Addiction
 





Joyce Benedict



 
© Copyright 2021 by Joyce Benedict
Photo by liquor store sign.
                           
 
The word ‘addition’ for most conjures images of unfortunate people  caught up in alcohol or drugs, that they lack willpower, that they must  all be mentally ill. There is a far more insidious  addiction——an 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 to sanity. An experience I would never have dreamed, loving life as I did.

I never became addicted to anything until Frank 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 much, 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 them.  Couldn’t they try a little willpower?

Actually, I prided myself on willpower.  Friends 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 breakfast buffet.  The generous portions of every food imaginable was in equal proportion to the generous price.  An offer by a friend to attend one Sunday morning was gladly accepted.  As 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 times and there were just as many trips back to the dessert table.  

I was proud that I had conquered those urges to stuff oneself years ago.  Being overweight as a child and wearing ‘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 healthy.  

I had smoked in college.  Almost a pack a week. When I married and became pregnant I gave it up.  Although 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 Frank.  

The wife of my son’s guitar teacher shocked us all that fall having to be  admitted to a local hospital for an attempted suicide.   I went to visit Margaret when allowed.  A woman in her early seventies she reminded one of a Russian noblewoman,  dignified with a dark,  throaty voice,  shadows of an aging Greta Garbo or Ethel Barrymore.  We had discussed philosophy, religion, art, metaphysics while my son learned classical guitar with her husband who had been good friends with the famous guitarist, Anton Segovia. 

Sitting across from her in the hospital room, 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 she was 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 wide with 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 concussion.  Tim across the hall has had a nervous breakdown. His wife just lost their fourth attempt at having a baby.  Nellie, down the hall, is 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 off in conversation immediately.  Joyce, he is the tenth alcoholic 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 alcoholic.  He told me they were all quite handsome.  Scottish ancestry. Father alcoholic after losing his sight from the war.  He received a Canadian disability pension.  You’ve got to meet this fellow.  You cannot believe this intelligent creature has been drinking since he was eighteen.  We’ve 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 rural Mid-Hudson Valley New York town.  Her husband had had an apartment in New York City and he spent three days with her and four there.  No wonder he had been able to keep his lover’s existence from her.  She seemed to take solace that others had equally disturbing problems and her own plight had diminished as her perspective had widened considerably the week she had been in the hospital.  

I gave her a hug with promises to bring some decent food in a few days.  I drove home saddened by her plight, 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 rose. 

The next few visits revealed steady improvement  She was coming around quickly.  Her innate curiosity and intensity about life had surfaced.  We laughed more with each visit and she devoured my homemade goodies with relish. 

A few days away from her release I visited her one last time.  She was in therapy when I arrived and I was 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 room.  He was a cross in looks between Errol Flynn and Clark Gable.  I figured he was visiting someone as I was.  He had on dark trousers and a white shirt.  Black wavy hair and dark brows were in dramatic contrast to the white shirt.  He grinned a Clark Gable grin to someone else in the room as he entered.  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 from my second husband and struggling to make ends meet.  Teenage 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 held top priority.  

The handsome brute sat down.  I couldn’t help but notice the shirt open displaying a dark, hairy chest.  His every movement was that of an athlete.  Strong, powerful legs could be seen through thin summer trousers.  He picked up a magazine to read but was soon engaged in a lively conversation with a young man to his right.  From my vantage point I 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 impressions flooded my mind.  I always had a heightened awareness about things and people.  Friends said I had an  x-ray vision, that I seemed to peer into their souls at times.  As I 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 for a 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 perceived an 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 me about!  “I don’t believe it!”  I exclaimed to myself, “not this extraordinary creature!”  Just then Margaret came into the room.  Too many people had gathered that prevented me from what I wanted to do, blurt out loudly to her, “Is that the man you were telling me about?”  In my heart I knew it was.

He saw her and waved and inquired of her day.  They spoke across the room.  He was so extremely handsome that I could barely look his way.  Again, I felt a blush rise as I lowered my gaze.

Next thing I knew he sat beside Margaret and she introduced me.  I felt the blush return.  Immediately they were immersed in  a heady, philosophical discussion.  I was drawn in.  We chatted excitedly.  He tested me.  He smiled.  I answered.  We were plunged into university quality discussions.  He was quick, bright, yet listened intently when either of us spoke.  Inwardly, I could not believe this man was an alcoholic, in and out of hospitals for the past ten years.

Responsibilities called and I had to leave Margaret 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 resort. For 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 easily and I learned more about his life. He was the tenth son born of a Canadian family. His father had served in World War 1 now  on 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 York. 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 ecstatic.

At age four Ingrid believed it only right that the 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 realize 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 was to 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 father 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, handsome 6’3” 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 home. He 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 reams in 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 had  read 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, having 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 over  when I concluded the reading by stating simply, “Will you marry me?”

I was astounded at my brashness. I think I even 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 cover  his surprise at my bold question.

We met where he lived in Poughkeepsie. Took strolls 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 straightforward 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 every 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 was shy being undressed with two former husbands, I felt none of this with this man.

When my own issues surfaced at times about family or 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 striking 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 side. 

As with this new and wonderful relationship I had 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 long as three months.

Of course when the desire to drink surfaced I felt 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 time.

Because I was extremely sensitive and ‘psychic’ 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 better writers than myself, why bother? 

When I expressed thoughts of written themes to him, 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. The  black 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 children  right 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, especially Frank.

The phone would ring. I would pick it up. “Ah, 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 all pills 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 becoming spiritually sick.  Forced myself to do chores. My  heart 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 and an increasing awareness of my budding mature beauty. 

Seeping into my poor confused, crazed brain,  I knew eventually that I must never answer the phone again when he calls for me to pick him up at a rehab with all his  lackluster apologies;  his  ‘this time is the end 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 the 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 alcohol.

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 nutrients.

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 this 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 airport one time, he was very drunk  and had smoked pot which he never 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 forgave 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, drinking.  I detested going to them. I neither drank nor smoked but already deep into my own addiction.

 I was aware of being caught up in the insanity 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. I  stopped cleaning my beautiful apartment. Weeds had captured my garden just as his disease had captured me. Friends no  longer called. I was a dead woman walking.

The last chiropractor who I took him too had spoken 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 side.” 

I went back to Al-anon. This time I knew I needed the 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 cared. No 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 loved him.

We had often spoken of the strange dealings life 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 could not 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 painful 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 he had ‘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 Frank was 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 you two I almost went off the road.”

Towards the end of this beautiful relationship that became a nightmare, he often had to be admitted to a locked ward of a mental hospital.  It so happened that week I learned a 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 for 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 act all together and knows the Lord.” I almost threw up. 

An incident occurred that was to give me the strength to let him go. He had gone again to Canada to visit family.  He 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 me.

All I had believed about life, the paths to a ‘godly’ 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 classmates rejected.

Once, a 7th grade teacher praised me for being a 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 broken. 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 morning  I 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 and in 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, strong, it seemed to fill my whole being and yet it was outside me.  I heard a voice, as if from a giant auditorium on a loud speaker calling out in a booming voice. “NO! You must go back!”  My 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 know it.!”  

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 Frank.

The ultimate humiliation and hurt. Ingrid had accused me of ‘not loving Frank enough’ to let him drink in my home!  I looked back giving thanks I had at age forty-two, 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 transformative in giving me back life,  I was to go another decade in deep 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 but could 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 world. 

When I read that account I had thought, “how foolish to deny ten years of your life with all the beauty of the world around, friends, children,  to die this way. Why,” I thought,  “a few years of therapy and she would have been fine. How foolish. What a waste of a young life.”  I would later, painfully understand and eat through endless salty tears, those critical thoughts.

Several years of darkness passed. No family that 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 remain this way the rest of my life. I remembered the thrill of  gorgeous 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 antidepressants. I did not believe this soul  sickness and loss any pill could correct. Time was 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 again. 

Despite my still dead insides I planted flowers, I 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 the 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 repeatable.

The unfulfilled need takes on a mind of its own. I 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. Many lessons 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 takes 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 great Tsunami hitting the shore, and I liken it also to a mach truck running over a violet,  I look back and realize my greatest 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 teenager. 

Yes, there was the amazingly beautiful side to the 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 Saboteur  in 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 and 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 reader. She said to bring pictures of those I wished for her insights.  I brought his picture along with those of other family members. She studied it a while and slowly brought forth her impressions from his picture. 

This man is a fallen angel she intoned. He had 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 heard 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 more? Grateful? 

Years following our stormy, chaotic, but loving 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 dealt you. 

Nothing one can ever read, obtain endless degrees, 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 first flakes of snow that begin to fall on a warm ground melt immediately. 

I learned that I loved him far more than I had ever 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 had ever 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 energy, powerful 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 extricate myself.

Yes, in time I observed, as though from a distance, 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 would be together again and resume our relationship before  it had 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, betrayals, 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 eventually 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 I visited 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 fate?  My mother often spoke of ‘the fickle-finger of fate’. I couldn’t agree with her more. 




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