, I prided myself on
commented when I was at a huge buffet gathering whether outdoors or
in, “How can you have such great willpower with all this
delectable food?” I would put modest portions on my
plate while they had stacks of everything on theirs.
A local, prestigious restaurant offered a
buffet. The generous portions of every food
in equal proportion to the generous price. An offer
friend to attend one Sunday morning was gladly
always, portions were modest. I helped myself only once to the vast
array of choices: ham, bacon, sausage, omelets, breads, sausage and
peppers, cakes and candies, cheeses, and a host of other
delicacies. My friend heaped his plate high three
and there were just as many trips back to the dessert
I was proud that I had conquered those
urges to stuff
oneself years ago. Being overweight as a child and
‘Chubbette’ dresses (dresses made especially for the
overweight child) I was very sensitive to weight and by late high
school had overcome the problem. While in college, a
sister married a chiropractor and information from him regarding
nutrition furthered my desire to remain slim and
I had smoked in
college. Almost a pack a
week. When I married and became pregnant I gave it
I enjoyed, as any other person, a piece of chocolate cake or pie or,
on rare occasions wolfed down a candy bar, I felt balanced and
grateful that I was ‘normal’ and didn’t suffer from
the abnormal cravings I saw around me daily. That is, until I met
The wife of my son’s guitar teacher shocked
all that fall having to be admitted to a local
for an attempted suicide. I went to visit
when allowed. A woman in her early seventies she
one of a Russian noblewoman, dignified with a
dark, throaty voice, shadows of
an aging Greta
Garbo or Ethel Barrymore. We had discussed
religion, art, metaphysics while my son learned classical guitar with
her husband who had been good friends with the famous guitarist,
Sitting across from her in the hospital
swaddled in a white gown and white sheets, she appeared more like a
candidate for a submerged baptism. With her steady gaze and regal
bearing there was a glimmer of an exiled queen. She
dismissed lightly why she was admitted. I realized
in denial. She had learned her lifetime companion had been having an
affair for twenty years with another woman. It had been easy to hide.
He lived in Manhattan during the week giving lessons and was home
weekends in an upper Hudson Valley community.
With a grand flourish of her arms and eyes
a kind of stark wonderment, she proceeded to describe her fellow
inmates along her corridor. “My God!”, she
exclaimed, “I think my problem is difficult. Lisa next door
just had a lover try to kill her and has a
across the hall has had a nervous breakdown. His wife just lost their
fourth attempt at having a baby. Nellie, down the
hooked on drugs that began when she had a bad fall and injured her
back. The one you can’t believe is the
alcoholic I met in the recreation room. We hit it
conversation immediately. Joyce, he is the tenth
in a family of twelve!”
I didn’t think I heard her correctly.
“Yes,” her eyes grew wide as she
responded to my questioning with raised brows. “Ten
sons and two daughters in the family. All the sons
told me they were all quite handsome. Scottish
Father alcoholic after losing his sight from the
received a Canadian disability pension. You’ve got
to meet this fellow. You cannot believe this
creature has been drinking since he was
had some incredible discussions on ancient history.”
I listened to her rattle on about the other
patients. She had lived an isolated life in a small
Mid-Hudson Valley New York town. Her husband had had
apartment in New York City and he spent three days with her and four
there. No wonder he had been able to keep his
existence from her. She seemed to take solace that
had equally disturbing problems and her own plight had diminished as
her perspective had widened considerably the week she had been in the
I gave her a hug with promises to bring
food in a few days. I drove home saddened by her
the betrayal, learning so late in life of such a long-standing
infidelity when so vulnerable and in need of support moving into old
age. I was slowly learning, as I moved from my own cocoon of young
babies and household chores, that the golden years touted by the
advertisements were far from golden. The illusion that I had was that
somehow after one’s forties life evened out, that one would
begin to reap rewards from earlier efforts, began to fade from my
consciousness like the mist on a pond when the morning sun
The next few visits revealed steady
was coming around quickly. Her innate curiosity and
intensity about life had surfaced. We laughed more
each visit and she devoured my homemade goodies with relish.
A few days away from her release I visited
last time. She was in therapy when I arrived and I
told to wait for her in the TV room. Gazing
absent-mindedly at the TV screen my attention was drawn to a tall,
extremely handsome young man who had entered the
was a cross in looks between Errol Flynn and Clark
figured he was visiting someone as I was. He had on
trousers and a white shirt. Black wavy hair and dark
were in dramatic contrast to the white shirt. He
Clark Gable grin to someone else in the room as he
carried a pile of books.
I lowered my eyes. “My God,” I gasped to
myself, “he is one gorgeous creature.” I felt
myself blushing. I had been separated four years
second husband and struggling to make ends
sons were living with their father by everyone’s mutual
choice. I hadn’t considered a relationship nor dated
for four years. Survival and developing myself had
The handsome brute sat
down. I couldn’t
help but notice the shirt open displaying a dark, hairy
every movement was that of an athlete. Strong,
legs could be seen through thin summer trousers. He
up a magazine to read but was soon engaged in a lively conversation
with a young man to his right. From my vantage point
could gaze at him without he noticing me doing
so. My eyes
kept moving from the TV screen to this magnificent creature sitting
across from me to my left.
As I continued to glance his way
my mind. I always had a heightened awareness about
and people. Friends said I had
an x-ray vision,
that I seemed to peer into their souls at times. As
continued to be drawn to him I was seeing
more. There were
deep furrows in the brow. I ‘saw’ a very dark cloud or
aura around his head. I had to blink for I perceived
moment that tears were streaming down his cheeks. I
glanced away. I glanced
back. They were
gone. I felt a great heaviness from him and
unbearable sadness behind the Clark Gable grin and animated
conversation he was engaged in.
Suddenly, it dawned on
me! This was not a
visitor. This was the alcoholic Margaret was telling
about! “I don’t believe it!” I
exclaimed to myself, “not this extraordinary
then Margaret came into the room. Too many people
gathered that prevented me from what I wanted to do, blurt out loudly
to her, “Is that the man you were telling me
my heart I knew it was.
He saw her and waved and inquired of her
spoke across the room. He was so extremely handsome
could barely look his way. Again, I felt a blush
rise as I
lowered my gaze.
Next thing I knew he sat beside Margaret
introduced me. I felt the blush
they were immersed in a heady, philosophical
discussion. I was drawn in. We
excitedly. He tested me. He
answered. We were plunged into university quality
discussions. He was quick, bright, yet listened
when either of us spoke. Inwardly, I could not
this man was an alcoholic, in and out of hospitals for the past ten
Responsibilities called and I had to leave
with promises to see her soon again. I reflected, “would I see
that handsome man again?” I needn’t have asked myself
that question for a few days later he had gotten my number from
Margaret and called. He had been released and was home in
Poughkeepsie. A friendly, informative banter resumed on the phone. I
still could not connect the dots, this seemingly balanced,
intelligent, handsome, but kind, gentle man an alcoholic?
I lived next door to a famous fasting
years my studies included reams of books on alternative healing
methods, body methods, nutrition. I mentioned during our conversation
that the Russians had a high level
of success with
alcoholics and schizophrenics engaging in controlled fasting and
vegetarianism. I mentioned I lived next door to the famous ‘fat
farm’ as it was called. Next thing I knew he had
signed up for a weeks stay. Ingrid, who I assumed was his mother, had
the means to send him there.
Of course he came to visit me. We chatted
I learned more about his life. He was the tenth son born of a
Canadian family. His father had served in World War 1
a handsome disability having been blinded by flying explosive
material. Two girls brought the number of children to twelve.
His mother’s sister, Ingrid, lived in New
She never had children by her husband. Years later Ingrid would tell
me she became pregnant at age sixteen. Not wanting to disgrace the
family she secretly had an abortion and the doctor had tied her
tubes. With her sister producing one child after another and Ingrid
childless, she began pestering her for one of the children. Heather
was not willing to give up one. The pleading continued. She
threatened suicide if she didn’t have the child much
to Heather’s shock being a devout Catholic. Her tenth son was
delivered while six weeks old to Ingrid and Joseph. They were
At age four Ingrid believed it only right
young child see every one of his ‘cousins’ in Canada each
Summer. Unfortunately, the ‘cousins’ knew that
the young lad was one of theirs that had gone to live with Auntie
Ingrid. Equally unfortunate, Ingrid was never to
the deep trauma that set into the child’s mind when one
‘cousin’ taunted him one day while playing that he had
been sent away as a baby to be with Auntie Ingrid.
The deep impact of this knowledge set forth
fester for years resulting in deep psychological wounds leading to
alcoholism. Years later knowledge of a concussion untreated when
playing football in high school added to the cocktail mix for
dysfunctional behavior. Not in the least that his
and nine brothers were all alcoholics.
Ingrid worked taking
care of seniors at
home. Often the little boy came home alone to an empty house. A
sensitive child, he imagined ‘spirits’ in the home. A
rocking chair rocked while alone. His fears increased and he withdrew
ever deeper into himself with no one to play with or talk to.
This extremely charming, intelligent,
man and I talked on my porch one beautiful summer’s
day while he attempted a ‘cure’ at the fasting home. I
found myself being drawn deeper to the absurdity of his alcoholism as
we laughed, talked, walked, and ate a few meals together. In every
respect he seemed as normal as any full blooded American male.
The week passed swiftly at the fasting
returned home. More animated conversations followed on the telephone.
He learned I was a practicing astrologer and said that Ingrid had
seen one once who had told her that after she died his drinking would
end and he would become very ambitious.
I had already decided, since I had read
healing and nutrition, and had cured myself of endless flu-like
bouts, that should I continue to see this Adonis of a man, that under
my tutelage, he would be better in no time. I
the works of biochemist Roger J. Williams and his pioneering work on
nutrition for the mind and subsequent success with alcoholics. Why,
In no time he would be fine, I mused confidently.
After two months of knowing each other,
obtained his birth data, he came by bus to my place for his reading.
As I had examined the chart the connections between the two of us
were incredible. No wonder I was so drawn to him and by now falling
in love with him. I explained the strong connections
between our natal patterns, hence our getting along so well. However,
I caused him to look a bit shocked, observed his winning smile
disappear, while a perplexed look on his face took
I concluded the reading by stating simply, “Will you marry me?”
I was astounded at my brashness. I think I
blushed and lowered my eyes back to the chart mumbling and blurting
out that I was so taken by the compatibility and connections our two
charts illustrated. He nervously laughed to
surprise at my bold question.
We met where he lived in Poughkeepsie. Took
by the Hudson River. I gave in going with him to some of his drinking
haunts. One day upon returning to my apartment seven miles north of
the city, he asked if he could spend the night. I agreed. We made
love that night. I was forty-one looking ten years younger, he was
thirty-four. I was rather surprised the love making was immature on
his part. I knew he had been married briefly and had had only a few
relationships before meeting me.
He was candid, openly honest and
about these matters. Having been married twice I had reached a sexual
maturity and learned to express my needs clearly which only came
about through years of suppressing dissatisfaction with the love
making of my former husbands. He was eager to please, a gentle giant
of a man. Within the year a sexual compatibility I had never known
brought satisfying pleasure for both of us.
We expressed ourselves clearly, openly. In
matter we discussed weather, relationships, politics, health,
religion, philosophy, human sexuality, the cosmos, human suffering.
We held our own with great conversations.
We became best friends and lovers. I came
to see he
had a loving, beautiful spirit. If I cried he had tears in his eyes.
Anytime I needed help he was there to assist. Having had polio as a
child in my right arm, he tenderly held my hand like a doctor
questioning what went wrong. There was a special energy that came
from him when he wasn’t talking excitedly, I felt no tension
when with him but completely comfortable. Though I
being undressed with two former husbands, I felt none of this with
When my own issues surfaced at times about
hurts he had the most wise, sensible comments to make which rendered
a deep unexplained satisfaction within. He seemed to speak to the
depths of my soul.
On occasion he would glance at a tall, thin
blond and I would feel jealous. I spoke of this. “Tilsey,’
which he called me, “a man will always look at another
beautiful woman, but while I am with you I will be faithful.”
And he was. Soon I was to learn the horrors of being with an
alcoholic. The dark side eventually surfaced. Yes, a formidable dark
As with this new and wonderful relationship
done what I set out to do. Help him stop drinking. For Frank was a
periodic drunk. In the first year or two of our being together I
served up fabulous breakfasts of scrambled eggs, brown rice, cottage
cheese. Gave him the necessary B-Vitamins. He would become extremely
relaxed. Following breakfast he said he felt like he had taken a 500
mg of Valium for he would often fall asleep for a full twenty-four
hours. I took him to chiropractors, massage therapists. We attended
healing services. His drinking bouts became very
infrequent. These respites from worry lasting for as
as three months.
Of course when the desire to drink surfaced
sad, sick inside. It hurt me inside, deeply. Fears arose. He was
anything but a modest drinker. I wouldn’t let him drink in my
place. If he wanted to drink he had to go home and drink. Ingrid was
used to his drinking at home. I wasn’t. In time he’d get
nasty, run up huge telephone bills, talk the entire night; his
language horrid. He shouted. Yelled. Ranted and raved. Threatened to
tear the stove from the wall. I simply would not tolerate it. Though
I was attending Al-Anon meetings it was essentially for him, not me.
I needed to learn more how to ‘help’ him stop drinking. I
had no problem, only loving him too much. All this would change in
Because I was extremely sensitive and
the following would occur. We would have had a great day. Visit
friends. Take a short trip. He often encouraged my writing which had
begun before meeting him. My self confidence then was low. Besides, I
downsized myself easily. There were thousands of
writers than myself, why bother?
When I expressed thoughts of written themes
he’d say, “Tilsy, now, go to the back room, write them!”
And I did. We were, as he often stated, “like two peas in a
pod.” We enjoyed each other immensely, our friendship, our love
making. I was never happier in my life. I felt a closeness and trust
and love I had never known, more than from my mother, father,
stepmother or stepfather.
The inevitable dark times continued. I
would gaze at
him with what I called, my inner vision. I would ‘see’ a
great black whirlpool descend into the top of his head. After
‘seeing’ these a few times I learned they signaled that
within twenty-four hours he would get beer and start drinking and it
would go on for days. When I saw the ‘dark pool’ entering
him, I’d plead with him to get to an AA meeting, call a
sponsor, “NOW! Frank,” I stated strongly.
“You’re a silly little Tilsey,”
he’d say with that sweet, disarming smile he would give. His
brown eyes so brown one couldn’t really ‘read’
them. “I have no desire to drink.” But it
never failed, he’d be off to the races less than twenty-four
hours later. I attended more Al-Anon meetings.
whirlpools continued. I often would be on my knees pleading with him
with arms wrapped around his knees, begging him to call someone, get
to a meeting! He did attend them during sober periods. Nothing
changed except my despair, tiredness, and a slow addiction to his
disease, unknown to me, was gaining hold.
As deeply as I loved him, I had not been
aware of my
own addictive patterns setting in. While he was in a rehab center
drying out, I would make calls to various friends. “I’ve
got to leave him. I can’t take this. My life is unraveling,”
and the person would declare, “you’re right Joyce, you
must let him go. You’ve dropped all your outside activities,
you’re ruining yourself!” “Of course
you’re right, “I declared. “Next time he calls for
me to pick him up, I’m hanging up on him.” “Good,
Joyce,” stated friend. “Think of yourself.”
Had I ever thought of myself? Oldest of
five kids, I
married two months out of college. Two
away. Divorced. Remarried. Husband way too old for me, former
minister. Marriage ended. I fought to grow and develop, raise my
kids. I did not want the outside world and began
developing myself and a few businesses in my home. In falling in love
with Frank, I was back to nurturing, enabling, mothering. It was a
long time though before I was able to understand this. Most
importantly, that I never loved me to the degree I loved others,
The phone would ring. I would pick it up.
sweetheart, I’ve failed you and everyone again. I’m so
sorry. You’re so good, so sweet to me, what would I do without
you. I’m so sorry.” And, he meant it. I melted. I
deceived myself again and again and again as I hung up the phone,
“perhaps this IS the last time.” I muttered under my
breath, but It never was.
In time, I became
angrier at myself than
him. Angry at my weakness in forgiving him. Doesn’t
the Bible ask you to forgive someone seventy-seven times seven I
would ask myself? I began doing crazy things like waking up in the
middle of the night and whispering into his ear, “tomorrow
should you pick up a beer, you will start to drink and sputter and
spit it out because it has poison in it.” Or, “Frank, you
don’t want to drink. You know you want a fuller, richer life.
You know you have all it takes to succeed. You will come to hate the
taste of beer.” Or, “Frank, you have a son you never saw.
He wants his Dad. He needs you. You need him. Keep going to AA, you
will get better.”
Early morning while he slept I would take
and toss them into my vegetable garden. I would pour out the beer
into the kitchen sink. If he wanted some money to buy a bottle I’d
say “No!. I live on little as you know, I have no
money.” Always a lie.
Once when with Ingrid, who was weaker
giving him $20
always on demand, he was at the door demanding money. She slipped a
$20 bill into the pocket of my blouse. We both went to the door. With
hands on hip this handsome creature with fire burning in his eyes as
the addiction was gnawing at him, demanded that Ingrid give
him $20. “No Frankie,” she declared weakly. This time I
have no money.”
“Oh yes you do, you put it in Joyce’s
blouse.” We were stunned. We were in another room fully out of
view of the transaction to my blouse. He outside at the screen door.
He charged through it and went for my pocket.
After another year or two I was aware of
spiritually sick. Forced myself to do chores.
heavy, aching. Only three years earlier happier than in my whole
life, clients calling, teaching courses on holistic health focusing
on nutrition. I was in the prime of my life sexually
an increasing awareness of my budding mature beauty.
Seeping into my poor confused, crazed
knew eventually that I must never answer the phone again when he
calls for me to pick him up at a rehab with all
apologies; his ‘this time is the
Tilsy’. More broken record promises and lies.
The phone would ring. I
would stare at it.
I would begin to tremble. An unholy power drew me to
phone. I tried with all my might and main NOT TO ANSWER THAT PHONE! I
did. I knew then that I was on a merry-go-’round I could not
get off. I was as addicted to him and his disease as he was to the
During this time I continued to take him to
chiropractors, healers, I worked massage on him as I had learned a
Chinese technique. My meals for him contained all the right
Ingrid called me one day. “A famous palmist
lived in Hudson, an hour’s drive away. Let’s go. We’ll
learn about Frankie through her,” she declared excitedly. I
drove and we arrived on time. Ingrid had her palm read, then mine. As
the woman gazed at my palm she stated various facts about myself, my
former husband. I was agreeing on most points. I was to travel late
in life but she had seen no money at that time. I laughed, “You
are right there!’
Then came the $64,000 question. “ I love
man deeply, he drinks. Will he get better?” A long pause as she
drew herself closer to my palm. “The drinking will never stop,”
she stated firmly, flatly, without emotion. I felt anger rise, “No!
You are wrong on this!” I blurted out. “I have great
faith and believe he will stop.” Ingrid had never shared what
she was told. Probably the same. We both were very quiet as we headed
the long drive back to Poughkeepsie.
The insanity set in. Picking him up at an
time, he was very drunk and had smoked pot which he
did with me. He had no license. Had not driven a car in years yet I
allowed him to drive me home with his Aunt Mildred with us! How I
shivered years later allowing this. Surely, someone or thing was
watching over us that day as we wove in and out through horrid
traffic coming out of New York City.
He admitted a few affairs while drinking. I
him. His behavior had gone from bad to worse. He convinced me to meet
some ‘friends’ in Poughkeepsie. I was led to seamy,
smelly, dank, dark apartments where others were smoking,
detested going to them. I neither drank nor smoked but already deep
into my own addiction.
I was aware of being caught up in
as much as he was. I, too, had lost control of my life. When I
demanded we leave he hit me. Still, I remained with him. Not only had
he become a monster but I had become but a shadow of my former self.
Deep wrinkles in my face appeared, appetite decreased.
cleaning my beautiful apartment. Weeds had captured my garden just as
his disease had captured me. Friends no longer
was a dead woman walking.
The last chiropractor who I took him too
to him privately. After his treatment I went in the back room for
mine. The healer finished with my adjustment and then stated quietly,
calmly, Joyce, this man will never be well.” Tears formed.
“No,” I said to myself, ‘my faith, though waning is
strong. We have so much good between us. Time is still on our
I went back to Al-anon. This time I knew I
help, too. I learned only 1 in 60 make it to sobriety. My faith was
rapidly declining. Deep down in the regions of my deeper heart a
still little voice whispered ever so softly, “He isn’t
going to make it.” Yet I stayed by his side myself getting
sicker and sicker.
Attending Al-Anon meetings I felt no one
one listened. No one ever called. I cried. I was angry at what
happened to my life. I took names of other women who were suffering,
and called them to see how they were doing. No one ever called me. To
add to my misery Frank had stated he was not in love with me. He
still loved me but was not in love with me. Being a Catholic he
claimed he was still in love with his wife who had left him. Like the
weak, addicted drip I had become I stayed with him. The addiction
complete. I had been delusional that he loved me to the degree I
We had often spoken of the strange dealings
dealt people. Why was it someone loved someone else who loved
another. The truth was out. It was so with us.
What happened? I looked in the mirror. I
recognize the person I was looking at. What happened to the
fun-loving couple? The beautiful times together? What had appeared to
be a miracle when giving him the best food, worked massage on him,
bought clothes for him, loved him so? He me. So I had assumed.
I was sinking inside myself from despair. A
childhood, endless moves, marriages that ended, raised kids myself on
crumbs, had begun to shine, love life, had released the past, was at
the prime of my life, my beauty, developing myself, having pride in
my new independence. And in a period of three years a shriveled,
pain-ridden, depressed, lost woman stared back at me in my bathroom
mirror. In the name of all that is Holy, Why? When does it all end?
A conversation some years later he admitted
‘used’ me. It took years to comprehend the devious
workings and needs of an alcoholic to get whatever they can to
survive, avoid responsibilities, learn they are incapable of loving
anyone for they are unable to love themselves.
We had been a beautiful couple. Once, when
in a hospital to recover, his therapist then was an East Indian man.
It was a beautiful day and we had opted to walk the
grounds of the hospital. His therapist drove by and waved. We waved
back smiling. Later, the therapist came up to me and in the familiar
lilt of an East Indian that speaks English he said to me, “ I
have been here eleven years. I have never seen a more beautiful,
handsome couple. I was so stricken by the beauty of
two I almost went off the road.”
Towards the end of this beautiful
became a nightmare, he often had to be admitted to a locked ward of a
mental hospital. It so happened that week I learned
Catholic church in another town was holding a special healing prayer
meeting. I had taken him to other prayer meetings. I had traveled to
Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut to attend prayer seminars and
faith healing retreats run by famous healers of the times such as
Father Francis McNutt and others. His name had been offered up,
intervention prayers. I had even been ‘slain in the spirit’
while being prayed over by a healer offering prayers
him. I never gave up, but inwardly, had given up on me unknown to my
consciousness at the time.
With his release from the mental hospital
we went to
the prayer meeting. Neither of us having a car we asked if someone
could drive us home. An older couple offered. While in the car Frank,
whose brilliant mind knew his Bible frontwards and backwards, was
spouting exact quotes from the Bible, including lengthy phrases. The
older woman was terribly impressed. As we were dropped off at the
apartment she took Franks’ hand, “young man, you have no
idea what a joy it is to meet someone who has his
together and knows the Lord.” I almost threw up.
An incident occurred that was to give me
to let him go. He had gone again to Canada to visit
had been sober a while. Hope peeked through once again for all
involved. Again hopes dashed. He came home smashed.
Something must have triggered a feeling of a deeper despair within
All I had believed about life, the paths to
life, was shattered. Have enough faith, forgive seventy-seven times
seven, eat right, pray, sleep, live the Golden Rule, reach out to
others, care for your neighbor, be good to those that are homely,
invalids, sick. These had been my ‘mantras’ my living
prayers my entire life. In school I made friends with those who their
Once, a 7th grade teacher praised me for
friend to Maxine who had a very disfigured face, a face that was
almost ‘horse like.’ All rejected her in my class. I
would walk with her. I would eat with her at lunch time. I’ve
thought of her through the years. Had life blessed her in any way?
And now, I was in deep despair. My heart
Watching a great love turn to utter darkness. A man hell bent on
destroying himself was more than what was left of my gentle heart
which could endure no longer.
The next day, In the early hours of the
had a dream. I was in a lovely hospital. Floors were
highly polished, trees in bloom outside the window. Curtains. There
were lockers in my room. A small table by my bedside. A nurses aide
was fixing my covers and hanging clothes in the locker.
Suddenly, a jolt, like an electric shock
seconds I was being hurled into outer space. I ‘saw’
Earth below and getting smaller by the second. I felt euphoric. Free.
Thrilled. Weightlessness. All pain, suffering was gone, there was a
joy I cannot explain. My mind happily acknowledging, “I am free
now, free from the sorrows of the earth plane.”
A white swirling light formed, steady,
seemed to fill my whole being and yet it was outside
heard a voice, as if from a giant auditorium on a loud speaker
calling out in a booming voice. “NO! You must go
inner mind ‘talked’ to the voice, “You mean I have
no choice in the matter?” “NO! boomed the voice again.
You have not completed your life purpose.” “You must go
back, “ I breathed faintly in my mind to The Voice. You mean
back to Earth?” “Yes” the booming voice intoned.
Following my feeling of great
disappointment, I felt
a shudder and shock like having been given a defibrillator treatment.
I open my eyes. I was still in the hospital room. The nurse’s
aide still ‘fussing about.” I said to myself, “I
just died or had a Near Death Experience and she doesn’t even
Upon stating that in my dream, I awoke in
my own bed.
It was about 4:45 a.m. I pondered what happened. Had I died? As the
days unfolded from that experience I began to feel a warm glow in my
heart. I sensed it was my spirit or soul slowly coming back to this
life and into my body.
It is unclear at this time what transpired
next for I
realized that I had, on a deeper level, given up. The strain, the
disillusionments, the battered childhood, the marriages I worked so
hard on, the infidelities, financial struggles, no family support
systems, and adding insult to injury, best friends wanting sex with
The ultimate humiliation and hurt. Ingrid
me of ‘not loving Frank enough’ to let him drink in my
home! I looked back giving thanks I had at age
learned to protect myself to some degree. Destroy Ingrid’s
home, but not my peaceful, cherished, modest apt. My very compromised
nervous system, due to polio contracted at age 4, had left my right
arm lifeless. I had reached a breaking point. No. What insanity to
let him drink in my place?
We parted. Though the NDE was
giving me back life, I was to go another decade in
grief, sorrow loss. Loss of love, loss of friendship, loss of my
sanity, loss of friends, and the unexplainable horror of watching a
man whose soul, intelligence, looks, kindness, bodily strength and
physical beauty, sensitivity, compassion far exceeded any man I had
ever known, continue to destroy himself.
For several years I functioned in the world
not talk about this part of my life and loss. I read once, years
before I met Frank, of a woman who married her childhood sweetheart.
They were deeply in love. Attended college together. Married. Two
years later he was killed in an automobile accident. She was
inconsolable. She made a decision to enter a monastery as she could
speak to no one of her pain. She stated she would come out when she
could talk again. It was ten years later she reentered the
When I read that account I had thought,
foolish to deny ten years of your life with all the beauty of the
world around, friends, children, to die this way.
I thought, “a few years of therapy and she would
have been fine. How foolish. What a waste of a young
would later, painfully understand and eat through endless salty
tears, those critical thoughts.
Several years of darkness passed. No family
understood or supported. I began therapy. I seemed to get no where. I
told them of my pain, my being dead in side, my great grief. Nothing.
I told them I loved him to the depths of my being. He had touched my
soul and spirit as no one else. The only person in the world who had
brought understanding, compassion, tenderness, kindness into my
world. Still, therapy was futile. A deeper arena of my soul and heart
was not being reached nor being healed.
At some point I knew I did not wish to
way the rest of my life. I remembered the thrill
sunsets, watching birds, seeing a flock of forty-eight swans on the
river, my elation when vegetable seedlings I had planted appeared. I
remembered my experiences with animals, the thrill of a great loaf of
bread coming out of the oven almost perfectly. I desired deeply to
know these feelings once again.
More therapy. Each wanted me on
did not believe this soul
sickness and loss any pill could correct.
the ultimate healer. Several serious experiences, financial
privations added to the woes, but in time because I wished it so, I
realized it was up to me to allow my soul to open and blossom
Despite my still dead insides I planted
visited friends, I ate well, I prayed, I began to open more to
people, share my feelings, I returned to Al-Anon on and off. I came
to see that growing in life was essential and the journey in
ourselves is much like climbing a great mountain. We have setbacks.
We stumble and fall. We pick ourselves up. There are good days, worst
days days when I questioned, “is it all worth it?”
Eleanor Roosevelt stated, “No matter what happens in life, you
must do the best you can and keep on going.” My elderly
neighbor recently stated when I asked how she was, “I just keep
moving Joyce, just keep moving.”
It was years before I could finally give up
Cinderella Dream that Frank would get better and we’d be
together. In time I had to force shutting off the very mentioning of
his name and thoughts of him. It was an act of will. Never in my life
had I enjoyed the heart, mind, soul and beauty of a man as I did him.
Great compassion and understanding has
emerged as to
the source of addiction and how it starts. You keep trying something
that doesn’t work but you believe it will. At some point, the
point of no return occurs, and something takes you over the edge. An
addiction begins because you wish to repeat the good feeling again,
but those moments are never
The unfulfilled need takes on a mind of its
knew a woman who was addicted to peanut butter for four years. Ate
nothing else. We know the other classic addictions that destroy the
body, mind and soul. I had no addictions up to age 40 when I met
Frank. Didn’t drink, smoke, over eat. I was told by friends I
had the most balanced mind of anyone they knew. I loved life. I had
had many spiritual, unusual experiences along with great sorrows. I
had become addicted to the idea that there wasn’t something I
could say, do, read, that would stop the drinking. If I gave enough
love, enough forgiveness, enough patience, enough faith, but in the
end I lost my sanity and sense of self.
I learned there is little magic in life.
and endless growth. In Al-Anon the slogan of “Do not take
another’s inventory,” became clearer and
clearer. Anything we say or do directed to another
away the growth and awareness we must develop as to our own
abilities. Had I loved and respected myself as much as I should have,
I would never have gotten involved with an alcoholic much less tried
to cure him. We women love to think we can change others. We cannot.
It is only ourselves we can change and what a life long job that is.
The statement Jesus makes, “Do not be concerned with the speck
in your brother’s eye, but seek first removing the board in
your own,” never became so clear as at this stage of my life.
Though Frank entering my life was like a
Tsunami hitting the shore, and I liken it also to a mach truck
running over a violet, I look back and realize my
growth came afterwards. I was living in isolation and the seeds of
dysfunctionality were still deep within from childhood pain,
abandonment, and no loving support systems. The fears of being beaten
as a child/young woman, the mental abuse were all I had known and so
I chose only that which I knew. Being with an alcoholic and the chaos
it offered reinforced my years being beaten as a child and budding
Yes, there was the amazingly beautiful side
relationship. A happiness I had never experienced before and to this
day never repeated. In time we come to learn there is a positive and
negative to all events, people, situations.
We all carry a Dark Shadow, a
us. In time, life or ourselves chooses the catalyst that brings that
darkness into light. Writer, Ernest Hemmingway concludes at the end
of one of his books, “Life. It’s a dirty rotten trick.”
Yes it is, no doubt about it. In the long run if we gain in
character, learn to know ourselves, grow in respect
love for ourselves we’ll then deal with all the dirty tricks
with grace and humor.
Many many years later I was to a card
said to bring pictures of those I wished for her
brought his picture along with those of other family members. She
studied it a while and slowly brought forth her impressions from his
This man is a fallen angel she intoned. He
forgotten what it was to be human, to know the ills and sufferings of
human kind. He was born back into the earth plane as an alcoholic to
be a catalyst for others. I was stunned. The first year of our
relationship I wrote a poem about him as having been a mighty angel
that had come from a far. She said it would have been a long-lasting
beautiful relationship but he did not make that choice.
When I first attended an open AA meeting I
people state who got up to speak, “Hello. My name is Harry and
I am a grateful alcoholic.” I lowered my head. Grateful? Losing
family, home, relationships, destroying a life for eighteen years or
Years following our stormy, chaotic, but
relationship I now understand why they said what they did, and now, I
say the same. Firstly, I am alive for the depths of despair, pain,
and emptiness I experienced offered me an opportunity to decide
whether I wished to live or die. Having children, I chose to live.
Having been an avid reader since grammar school, I had expected,
rightly so, that enough knowledge would prepare one for anything life
Nothing one can ever read, obtain endless
can ever prepare nor describe the journey an addiction takes one on.
Though I never drank, nor smoked, the Dark Shadow in us gets you
somewhere, at some point in time. Then, there is a valiant struggle
to reach joy, goodness, peace of mind, and sanity once again. The
thousands and thousands of books I had read in my life were as dead
leaves on the ground just as the
of snow that begin to fall on a warm ground melt immediately.
I learned that I loved him far more than I
given a wink to loving myself in the same way. I wish I had, or could
have, accepted on a deeper level the concepts as put forth by the
Al-Anon people. I can change no one but myself. I cannot tell anyone
else what to do. With Frank I just couldn’t believe there was
some way to reach that place that pulled him into darkness.
My faith was great, my love the deepest I
known for someone save my children. I nearly died giving praise,
encouragement, support, let alone the number of healers I took him
to. If only, oh those simple words, if only I had known what
alcoholism was truly about.
I lamented for years giving all that
words of healing, extending myself for his greater good. Meanwhile,
my self-esteem already compromised was rapidly seeping downwards much
like a leaf caught in a whirlpool, and from which I could not
Yes, in time I observed, as though from a
the inner areas of my brain that could not be reached by words,
reading, exercise, even prayer. I began to understand why only 1 in
60 alcoholics make it to sobriety. Despite many areas of my life that
improved, It was years before I could admit my emotional addiction to
his disease, and see how very difficult it is for the drinker to stop
despite all the best intentions.
For years I could not stop believing we
together again and resume our relationship before it
begun to erode as his drinking worsened and my addiction to it
deepened. It would be a long time before I could admit to myself I
was as addicted to him as he to his beer. For years after he was out
of my life a sister would state, “Joyce, he was your bottle.”
I would be indignant, how dare she! Perhaps she never knew the depths
of love I experienced, the friendship, the mental compatibility I had
known. Last but not least an amazing capacity he had for forgiveness
and understanding anything I came to him for help with.
Just as hard as it is to alter the course
of a river
has been my efforts on a deep level to release the memories, and yet,
at times, continue to deal with anger and pain of years I stuffed all
those emotions and feelings to function. They still surface. Still
need being brought to the light for disbursement.
I liken our travails, frustrations,
disappointments to the little speck of something that gets inside the
oyster’s shell. Through time, the oyster’s attempt to rid
herself of the irritation results in the forming of some kind of
coating, or calcium like exterior surrounding the irritation. In
time, a beautiful pearl is formed having a luster, a delicate hue, a
perfect round pearl.
Could these travails we all have lead us
to the ‘pearl of great price’ that is spoken of in the
Bible? One thing is certain. To cease to grow is to wither and die.
We may feel at times we’re at that point, but our spirits know
better. Like the flowers that grow and whose beauty we enjoy,
underneath that beauty is struggle to put deeper roots further into
the ground to get water and nutrients. That magnificent effort they
put forth, unbeknownst to us, eventually brings us to such beauty
that mankind, with all its technology can not create on its own.
In closing, I have pondered deeply that day
Margaret in the hospital. From that day on my life took a turn I
would never have dreamed possible. Had I never gone to visit that
day, with Margaret to be released the following day, where would I be
today? I dreamed of creating a counseling service, becoming a singer,
a healer, a force for good, an actress. Was it destined I meet Frank
in that hospital many, many years ago? Was it free will or
mother often spoke of ‘the fickle-finger of fate’. I
couldn’t agree with her more.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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