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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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Til death do we part...

I hate it when I get e-mails from people who have lost a loved one to alcoholism. My heart breaks for them and all I want is to hold them like a baby to ease the pain. I remember the unbearable stabbing in my heart when Captain Morgan stole my son from me.

I slugged my way through the memorial service with fake smiles and nods as loving friends and family took my hand and told me how sorry they were. My mind raced with sarcastic comments – they weren’t as sorry as I was and NO, I didn’t believe he was better off now. Instead I simply nodded and said “Thank you for coming.”

My older brother died of leukemia. I had the same feeling when he died that I did when my son died. Leukemia stole my brother and I didn’t think he was now in a much better place. His place was with
me and my other brothers. His place was on one of his barges or wheeling and dealing some buy/sell transaction. He was not supposed to be in a pretty box in the ground.

I suppose I feel the same way when anyone I love passes. The initial grief of losing a loved one is overwhelming to me. It takes me a while to calm down and accept what the other mourners are saying to me is just their way of trying to make me feel better. They aren’t being disrespectful. They are showing their love in whatever way they can.

I am grateful for all those who expressed their condolences. It was comforting to be able to see how many people loved my son and my brother. The fact that they simply attended and told him goodbye meant a lot to me. I looked around the room and knew he would be missed.

There were rumblings and discussions of Captain Morgan and what a shame it was that my son’s life was wasted. Those discussions were not directed at me very often. If they had been I would have responded with, WASTED? My son’s life was not wasted. It was cut short but not wasted. I would remind them that he had done a lot of good things, interesting things, productive things during the short time he was on the earth.

Just because someone is addicted to something doesn’t mean that person doesn’t have value. What about all the years when they weren’t an alcoholic? And sometimes they continue to be a productive member of society while also getting into the deeper throes of the bottle.

Alcoholics are a person first and not just an alcoholic. There are people who love this alcoholic person. They are someone’s spouse, parent, sibling, friend even if they may have become estranged as the disease progressed. The memories remain from days before.

The next time you have the misfortune to attend a memorial service, celebration of life, homegoing, funeral… whatever term you use… Instead of saying the deceased is no longer in pain try instead saying something positive about the person. “Your son (mother, father, sister, brother) was a loving person and I’ll miss his beautiful smile.” OR “Your father could be quite a rascal. I’ll miss his mischievousness.” You can even say “Your brother lived on the edge. He had an interesting life.”

I know that alcoholics create havoc, can be mean and not loving at all. Their value system fails and it seems that no one will miss them when they are gone. The fact is no one will miss the alcohol part of the person, but someone will miss the PERSON he was without the alcohol.


Once a person is gone it’s time to take alcohol inspired memories, put them in a box and hide the box away. Someday when the pain subsides, take them out and you can either laugh or cry. Then put them back in the box and burn it. It’s over. It’s done.

4 comments:

Sarah M said...

I found you a few years back. Probably while searching the internet for information on the mortality rates of alcoholics. I have followed you off and on since. My father battled alcoholism. Today is his birthday, and one year ago today, we held his memorial service. When I saw this post, I knew that it was meant for me to read. At his memorial service, I read the eulogy that I had written for him. I must admit, I had spent a lot of time over the years, mentally preparing his eulogy. What came out on paper was something I had never thought to share. I used my opportunity to honor my father, but also to shine a light on the darkness of the disease itself. There were few people at his memorial, but every single person told me that they saw alcoholism from a new perspective.I just want to remind you that your voice matters. To love, and even to be loved by an alcoholic is a treacherous journey. It's always reassuring to meet a fellow traveler.Thank you for posting this today.

Meg said...

That's a very wise and heartfelt reply to a great post. I have done the loving-treacherous journey. My daughter might be preparing what to say for her fathers eulogy I will suggest she reads this blog.

Erica Bogdanski said...

Wow this really hit home with me! I just lost my dad 10-12-16 to cirrhosis/ESLD. And I feel everything you said above. And people at the funeral said all of that to me and more crazy things, "now you can go on living your life", "now you don't have to worry about him anymore", "oh boy he was young" Like really people?! I was so angry at the time at these morons but have since calmed down. But I feel the same. I really really wish he didn't make the choices he did and that he could still be here today because I miss him and I love him. He could drive my crazy but I loved him more than anything and I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that I won't talk to him again. Thank you and I plan to read more.

Anonymous said...

I lost my husband of 12 years (but have known him for 18) to alcoholism on May 26,2017 and I was searching the Web for something....I don't know what when I came across your blog. The last 2 years living with him were hell, watching him destroy himself and me living in agony of not being able to help him as well as carrying the pain of my 10 year old son of not having a dad he deserved to have. I became pretty angry and resentful towards my husband. To the point that I couldn't remember WHY I had married, or even fallen in love with him. However, as friends learned about his death, they posted pictures of us when we first started dating and our wedding day and I realized that I would not "miss the the alcohol part" of him, but I would "miss the PERSON he was without the alcohol".