This was a blog post I had on an old blog I’ve since retired. It seems everyone I get to know on a deep personal level has been touched by addiction whether within their own immediate family or other close people in their life. I’m inspired by people who are able to turn it around and inspire others, like Sam, and am saddened by those stories that are still breaking people’s hearts and ruining lives.
Apples, Trees and Addictions
Last week I found the most beautiful picture of a relative when she graduated high school. When I see pictures of her, I can’t help but feel this deep sadness. Essentially, she died from her addiction which makes me wonder about addictions and generations and how it all works.
A few months before Priscilla (we’ll call her) died, as she suffered from hepatitis C, my dad caught her snooping in my parents’ basement for booze. If they had any in their basement it was older than old. I can’t imagine the scene but the woman was having problems controlling her bowels, bleeding out of her nose and still could not get that monkey off of her back. It’s a sad story, is it not?
… and as I struggle with a minor thing like turning away junk food and talking myself into exercising, I wonder what the utter disconnect is that one cannot say, “No.” I think about genetics and learned behaviors and, ultimately, I wonder about coping mechanisms and how all of that works.
Genetically, poor Priscilla was doomed. Her grandfather and great-grandfather both died from the effects of alcoholism. On her maternal side of her family, alcoholism is a problem as well.
I think alcoholism, thinking about it through the generations, is both a genetic disease and a learned behavioral one as well. I know children who were adopted take on addiction problems like their adopted parents. Booze was an every day event in Priscilla’s childhood home – a learned behavior in addition to the genetic one.
I wonder about that barrier, about that point in which having one or two drinks after a bad day, or a good day, at the office just doesn’t cut it. That point in which it literally becomes “drowning your sorrows.” I wonder about an existence that just isn’t bearable without the booze (or any medication/alteration for one’s mood). I wonder about a woman who was a few years away from death’s door and could not stop the inevitable. …and I wonder about daily life in a fog.
I drank my fair share in college, I’ll never ever deny that. I never really drank much in high school so when I got to college I just behaved terribly with it. To say I couldn’t “hold my liquor” is an understatement. I got the hang of it, eventually, and severely welcomed those evenings when there wasn’t a party. Frankly, it wasn’t the “PARTY” that I liked, it was the companionship, the conversations, the hanging out with my best friends… cutting a rug and letting loose. But I couldn’t function on a daily existence like that. There were too many early morning classes that I spent sleeping through or skipping my freshman year.
So if there’s one group of people I just cannot understand is functioning alcoholics. I don’t grasp how they are functioning at all, even hold down normal jobs, after drinking enough to knock the jolly green giant off of his feet.
Where it makes for a really sad story is when THEY know they need to stop… when THEY know they are playing Russian roulette. …or because of poor decisions they made while drinking they now want to drink to ease that new pain, from that new embarrassment from the night before or from the continued failed attempts. Can you imagine the embarrassment Priscilla felt when my dad found her in the basement and she lied about what she was up to?
A year or two before Priscilla died, her daughter revealed to me that Priscilla had been caught breaking into her neighbor’s home for some liquor. Can you imagine?
Let me paint a warm picture of this woman for you. Up until those last years of her life she was the life of the party, even when sober. She loved family, her family deeply loved her and relished her visits. She was a successful woman. She worked for herself her entire life. She had hobbies, some of which included keeping her horse and horseback riding, antiquing, putting on estate sales, crafting, and vacationing.
I wonder at what point drinking becomes one drink a night with dinner to getting drunk every night to escape. To DROWN. To hide. To medicate. I think the kicker for Priscilla was her last boyfriend died… I think she was just numbing everything until she could join him and took her coping to extreme measures.
It would be VERY smug of anyone to look at this situation with judgmental hearts and think they are so much better. Frankly, there have been more than a couple occasions where I know if I unpacked my bags and stayed at a low point in my life I would coast until death as well. By the grace of God I managed to get up in the morning and keep going (as Dory says, “Just keep swimming.”).
For anyone to look at people who struggle so hard at these low points and think of addicts being “weak,” then smug person has no idea the amount of strength it takes to move on. …To put one foot in front of another with baby steps. …To feel so low but fake holding your head high. To look at your days of the month or year and realize you spent more days crying than you did smiling. …To have that pit in your heart the size of the Grand Canyon never to be filled.
And if you think about it, isn’t that what this is all about? Filling that need?
Priscilla may have spent most of her life medicating as she was filling a need like so many of us…
Someone in a loveless marriage. Filling a need.
A woman with an empty a womb. Filling a need.
An adult who just can’t find their certain someone to settle down with. Filling a need.
An adult child that never got that final approval or feeling of love from his/her parent(s). Filling a need.
An employer who’s business is failing. Filling a need.
Lysa TerKeurst has a good book called “Made to Crave” and the book is about how people use food to fill that craving. That need. She suggests that God designed us this way, with this craving, to crave HIM. Not to crave alcohol, drugs, little chocolate donuts, work, sex. To crave HIM.
I wonder how different Priscilla’s life would have been if God was a part of her life. I wonder why she never made God a priority.
Is 59 too young to die? I don’t know. Priscilla had some good genes in her. 80’s was a good possibility. She could have had more horseback rides. More antiquing. More vacations to Mexico and back to her family.
I know my mom misses her terribly. I think of her often too. Months ago I was cleaning out my basement and came across a junky guitar that Priscilla had decorated with Christmas decorations all for me. It was a housewarming gift. I guess she liked all my Patsy Cline sessions. I had forgotten all about it. It’s going up this year [and it did]… And I’ll say some extra prayers for everyone with holes in their hearts to fill, that they find the right things to fill it with and the right people to hold their hands as they continue on in their struggles.