Last night I had a call which unsettled me.
At 11:45 my cell rang several times, and then my house phone started to ring. Late night phone calls are rarely good, and someone was really trying to get to me; caller ID told me it was a long-gone ex-boyfriend. Knowing the nature of his calls I always let it go to voice mail, but last night I was annoyed and picked up, ready to read the riot act on the late night calls. The call made me so sad. He was almost incoherently drunk, in a state of drunkenness which one would think he’d have been unable to make the call. Speed dial: the alcoholic’s friend.
He’s called and left drunken messages before, but I’d never heard him this drunk; he passed out while we were speaking. As I was telling him he should call back sober and that he should go to sleep….he did. I usually wait until I’m finished speaking on the phone to take my naps, but that’s just me.
His drinking isn’t my responsibility, but I was worried last night. I was upset. I didn’t know what to do. He has serious sleep apnea, and drunken passing out and sleep apnea can’t go well together, can they?
While vague alarm bells went off when we dated I didn’t recognize what I was seeing. He’s highly functioning in most ways, and when it came to light afterwards so many things made perfect sense. We are loosely in touch but I’ve never spoken to him about my concerns about his drinking. This morning I called and left a message telling him I was troubled by the phone call, concerned about the amount of drinking, asking him to please think about how much he was drinking, and to not call me drunk again. That’s it, and for my own health that’s all I am willing to do.
The dichotomous personality of an alcoholic is deeply confusing because there is often so much to love and value (as there is in this case), and then those lovable parts are troublingly, sometimes horribly, gone. Again and again.
Another person struggling grips at my heart, but growing up in an alcoholic family hardened me to substance abuse; alcoholism is bullying. We all struggle, but when alcoholics ease their discomfort with drinking they’ve made a choice to inflict their destructive cure on others whose hands are tied by their bonds with the alcoholic. They are taking advantage of those in a weaker position, the sober ones staying quiet out of fear. In my mind, the alcoholic has forfeited his right to my compassion because he’s hurting others, and that’s just not nice. But another person in pain grips at my heart…..
I still feel panic when things seem to be slipping away from the perfectly safe zone, and it has everything to do with what alcohol abuse does to life. There will always, always, always be a powerless little girl in me who doesn’t know what to do because the grown-up is drunk and it’s scary. Life is out of control because the adult has ditched on his responsibilities, and even worse, his presence makes life frighteningly unpredictable. Waiting everyday for it to happen, knowing it might. How bad will it be this time? Wondering what incarnation the alcoholic will take today: Happy? Maudlin? Mean? Grotesquely loving? You never know! How exciting. An alcoholic is like a pinata because you don’t know what’s inside this time, and you’d really like to hit them with a stick.
His call upset me, it makes me so sad, and this morning it makes me angry. He should probably call a different ex-girlfriend next time, because I don’t play this game nicely.