Friday, June 27, 2014

Gone in June


Alcohol takes a friend.

What good does it do: You write about addiction, research it, think about it, formulate new ideas about it. You try to be of service.

What good does it do: One of your best friends ever, a talented writer you have talked to and argued with and smoked with and paddled with for more than two decades, lies dead this morning of alcohol-related liver failure at 62.

What good does it do: I couldn’t save him, couldn’t turn the head of that runaway horse, not through encouragement, shame, praise, incentive, disgust, indifference, furious anger. Not through any of that.

What good does it do: His doctor, with my help, presented a program of 30-day detox and Ativan for the rough parts. He ordered the pills, never picked them up at the pharmacy. He never went back to the doctor, claiming a lack of health insurance. He never quit. He tried, like so many deluded alcoholics, to cut back on his drinking. He kept the phone number for the local AA group in a desk drawer, but never called. When his girlfriend told him it was either her or the bottle, he picked the bottle.

What good does it do: We cajoled, we watched him, we tripped over bags of empties in the basement and he didn’t care. We couldn’t save him. I couldn’t save him. I know more about alcoholism than most addiction therapists, and I couldn’t save him. I saved myself, 25 years ago, but could not save him.

What good does it do: I don’t know how to treat alcoholism, and save alcoholics, and neither do you. And if anybody tells me today, the day of my friend’s death, that alcoholism is a lifestyle choice, I promise to throw a swift right cross and knock them out on the spot.

The only possible light on the horizon is continued scientific research aimed at better elucidating the mechanisms behind addiction. Without that, one idea is about as good as another.

11 comments:

FredT said...

I offer my deepest condolences. Without trying we would just have failure. We addicts are mortal. We try, you save some, but not all. Some of us recover, some cannot recover, some of us chose to not recover. It is not your fault.

We addicts are all just one slip from death. Keep up the struggle, or let go, the end will come regardless.

Dirk Hanson said...

Thanks FredT. I know, in my saner moments, that only failure can result if we don't make the effort. I made it, you made it. That's two out of three....

DJ Mac said...

So sorry to read this. I didn't know your friend and I only 'know' you through your writing, but I know alcoholism and its heartache.

Condolences.

chris said...

I'm very sorry for your loss. No doubt your life will be forever changed.
May I ask: Did your friend have a "genuine purpose," in his life or did he just live day to day? I'm not judging just asking?

Dirk Hanson said...

He was a directed, purposeful, goal-oriented nature writer until he lost his compass bearing due to excessive alcohol use. He canoed from Minnesota to Hudson Bay, lectured on Ojibway rock paintings, and wrote 3 excellent outdoor books.

Katxena said...

I'm so sorry. All I can say is thank you for this piece. It's brilliant and powerful and heartbreaking. It's all of the reasons why I do the work I do. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

From personal experience, I can't help but think that people that abuse or relapse have lost purpose in their lives. When the Quick Fix or Mood Changer trumps your Purpose, it is easy to relapse. When your purpose is larger than your desire to abuse, the choice is more obvious. We all need to do a constant, Cost Benefit Analysis of our lives.

VJ Sleight, Queen of Quitting said...

My condolences. It is easy to become disillusioned. I have lost too many friends and family to tobacco. I think they tune me out because I am a friend or family member instead of viewing me as a professional tobacco treatment specialist and someone who can help. It's been less than a year since a lost a friend to head and neck cancer due to her smoking. Oh how I wish she had quit in time. I'm sure she thought she had time too since she was only in her late 40's. Early in my career I had the misguided view that if I could just say the right thing at the right time, I could get anyone to stop. But I have learned the power of addiction and just keep fighting the good fight against tobacco and the death, disability and destruction it leaves in it's path. It's all any of us can do.

Dirk Hanson said...

Yes, it's easy to get pessimistic, and I let my frustrations loose in this post because I have no doubts that the sentiments are shared by many, many other people struggling with alcoholics. Or struggling with other forms of fatal disease. Or any chronic disease that doesn't have a cure.

Mark said...

Sorry for your pain.
If not for divine providence I would have done the same. Nothing worldly worked.

Donnie Benson said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Dirk. I've read your previous posts, and I can see that you were really trying to find a solution to the problem. It's easy to lose hope in times like these, but we must remember that it is also in times like these that we must stand stronger than ever. The resolve of the human spirit must not die - not while there is a hurdle that stands in the path of a better future for others. We strive against addiction, and it's a seemingly insurmountable battle, but we face it head on.

Donnie Benson @ Midwest Institute for Addiction

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