Relapse

It’s happened again. I’ve lost count of the relapses. Today, I found an empty can in the bedroom closet. I know it wasn’t there when I left the flat earlier today with Rosie. When we got back (we’d gone to one of her friend’s birthday parties), Ben was looking shaky and slow. He was also lurking around the bedroom closet. A little searching and – surprise, surprise – I found a can.

Another can of Polish beer. I found another one, crushed with masking tape over the mouth, in the loft. There are bound to be many more. He buys the Polish stuff because it’s cheap. He has no money, though. He is in overdraft – just over 500 quid.

I told him to leave. I said this was it, and it was time for him to go. First he said, ok. Then he stood in front of the bookcase for a while looking forlorn. Eventually, he fell asleep on the sofa, moaning to himself. When he got up, I asked him what he was going to do.

‘What do you mean?’ he asked.

‘I mean, are you going to tell them?’

Ben doesn’t want to tell the rehab centre because he is afraid of being chucked out. He claims the programme is working a little. He has characterised this relapse as not very serious, but can’t pinpoint exactly when it began. I know it hasn’t just been yesterday and today, as he says. So, he is still lying to me, still only admitting what he needs to admit because it’s already out in the open. He won’t divulge anything. He never lets anyone see more than they can see out in the open.

He also told me it was my fault. Not in so many words, of course. He said he’d told me he was in trouble 5 years ago. I said I’m not a health professional and had advised him to go to the doctor. He said I should speak to anyone – anyone – about me and what I’m like. That I have everything to do with his depression and alcohol.

So, yes, I’ll admit that I’m not the easiest person to live with, that I can be awfully critical, and that I have the temper of a hippo. But I can’t and won’t take all the blame. Seems to me he doesn’t remember a few awful things he did to me – betraying my trust time and again. Seems to me he also doesn’t remember the months and years of neglect. He doesn’t seem to understand that my bitterness, anger and antagonism stem from all of these things.

But I’m through talking about any of this. We were never meant to be together. It was always so much hard work. It still is. And it just isn’t worth it.

 

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Depression

This is the root of his alcoholism: depression. Ben is clinically depressed and on Prozac. But the Prozac hasn’t had a chance to work, because of the amounts of alcohol he’s necking. He’s adding a negative to a positive and ending up with zero.

As every specialist will tell you, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. And alcohol is a depressant, so if you’re depressed and you drink, you’re just feeding your depression. One of the best ways to counter depression is with physical exercise. But Ben has gone from being an energetic, fit man to an idle, exhausted one.

He slouches around in the alcoholic’s costume: shapeless, stained sweater, ragged jogging trousers, ill-fitting jacket with deep pockets (deep enough to hide a can or small bottle), scuffed trainers. His feet are bone white. He is always cold.

I see them everywhere now. Shuffling about in their drunks’ uniform, some wearing dark glasses and knitted tuques.

One of them regularly begs in the pedestrian subway by my local tube station. His nose is a ravaged potato, his face red and ruined.

At my unkindest moments, I’ve told Ben he might as well join the pedestrian subway guy, because that’s where he’s sure to end up the way he’s going. He’s not far off now. He’s lucky I haven’t thrown him out, because that’s exactly where he would be, sitting on a broken bit of cardboard, nursing a tall can, holding out a dirty palm or paper cup…

This is the thing that stops me from sending him packing: the thought of walking by him one day with Rosie. What would she say? Would she recognise him? Would he her? How would we explain it to her? Would she ever forgive me?

So was it the depression or the alcoholism that came first? Hard to say. Both run in his family. His mother is depressive. She has also been alcohol dependent. What I do know is that his alcoholism is fuelling his depression. He’s coasting down into a dark and oily well. Before we know it, he’ll be there with pedestrian subway guy – in spirit (see what I did there?) if not in body.

If we’re lucky, the treatment they offer him will address his depression – unlock the root of his anxiety and help him find healthy coping mechanisms. I’m waiting for Monday, and that elusive rehab assessment. But Monday feels like a whole continent away right now. And the end of next week, a whole world.