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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cover me...

This past weekend I watched the movie “Shattered Spirits.” There was a scene in the movie where the drunken father insists that his 15-year non-licensed son drive the family car back home while the father stays at a bar. The young boy tries desperately to make his father understand that he cannot drive the car because he has no driver’s license. Of course, the father’s main concern is how soon he can get back inside the bar to continue what is important to him – drinking.

While watching that scene, I was reminded of an incident involving Riley and Alea that went along those same lines. Remembering brought about anger and tears. It was difficult to watch.

We had moved from Navy housing in Norfolk into a home in Newport News. When we moved from base housing, Alea left many of her closest friends behind. I did my best to help her maintain the relationships by taking her to visit her friends and encouraging them to visit our new home. I didn’t want her to feel that she must sacrifice her friends in exchange of our home ownership.

It was Easter. Alea was only 14 years old.  The distance was about 25 miles over and through the Hampton Roads Bay Bridge Tunnel. Riley had told me that he had to go into his command for a few hours. Alea begged him to take her with him and drop her off in housing so she could be with her two closest girl friends. She promised she would be at a specific house when her father picked her up.

Riley was hesitant, but said it would be fine with him. I was also concerned because Alea had a habit of not being where she said she would be at any specified time. It had been a bone of contention between us whenever I took her to visit. She had been acting out lately and I felt that special privileges had not yet been earned. Riley was also not extremely reliable about being home at a certain time. But, I knew that if Alea was at Elizabeth’s house – she would be safe until her father arrived. Both, she and Riley, ganged up on me and I consented.

The plan was that Riley would drop Alea off at Elizabeth’s house and she would meet up with three of her other friends. Then she would return to Elizabeth’s house to wait for her father. He would pick her up at about 3 p.m. They would be home in time for the Easter dinner that I would be preparing over the course of the time they were gone.

Brian had gone over to his friend’s house to shoot some pool and would be home by 3 p.m. to help put the finishing touches on Easter dinner. I spent my “alone” time taking a nice long hot bath, watched an old movie, and in between time, I baked a couple of pies. I remember that day so well.

Brian showed up and made the salad, set the table and did a few other things. I watched the clock. If they left Norfolk at 3 p.m., they would be home by about 4 p.m. considering the holiday traffic. I planned for dinner to be served between 5 and 5:30 pm.

The clocked ticked by… 4 p.m. came and went… 5 p.m. and no Riley or Alea. No phone calls. 5 p.m. turned into 6 p.m. and I was starting to panic. I called the command – Riley was not there and had not been there. I called Elizabeth’s house – yes they had already left for Newport News. Where were they?? Had there been an accident? This was before cell phones and I felt helpless. Time edged on into darkness – it’s now past 8 p.m. Brian and I ate some dinner, but I was beyond worried.

I called all of Alea’s friends and they all confirmed that they had all seen her, but she left with her father. In my mind, I was imaging that Alea was not where she said she would be and the Riley was out looking for her. The other images going through my head were just too horrible to be vocalized.

At little after 9 o’clock, the car pulls into the driveway. They were home. Now that I knew they were safe – I was livid. Could they not have called me?? Had they had no idea how worried I would be??

It took another 2 hours before the truth of the incident actually came to surface. Riley had picked Alea up at Elizabeth’s as planned. But after being in the car with her father headed for the tunnel – Alea insisted he take her back to Elizabeth’s because she was frightened. Riley was drunk and trying to drive but not doing a very good job. Riley refused to take her back to her friends and instead stopped at a coffee shop where Riley ordered a cup to go. But, when they got back to the car he poured vodka into the cup.

Alea kept insisting that Riley pull over off the interstate and he accommodated her – but not for long. The routine stops were made several more times. During the last stop, Alea told her father SHE would drive home and he could sober up. She said that I would never know and so I would not be made at him, but rather at her. She’d tell me that she lost track of time and wasn’t at Elizabeth’s house on time. He agreed. She got behind the wheel of the car and he passed out in the passenger’s seat. Once they got through the tunnel, Alea drove around town to give her father more time to get the alcohol out of his system. Then, when they turned into our subdivision, she stopped the car just about a block from our house. She made him get out of the car and walk around in the cool night air. Then he got back in the driver’s seat, and they came home.

I was listening in awe and disgust and disbelief. My 14 year old daughter, who did NOT know how to drive, had to traverse that car through the tunnel on the freeways in holiday traffic in order to get her father back home. I didn’t know what to do – should I hug her or punish her.

The next day, I told Riley it was best if he just stayed on the base until his boat left for deployment. It had not gone un-noticed by me that he never even went to the boat and the sting of all the lies was just more than I could handle at the time. He stayed on base and only came home every other weekend for the next six weeks – then he went on a four month deployment. I was happy to have him gone.


Syd said...

Sad stuff. I remember my dad driving drunk. It was frightening. He would not relinquish the wheel. Instead, we weaved. My mother sat and didn't say anything. I think these things definitely contribute to the anxiety that children feel. Alcoholism wounds. I am still dealing with healing from those wounds.

Karen E. said...

I am taking care of my end stage mother. I have been Thankful that she did not start drinking until I was 16 or so. I DID not grow up in an alcoholic home. My mother did. I had a very good childhood.

After reading your post I am even more thankful. Thank you for sharing. What a nightmare.

jo said...

wow. how awful. and a great example of addiction and the addict. my dad drove far better drunk. weird huh.

ADDY said...

I pity your poor daughter. Like mine, she has had to put up with a lot, but it has probably made her stronger. For her to drive home at the age of 14 makes me speechless. You must have been so worried.

Anonymous said...

That's disgusting .
He's a pig not to feel wracked with guilt

Gabriele Goldstone said...

Somebody Big was looking out for your daughter.
I've done the waiting - and I know that feeling in your gut...

Ann said...

I wonder how often this scenario occurs.. it was in the papers here about two weeks ago. It was a nine year old, driving a pickup truck. Dad was passed out in the passenger seat. The things we teach our children are outrageous...how to be the perfect enabler.

Beth said...

So sad Linda, but typical of the amazing lack of judgment portray by addicts. Feed the addiction at all costs. You must have been so scared. Heck, Alea must have been terrified!

Agnes Marie Buenaventura said...

so sad By the way, for alcoholics out there who need to attend AA meetings but couldn’t find one that details the AA schedule, I found a great schedule of AA’s at sober.com. I’m not affiliated with this site, I just want recovering alcoholics out there to find a comprehensive list of AA meetings just in case you are relocating or searching for an AA meeting in your new place. For the complete list of AA meetings, here’s the link: http://sober.com/aa-alcoholic-anonymous-meetings.html