Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Death in the Family

No, not him. This is just a screen cap of him from last night's debate (more like "hissy-fit" than debate, but that's a moot point now).

I'm referring to my aunt who, in her youth, looked like this. She passed away on Monday.

There was a time in my life when I worshipped this woman (no, no Do Day, but my aunt). I thought she was the sanest member of my family of origin. She was the only one of the women whom I lived with while I was raising myself who didn't drink. I loved her for not drinking, and hated my mother and grandmother for getting drunk all the time.

Anyway, as time went by, and I got sober, my aunt and I started drifting apart. She made it clear that she wasn't interested in hearing about my recovery from alcoholism. Her sons, my cousins, also made it clear that they had no intention of getting sober, even though there had been numerous arrests on drunk driving charges and even court-mandated attendance at 12-Step meetings.

Then, about five or six years ago, two things became clear. 1. When I was young there was some disturbance in the family involving some state-sponsored hearing after which my aunt, who had previously been a registered nurse was, suddenly, merely a licensed practical nurse. And 2. When I wanted to talk with her about how her sister and mother's boozing had wrecked my childhood she violently interrupted me with, "the only problem with your childhood was that they loved you TOO MUCH... that was why they drank and fought." In other words, as a child, I was responsible for their drinking and fighting.

It didn't take me long after that call to piece together the whole story. My aunt had become a prescription pill junkie, way back when, had gotten caught stealing drugs, had lost her license over it, and she'd spent the rest of her life numbing the pain with prescription pain killers she'd managed to wheedle out of a succession of doctors whom she bullshitted into dispensing them to her.

And she did NOT want to hear about the "family nature" of addiction (mine) because it would've meant that she would have to look at her own.

And that would not do.

No one in her immediate family called me to tell me the news. True to form for our family I found out about it through a second cousin in Pennsylvania who heard about it from another second cousin in Delaware who thought she read the obituary in the local paper. I confirmed the obit by logging into the paper's site. It said she was survived by a husband and two sons. No mention of any other relatives. It also said that the funeral arrangements were private, with no mention of a service, viewing or burial.

I have chosen to respect their wishes and to stay away. I'm sorry that my family of origin just sort of fell apart like this.

But when push comes to shove, and it comes down to my family or my sobriety,

my sobriety wins.


~ Sil in Corea said...

My heart is with you. Sobriety is number 1. Since mid August, three old-timers have passed on in my circle. They had 89 years between them. They showed me that life is good if we stick ourselves right in the middle of the fellowship. That's where we get the chance to pass it on. I'm saddened when someone doesn't want it, but there's always someone else who does want it.

Bev Sykes said...

The wonderful thing about you, Ron, is that family is very important in your life. You didn't have the family you should have when you were growing up, and as you've "grown up" (really grown up), you've found your own family. You have your recovery family, the familyyouchose, and others in your life who have become your family.

It doesn't replace what you lost in your childhood, but it does give you a real family, who love you, who support you, and who have been cheering you on every step of the way.

JoyZeeBoy said...

Thanks to both of you for your kind words and sheer thoughtfulness.

The grief I thought I'd experience just isn't there.

But as you both pointed out, I get far more love, respect and nurturing from the family I've acquired over the years (both pre and post-sobriety) than I ever got from that sad, sad family of origin.

Once again, gratitude saves the day.