WARNING! This is not my usual type of post...it isn't funny, informative, or lighthearted. It is in fact lengthy, very real, and might be seen as slightly unnerving for those who know me. It is also one I feel the need to write...
I'm not a fan of consuming alcohol...in any shape or form. Probably because I've seen and lived through what it can do to an individual as well as those in close proximity to them. Alcoholism used to be considered a disease...I don't know if it is still classified as that or not, I quit following that line of thinking many years ago. I wanted it to be a disease, although by classifying it as such it also becomes an excuse and I'm not real big on excuses! But as a child of an alcoholic sometimes that's just the only way to deal with the questions, the "whys" of an alcoholic person's actions and/or words...it can sometimes help you deal with the anger you feel toward that person as well. But there comes a time when you just have to realize there really is NO excuse for any type of abuse...physical or verbal, alcoholic or not.
My dad was an alcoholic...he was what, over the years, became termed as a binge drinker. He didn't drink all the time, he didn't drink every weekend... perhaps that was only because my mother forbid alcohol in our home. He'd have a spell of a short period of time, sometimes once or twice a year, but during those times he became quite literally a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide". My mother, who endured this kind of lifestyle for fifty four years of marriage learned early on when to detect the signs that would lead to a very unsettling evening. As a child, I learned to depend on my mother's detection to keep us from the worst of the onslaught. It's not my intention to run through the memories of some of those occasions...some things really are better off left unspoken and in all honesty, I have no wish to dredge up things now that certainly won't change things, nor do I have a desire to "beat up" the memory of my father....he was what he was and no amount of wishful thinking or prayer ever changed that. But to keep imaginations from building, my dad was never physically or verbally abusive to me.
That's also not to say I don't have fond memories of my dad...I do. I actually have several such memories and the older I got the more I came to accept that those were as good as I was going to get. Again I have to give my mother credit for that outlook. I don't remember ever seeing my mother "unsettled", she was in fact a rock, steady as could be and my dad's binges never seemed to shake her up. She didn't understand him, she could never wrap her mind around why he didn't want to change, or how he came to be the way he was, or why he said and did the things he did...but she also accepted the fact that it was just who and how he was. She never made excuses for him, at least never to me. She never expected us to love him unconditionally...I don't feel like it was ever "expected" of us to love him at all...she never handed us platitudes of "the poor man", or "he can't help it"..she allowed us to feel what we actually felt. She never covered up what he said or what he did. We did not grow up thinking we were not to talk about it, and while she never walked around announcing to the world how my dad was, she certainly never shied away from stating the truth of the matter when asked. She also allowed us to question the reasoning behind some of his actions and was brutally honest in telling us she just didn't know why. She did it with a calm, straightforwardness that thankfully relayed to me it wasn't her fault, my fault, ANYONE'S fault...it was his...he chose to live the life he did and he also chose to not do anything about it. I'm very thankful for that, because there came a point in my younger life that I hated my dad...hated him enough to wish him dead. I wasn't alone in those feelings, all of my siblings at one point and time had/have felt the same way...I'm pretty sure some of them still have those feelings. Thankfully there also came for me a time in my young adulthood that God, quite literally, showed me a picture of just what hating him was doing to me and with that epiphany, the hatred left me. I still hated the actions, the words, and the alcohol, but I never again hated my dad. In truth, I learned to love him for who he was.
All of these thoughts came back to me after checking the messages on my answering machine. Unfortunately I had one from the only still living brother I have...it was drunken and filthy, something he is quite good at being, has always been good at. He's always been good at spewing forth his hatred to me and our mother and both of us have endured his litany of abuse for many, many years. He's also the only one of us siblings that is/was an alcoholic. He's the only one of us kids our mother ever attempted to make an excuse for...she laid blame at our dad's feet (which was justified), but also took upon herself some of that blame as well (which was NOT). Now that's not to say that Mom expected me to endure his rantings, or excuse his behavoir...she didn't. She just always said she felt like if our dad had been different maybe my brother wouldn't have turned out like he was. I think she also felt if she hadn't of stayed in the marriage and put up with what SHE did that somehow that would have kept my brother from turning out the way he did...maybe, maybe not. But what I know, and often told my mother, HE is accountable for his actions and (just like our dad) HE could choose to do something about it. And while this self-same brother would never believe it, our mother worried and prayed over him her entire life. I also know she cried many, many tears for the life he chose to live and that was something I never saw her do for our dad. He would also never believe.... that she loved him and she endured a more broken heart over him than she ever did over our father.
You often hear there is a real thin line between love and hate....I believe that...because I've experienced it. I loved my big brother for many years. He was my idol, I looked up to him, and I depended upon him. He took care of me when I was little and our mother had to go to work. He quite often would thump my other older brother (who was younger than him) when he was picking on me, which was also quite often! :) He brought me cotton candy from the fair in town, of which to this day, I never eat without remembering my first one. He bought me a teddy bear that was almost bigger than I was when I was no more than three years old and I have an old black and white photograph to remind me of that. I also recall him hauling me out of a ditch around that same age when I had managed to stumble and fall into it because the other brother didn't help me across as he was told to do. He cleaned and bandaged my scraped knees afterwards too. He fashioned a complete and believable tale of Rudolph pulling Santa's sleigh across our evening sky one Christmas Eve when I was no more than eight and used the airplane's blinking red light to prove it. I don't remember, but have been told, he also always held me on his lap in another room while listening to one of our dad's drunken rantings. I have no memories...none...of him ever being mean to me, of him ever getting angry at something I'd done, or yelling at me in any way...none. I laid in my bed and cried for hours when I knew he was being shipped to Vietnam...I was old enough to be aware of that war and to know that many didn't come back. I was terrified he wouldn't come back. He made me get out of bed and dry my tears because he assured me he WOULD be back...he promised me and he had never, ever broken a promise to me so I believed him. There is another old black and white photograph that captures me standing at his side, in his Army uniform, with his arm tucked around me, readying to leave. He was my protector, ten foot tall and bullet proof...just what you would imagine a big brother as being, and I loved him.
I don't know where that brother went...he disappeared one day never to return. That brother was replaced by another man who is more verbally viscous than his father ever thought about being. That man is cruel and mean, both physically and verbally and has done more lasting physical and verbal damage to his own family than his dad ever came close to doing to his. That man has spewed forth more vile and filthy accusations to me and our mother that I wonder at times has ever been produced by another human being. That man's hatred is so palpable that you see it in his every move and it drips with his every word. This man's hatred and anger has consumed him....and it has also consumed the love I once had. I'm ashamed of him, I pity him...and yes,....I hate him. I hate who he became and who he still is. I hate his mouth, his actions, his stupidity. I hate his weakness, his seemingly joy at hurting others, but most of all, I hate that he seems to be so proud of the fact of who he is, how he acts, and what he does.
I've tried time after time to overlook what he's said and what he's done...I've forgiven episode after episode of his verbal abuse, not only to me, but to our mother as well. I've tried year after year to curtail my own anger when dealing with him and to keep watch on my own words in retaliation. Through the endless filth, the accusations, and the spewed hatred I've worried, I've cried, and I've prayed for him. Since our mother's death two years ago...I've failed at doing pretty much all of those. I tried to overlook the fact he showed up at my house to our mother's deathbed in a totally drunken state. I tried to forgive the stupid and ridiculous rantings he carried on at her bedside. I've tried to block out the fact that my mother left this world still listening to his drunken carrying-ons, his railing at "her God"...I've also tried to forget that I even allowed him in to see her.
Once upon a time I had three brothers...I now have none. Two I lost to death...one to alcohol. I haven't spoken to my only living brother since a few weeks after our mother's death when once again I was subjected to his drunken abuse during a phone call. This time I did not overlook his words, I did not curtail my own, I could not and had no desire to pray about it afterwards. I slammed the phone down on him and I have not forgiven him for it since...and yet....he continues. Because of a drunken tirade in the store where my d-n-l works and him being asked to leave the premises due to it, he felt the need to call my house and leave me a message of how he felt and what he thought of me and my family...it was nothing new or unusual, it was pretty much par for the course, but it starts again the chain reaction of feelings and emotions that goes along with being tied to an alcoholic. Alcohol can kill in more ways than one and an actual death is the least of it's concern. It kills the essence of the real person who once lived inside the one that now is. It kills the structure of a family to the point it may never be repaired again. It kills the love that used to be and destroys any attempt at gaining it back. It kills the reason, intelligence, and the thinking abilities. It kills the desire to be anything but what you are....and for the one who is on the receiving end of it, it can kill your ability to forgive. Alcohol is deadly and just like actual death, once it kills, there's no coming back.
There are times when I think I still love this brother, no matter what he's said and done...but most often I don't. Most often it doesn't feel like he even is my brother. Time doesn't always heal all wounds, especially when those wounds are tied to such strong mental images they become total recall when triggered. If there is anything left of the person he used to be I cannot find it, no matter how hard I try to look. I can pull out every psychology book I own and try to reason why he does what he does, but I just can't quite make myself believe what I read. I could allow the blame to fall on our dad and those times he also became someone we didn't know, but, in reality, my brother is accountable for living his own life and has no one to blame but himself...he's chosen this lifestyle freely.
If you gain any insight from reading this I hope it would be this...NO ONE is to blame for the actions of an abusive person, alcoholic or not. You cannot be good enough, give up enough, do without enough, or suffer enough to make it right enough in their eyes they will walk away from their anger and take responsibility for their own actions.You can't cry enough, beg enough, or love enough to change an abusive person's actions. You can't argue, reason, cajole, or explain anything to an alcoholic...it's impossible because they choose not to listen nor do they want to be told they are wrong. I can also tell you this...there is NO EXCUSE for it either...and until they are ready to take responsibility for themselves, the life that surrounds them continues on and with it will eventually come a "killing" in some form or fashion, whether to themselves or those they claim to love. It's a viscous and ugly cycle that repeats itself over and over again and the only way to stop the cycle is to get out of it or get away from it. It's what I chose for myself and I'm glad I did. I have very little "family" left....most of my extended family has an addiction of some form or other and those addictions have destroyed any semblance of what it means to even be a family. Do I wish it was different? Most certainly...will I put up with the abuse, the mockery, the hurt intended or otherwise to have a mere tidbit of a family...I will not. I've made my choice and they appear to have made theirs.