A puzzling moment

22 01 2013

It was January the 3rd 2011, last day of the Christmas holidays before Mort was due to return to work. It was ten o’clock in the morning and the four of us were doing a jigsaw puzzle with the Beatles playing in the background and the girls belting out “Na na na nanana Hey Jude“. I had told Mort that I was proud of him. I was allowing myself a moment of contentment, it was a short moment.

We took a break so that the girls and I could whip up a batch of pancakes. As I was in the kitchen I looked over at Mort who was sitting on the sofa flipping through the tv channels. I saw it, there was a ‘tell’….he squinted his eyes and did this tongue poking out thing. I knew immediately that he wasn’t sober.

I put the pancakes on the table and snuck out to the garage to rip through his car. It didn’t take long for him to realise that I was gone and he came out to query what I was doing. I said, “You’re not right and I know it. Simply looking for the evidence”. He became extremely agitated/wounded “just half an hour ago you were telling me how proud you were and now you are accusing me. How could you not trust me. Shit, thanks a lot Ripley for your support and encouragement.”

And there we stood for a silent moment….”Breathe”, I demanded. “What do you mean breathe?” he said while inhaling knowing exactly where I was going with it. “I want to smell your breath.” After some resistance he let out the tiniest little puff of air. I couldn’t smell it definitively but I was charging ahead regardless because I just knew. Through clenched teeth I told him that I could smell the vodka.

His defensive stance and mouth slightly ajar after saying ‘what’ …..it was even more of a tell. After much back and forth….”you have”, “I haven’t”…..I took it to that place when teaching my girls about lying….”if you tell me the truth you will not be in trouble.” I caught the slightest movement in his eye, he was processing it.

Funny how in those condensed, compressed, heavy moments small things can filter through. Standing in the hot garage I could hear the slight lilt of my girls laughing, and just above it I could hear the Beatles CD still playing…..”Don’t let me down”.

And then it came…..he said that he had ‘only’ taken a couple of sleeping pills. (no doubt also washed down with vodka). Needless to say I revoked my false promise of immunity.


Tis the season to be jolly…

16 01 2013

It was the two weeks leading up to Christmas 2010.  I hoped that with my parents knowing the truth, it would rattle his world and he would come to terms with his demons, stop being a self-absorbed dickhead.  There were more ‘counselling sessions’ with my dad and in that time and I saw glimpses of Mort pre-2010, when he has participative and engaged. 

Remembering that Mort had till now skated through because he was a high functioning alcoholic, it wasn’t his change in manner that friends started to comment on, but it was his appearance.  His excema was clearing up and some weight was melting off.  Friends were commenting that he was looking healthy (mind you this is compared to how he was looking before which was decidedly toxic).  I tried to use these remarks as one way to encourage him to continue on his sober path.

I was supportive but nervous as I was still trying to reconcile and figure out all the bizarre crap that had happened in the preceeding weeks.  What heightened my nerves was the fact that after about a week of sobriety he started saying, “I’ve been so good, can’t I just have one drink.”  He started trying to bargain what kind of alcohol, “I won’t have a vodka or anything, just a glass or two of wine or beer…..come on, it’s Christmas”. 

The hairs on the back of my neck started to prickle and I went to bed grinding my teeth.


The peanut and the bottle

9 01 2013

In this discussion Mort made it clear that he didn’t want to go to AA. My dad said that he didn’t use the AA avenue when he went through his committment to sobriety, but that he did abide by many of the underlying tenets. First and foremost was to strip back the lies and deception and admit to family, friends, coworkers that he was an alcoholic….and say it out loud and as blatantly as that….and then of course don’t drink.

Mort said that since he had told my parents that he would just stop drinking and that the information didn’t need to go further. He seemed to have missed the fact that he didn’t tell them anything, I was in fact the one that ‘outed’ him.

My dad related a story of when he had made the pledge to never again drink, that he found himself on a flight for a 2 week work trip sans family or coworkers. When the stewardess made her way through the cabin offering free alcoholic drinks, there was that split second internal conversation where his trident carrying innerself whispered “who’s going to know”…thankfully his halo bearing innerself shouted “I am.” That was that and my dad knew he had the willpower, strength and respect of self and family to stick to his pledge. He was hoping Mort had the same.

Mort was extremely allergic to peanuts and my dad drew the comparison….”you steer clear of peanuts in all its various guises because it will make you extremely sick, think of alcohol the same way.” Don’t feed the addiction, don’t take the poison and you won’t get sick. Pretty simple.

Fork in the road

8 01 2013

After our talk, my dad went home and broke the news to my mom. I then followed up with a visit to elaborate and fill in the blanks. There were tears, but they weren’t from me. I think my mom had several emotions and memories at play when digesting the information. In her wife role, she was no doubt casting her thoughts back 34 years to the ‘ultimatum’ conversation with my dad, in her mother role she was concerned for me as my marriage had for the most part seemed pretty great, and in her grandmother role she was wondering the effects that it would have on Clare and Maddie. She was shocked and saddened.

I then phoned Mort and informed him that I had told my parents everything…he was Mortified (couldn’t resist). I can’t deny that my intentions were to shame, embarrass and plain old humiliate him into admitting and confronting his issue. Telling my parents was the fastest route there.

My dad arranged to have a one-on-one with Mort. Rather than ripping into Mort as many would, my dad handled the situation with diplomacy and respect. He simply told him stories and real life lessons of his own and many of his old college friends that had staggered down the alcoholic path.

He broke it down into 3 categories of alcoholism. The first group (and very rare group) recognize that they have an addiction and combat it before anything is lost (my dad belongs to this group). The second group are those that will lose things along the way…family, job, self-respect…but eventually they overcome their addiction. Then there is the last group….those that not only lose everything, but it only ends when they lose their life….their addiction will kill them.

He said that it was about choice and personal decision. It was up to Mort which category he wanted to be in.


Photo credit: http://www.pamtremble.blogspot.com.au

Calling in the cavalry

3 01 2013

It was time to call in major back-up. This situation was well beyond my control and light years beyond my comprehension. After some serious googling, I kept coming across the term ‘enabling’. Mort clearly had no interest in admitting or dealing with the fact that he had an extreme addiction issue and I was not going to be an enabler…..it was time to crack the veneer and expose him. I went to my parents.

Mort had a deep respect for my parents and the feeling was mutual. By bringing my parents up to speed it was going to cause a tremendous amount of pain for all parties, but there was no question that it was necessary.

When my dad happened to drop by and visit the next day, I took the opportunity to recount the highlights of what had been happening over the previous weeks. I spoke matter of factly without a single tear, sorrow was not what I felt, the emotion was a pure burning anger. Dad sat quietly, listening, absorbing, with his hand clamped over his mouth.

The irony here is that my dad says that when I was young he was an alcoholic. Now I say here ‘my dad says’ because for me, as a kid, I certainly never had the slightest notion that this was the case. My dad has always been a stellar father in every respect. I have never in my life ever known him to be anything less than grounded, participative, supportive and generous. So to say that he was a drunk is really weird to me.

However, when he was 36 (I would have been 7) my mom told him that he drank too much and he would have to make the decision between booze and his family. He awoke the next morning with a hangover and a pledge to not touch alcohol again…..and he didn’t.