For my father, it finally happened when he hit my son during an all too common drunken rage. I was in Savannah with friends when my little boy called me sometime after eleven o’clock. I almost didn’t answer the phone… We were at dinner, having drinks, enjoying the frivolity of the St. Patricks Day holiday in a town that celebrated the event on the daily. I stepped outside expecting to hear some silly story or plea for a cool souvenir only to hear his frightened, tearful little voice tell me that his grandfather had gotten angry again and smacked him and how he was hiding behind a chair and…his words faded away and I immediately focused my entire existence on my child. I told him I was on my way. Mommy’s coming, this instant, now, stay hidden if you have to, but I was coming to get him right away!
I can remember feeling a flood of emotions, all at once, and almost drowning in the overwhelming swell. Anger emerged the victor amongst the deafening cacophony as I launched my mobile phone into the air and across the busy street. My dear friend Elizabeth volunteered to share the ride and I was grateful for the company and her calming nature. The six hour drive was a blur and we arrived just before sunrise. I was met at the front door by my stepmother – she was apologetic, embarrassed, heartbroken. I gathered up my son, put him in the car and drove away. I did not look back.
Many months went by before either one of us were able to speak to my father again. He had entered counseling, joined an AA group and started taking a medication provided by the V.A. that would make him violently ill if he even THOUGHT about drinking alcohol. Not really, but apparently Antabuse will cause severe side effects when alcohol is consumed, even if it appears in perfumes or deodorants on the skin. The combination of therapy, accountability and medication seemed to make a difference and allowed the healing process to begin.
It took this abrupt, literal slap-to-the-face moment to finally get my father to take notice. It took the unthinkable to get and hold his attention and create lasting, remaining-life change. Only he truly knew his demons and how to conquer them. Years later, in a beautiful moment of grace and forgiveness, my son acknowledged that it took this terrible thing to make it better, that it probably even saved his grandfather’s life. It had to get worse before it could get better, it had to literally bottom out for my dad to see the negative impact he was having on not just himself but on others as well – specifically, he was harming the people in his life that cared about him the most and deserved to be loved and respected by him as well.
I find I only have certain capacity for stupidity, chemical dependency and drunken stupors in particular. Certain behaviors I expect from the unwise, the young, the immature navigating their own trials, errors and wisdom gaining experiences. At some point, we all grow up and conquer our devils…or we don’t. The first step is admitting you have a problem and loving yourself enough to put in the work to make lasting change. It starts with a choice.
I’m embarking on my own journey of healthy, purposeful living and find that more and more I struggle supporting harmful habits in others, especially in the ones I love. By no means do I stand on a soap box proclaiming my way is the righteous way. No, instead I make a daily personal choice to commit each new dawn to do do everything I can in my power to better myself; to treat my mind, body and spirit as the temples they are; to allow myself the grace and patience to thrive and flourish…even on days, ESPECIALLY on days when I fall short, and sometimes I do.
Which brings me to the inspiration for this piece. The older and wiser and more genuine I become, I find it increasingly more and more difficult to hold my tongue on certain things. To be blunt, I find it necessary to point out bull$h!+ when I see it. One thing near and dear to my heart is honesty. I loathe hypocrisy. I believe that if you are going to talk the talk then you darn well better walk the walk.
Recently I had a life changing epiphany. Why is it that when we diet or exercise successfully for a period of time, our response is so often to celebrate with something unhealthy like a cookie or a piece of cake? We did well after all and deserve something good as a reward, right? On what planet does that even remotely make sense? We are so quick to negate our hard work and progress for a quick fix…well, no more, not for me.
I have a dear friend who started a no sugar/no grain diet recently and in order to succeed had to strictly restrict their nutrition to exclude all processed sugars and grains. It was difficult at first, excruciating at times, but not only did they find it was doable but they thrived and noticed several NSV’s (Non-Scale Victories) in addition to weight loss. Not to mention being sober for an entire month also had its benefits. His response at the end of the month was to drink the first chance he got which happened to be at a family function. At some point in the evening he had the bright idea to climb a tree and subsequently fell out of said tree. He was knocked unconscious and had to be resuscitated by his stepfather when he stopped breathing. He suffered a broken heal as well as a concussion. He is lucky to still be alive.
You see, my beloved friend has a drinking problem and I’m not sure he’s ready to do anything about it yet. He’s had numerous embarrassing moments and uncomfortable encounters. He’s certainly had his share of darkness which all too often contributes to self loathing and self harm. Apparently falling out of a tree and almost dying is not enough of an attention getter to affect change in his case either…
Completely confounded, I consulted an authority on the subject and asked my father how I should handle this relationship since I was no longer willing to stand by and allow it to happen in my presence. He suggested I smack my friend hard, right across the face, the next time he took a drink in front of me. *Disclaimer – my father did not really just ironically advocate violence but instead through graphic example he explained that it would take something THAT shocking to get his attention, to move him to change, just as hitting his own grandson had shocked him into reality so many years ago…seriously?
My friend needed to hit rock bottom, to experience a totally HUMILIATINGLY DEMORALIZING event to jolt him onto his road to sobriety. Wait, falling out of a tree wasn’t enough? Great! So basically it would need to get worse before it got better…isn’t that a kick in the pants, such is life…TO BE CONTINUED…