Eventually, alcohol will kill you. Drink enough, for long enough, and you’ll die. It’s as simple as that. Continue reading
No I’m just digging in the sand, last to empathise, with your lies, lies, lies… True, they all go rotten in time.
Lately, every time Ben opens his mouth, I hear the lyrics to this song. Ben with his yellow eyes and beer-tinted breath. If I challenge him, he says it’s cigarettes. He pushes his face right up to my nose (because I’ve taken to sniffing him out like a bloodhound). He pushes his face up against my nose as if he has nothing to hide.
I was searching for a CD just now and found an empty beer can wedged under the sideboard… behind his keyboard. I got that distinct whiff while I was rooting through the CD rack, so I looked underneath the cupboard and there it was. It’s like an Easter Egg hunt in here.
I didn’t ask him about it. I tried, but he was out of it, face closed and unmoving. What’s the point, anyway? He’d just say what he always says: “I don’t know where that came from. It must have been there for a while. I can’t remember.”
The truth is, he probably can’t remember. He’s so far gone now, a shadow of a man, a light wind passing through a deserted alleyway. Sooner or later, the coins will be pressed onto his eyes, the stitch into his lips.
Our counselling session didn’t lead anywhere, really. I said my peace, they said they would talk about it… and nothing happened.
They’re waiting for him to own up to his drinking, to be honest with them and himself. He is incapable of that honesty. I expect he can’t bear to hear it himself. He can’t bear to look at what he has been doing – the lies scabbing one on top of the other.
Alcoholics are expert liars because they believe what they say. They will sit there, beer in hand, and tell you that someone else must have put it there, and when that doesn’t work, that they can’t remember how it got there.
He is downstairs, right now, smoking. He isn’t just smoking, that much is obvious.
Does he want recovery? This is the question I ask him. He says yes, of course he does. But he isn’t trying – not at all. He is taking the piss. Still, his mother is willing to pay for private rehab, and I have convinced him to consider it. I gave him an ultimatum. I’m going away for a month with Rosie. If he doesn’t go into residential rehab while I’m away, he’ll have to put up with having his mother here, watching over him. This alternative is so unpalatable to him that he is willing to take her money and go into full-time treatment.
I don’t believe it will make much of a difference. Well, maybe it will in the short-term, but it all depends on how much work they manage to do on his mind. Regardless of what he makes of it, it’s my way of getting him out of our home. It’s a first step towards my freedom. Maybe it’s a step towards his as well.
If he chooses to take it.
I am here, and I am not here. He is here, and he is not here. We appear and disappear in each other’s consciousness like mosquitoes.
Yesterday, he spent the whole day on the futon. The futon is taking on a fug of its own – an acrid amalgam of vitamin B, dry-roasted peanuts and stale beer. At one point, somewhere in the middle of the day, he roused himself and insisted he wanted to take Rosie swimming. His eyes kept closing while he argued his case. Naturally, he was arguing from a sitting position. Naturally, I said swimming probably wasn’t a good idea. He insisted he was fine, then tipped over onto his side and fell back to sleep.
Some time later, I was sitting by the computer when he got up, knelt by the fireplace, and peed. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, ‘Don’t worry. I know you’re there. I’m just going to the toilet.’ I turned on the light and he woke up. He wasn’t drunk.
This is the scary bit. I can’t tell whether he is still drinking, or whether he is abusing his meds, or whether he is just crazy. His behaviour is so erratic, I am on the verge of sectioning him. He is seriously mentally ill.
Today, I relented and accompanied him and Rosie to the pool. He was a sorry sight, in an old t-shirt and three-quarter length trousers with a hole in each knee. We were at one of the more salubrious leisure centres and I was suddenly consumed with shame and embarrassment… and pity.
I watched the two of them thrashing about in the pool and was terrified he would lose his focus and let her go. It didn’t happen. They emerged exhausted and frozen, but in tact.
Still, my nose continues to play tricks on me. Without warning, the smell of alcohol hits my nostrils and I am convinced he has been drinking. Perhaps I’m the one who needs to be sectioned.
He shouted at me for no reason at the leisure centre. And when he got home, he lay down on the couch and fell asleep, groaning to himself. He only gets up to smoke – which he does sometimes every few minutes.
I know that I have reached that tipping point, that it is time for him to leave. But he won’t go. So, I suppose I have to.
Just watched Blackout on the BBC tonight, featuring Christopher Ecclestone as an alcoholic who beats a man into a coma while drunk, but wakes up with no memory of the incident. He’s a corrupt politician who drinks, does drugs and whores his way around low-lit clubs. But by the end of episode 1, he’s had an epiphany, saves a life after taking a life, and is reborn (as potential mayor of London).
There were some uncomfortable moments in there, particularly when the wife says something like: ‘I wish my mind would stay still enough so I can figure out how I feel.’ It speaks to all of us who have said, for the hundredth time: ‘I can’t live like this any more’ only to recant 24 hours later and let the alcoholic back into our lives out of compassion, guilt or inertia.
So here’s the difference between so many of our experiences and the fictional one. Christopher Ecclestone’s character has a life-changing moment (he saves someone’s life), gets shot in the process, and gives up drink. He just stops. He doesn’t go into withdrawal in hospital. He doesn’t get referred to any drug and alcohol service. He stops. And he agrees to run for mayor.
It sounds ludicrous when I write it, but as a drama, it sort of works. It works because it’s just the first episode of 3, and as we all know, there’s always a relapse around the corner.
As for Ben, he didn’t tell the rehab centre what happened. He was shaking pretty badly today after stopping the beer (for now). They’ll have seen right through him. It’s funny. The centre is like another wife, only that wife is an understanding and patient one, waiting for the day when the husband finally admits he’s done wrong.
- Christopher Eccleston: from superheroes to Sophocles (guardian.co.uk)
This is not day 1. It isn’t day 10 or day 385. It is another day like all the days that came before it, because every day feels like this one now.
8 things I did today:
- Took early morning walk in the rain with Rosie, aged 3.75. Splashed in puddles.
- Watched Rosie complete 48-piece jigsaw puzzle.
- Coloured in jungle scene from colouring book with Rosie.
- Baked banana muffins with Rosie.
- Emptied out basin filled with husband’s vomit.
- Prepared one mug of Ribena with straw for couch bound husband.
- Read Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh to Rosie until she fell asleep.
- Emptied out basin filled with husband’s vomit.
Ben is in withdrawal again. He shakes like a man with rickets. We are used to the sound of him relinquishing the contents of his stomach – a low guttural sound – like the slow-motion croaking of a bullfrog.
He has spent the last week on his back, on the couch, in the living room of our one bedroom flat. The couch is his bed and his study. The TV is on all night and much of the day. He does not move, unless it is to use the toilet or smoke and sneak a drink outside. His stash is hidden in the loft and on the shed roof outside.
When he gets like this (he hasn’t eaten for two – maybe three – days, aside from some fig roll cookies and the occasional apple), I wonder whether he will die in the night. I imagine waking up and finding his cold body, making sure Rosie doesn’t go into the living room, calling the ambulance or the police (I’m not sure which). Then I think about how I will tell Rosie.
He has been sick all her life. She thinks he is ill from drinking too much coffee. To her, coffee comes in a can. When she finishes a drawing or colouring in or writing her name, she takes it to him, saying, ‘Daddy, look. Look what I’ve done.’ And he says, ‘Oh, that’s lovely, darling,’ with his eyes closed and his face turned away.
When will it end for her and for me? The prospect of treatment is still weeks away. It can be accessed through the NHS (the only route we can afford), but there are hoops to dive through, and nothing is certain. Still, the fact that treatment is on the cards – that an application for detox has been completed (finally) and that the option of rehab is being considered – is the crutch I lean on now.
Because without it, there is nothing.
Today is not day 1.
It’s just another day in the life of someone married to an alcoholic.