Do you ever have days or weeks when all the crap you’ve worked hard to repress comes
to the surface like stomach acid after drinking wine? The last week or so has felt just like
that. Some of it came out of good things. I had a great time visiting my brother and his
family for the weekend but felt sad that the last time I did was when my ex husband
and I were dating. Bitterness aside, it was a sweet weekend. Lots of eating, boating and story telling. My brother and I talked about our dad when he still drank and what
that was like. We talked about the siblings we are estranged from. It felt good to talk
with someone who was there and is still there. Someone who ties me to my family and my past. The things I miss, the things I would rather forget, and the things that make me who I am.
My conversations with my brother are just one example of the sort of moments that bit me in the ass when I wasn’t looking. They’ve been coming at me all week. What
surprised me the most was when I realized that the damage my ex did shaped who I will always be, no matter how much time has passed. Those scars are just as real as the ones on my legs. My accident ensured that I will never know another day without pain. My husband ensured that I will never wholly trust anyone again. I don’t know that I will ever not worry about being abandoned or being lied to. I may never listen to a man tell me that he loves me and not think “I’ve heard all of this before.” This may seem obvious, but I
hadn’t thought of it in a long time. I thought I’d dealt with it. And in many ways I have.
I don’t think of him very much, yet he’s still there. Still a part of me, whether I like it or
Growing up in an unpredictable alcoholic/addict home is a no brainer. Of course this is a
huge part of who I am, good and bad. I like a certain amount of routine and a feeling
of safety and stability. I like to make peace whenever it’s possible, sometimes to a fault. I
hyper-analyze my alcohol intake along with everyone else’s. (Yes, yours too.) Thankfully a lot of this has calmed down. But I still see alcoholics and addicts in a certain way. I feel bad for their families. And most of the time, I have hope that they can overcome it the way that my father did. Except for Tuesday night when I found out that someone I once tried to help had overdosed on heroin.
I called him Ponyboy because he was from the wrong side of the tracks. His name was Paul- like my boyfriend, my father, and one of my closest friends. I met him just before my accident 4 years ago. We started talking online and decided to meet for a game of mini golf. He told me he didn’t drink, but he left out the why. His pictures didn’t do him justice. He was a good looking guy with a killer smile. And best of all, he didn’t seem to realize it. His shyness and the stutter that went with it made him endearing. I had just had my chemo port removed and my upper chest had a large wound. There was no point in me holding back about what it was. We traded secrets and tragedies. At the second hole he lifted up his shirt to show me the “serenity” tattoo on his side. He read me some of his bad
poetry, awkward and self conscious. He had been clean for long enough that I didn’t
consider the fact that he might not stay that way. He had a young daughter named Emily
and she was his world. I liked him. He was chock full of red flags, but sweet and
vulnerable in a way that was disarming. We went out a few times but we were rather
different and it didn’t work out. I talked to him occasionally while I was recovering from
my accident, then not at all for a long time. I thought I’d never hear from him again.
It was a big surprise a year or so later when he called me at 2am, so drunk that I
couldn’t understand what he was saying. I told him that he had the wrong number and
he said “you went out with me and you don’t know who the fuck I am?” That was the
magic moment when I understood who it was and that he was using again. I got him off
the phone but texted him a day or so later asking if he was okay. He shrugged it off and
said he was just hungover. I asked him again if he was okay and this time Ponyboy told
me he was clean. I knew it was bullshit, but I wasn’t going to pursue it. I thought he was
a nice person, but it wasn’t my problem. Until a few months later when he reached out
to me. Most of his family had died and his drug use meant that his friends were either
fellow addicts or were no longer friends. I thought of my father and the many people he had been a friend to during such times, So I decided I would be a friend, but not an enabler.
He looked like death when I went to see him. The bone structure that was lovely a few
years before was on display in a way that made him hard to look at. I could tell he was
still using because his stutter was gone. We watched a movie and talked about everything that had happened in our lives. He was so proud of the apartment he had and the room he had for Emily. He showed me everything he had scored at thrift stores and yard sales. I couldn’t deny that he had a big, if misguided heart. But I wasn’t going to go along with the charade. The next time we talked, I laid into him about not really being clean and how some day he was going to leave his daughter without a dad. We talked a lot then. Ponyboy wanted to be clean. When he was sick with withdrawals I brought him soup, crackers, and toilet paper.
That was the last time I saw him. He was laying on his couch, wrapped in a blanket. He
thanked me and smiled. We talked a few more times. He invited me to go to the zoo
with him and his daughter once. His stutter was back. He seemed hopeful. The few
times I talked to him after that, he told me he was doing well. I really wanted that to be
Tuesday night, his name popped up on Facebook because some one had written
“rest in peace” on his page. I had to read it a few times. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it was
possible or even probable, still, it punched me in the gut. All of those little moments that I’d been trying desperately to keep control of all week shot out of me in body shaking sobs. He was an addict and chose to do drugs in the first place, so I shouldn’t feel that bad, right? But I do. I feel bad for the daughter who will barely remember him. I feel bad for selfish reasons, too. I was a lot happier thinking that maybe I had helped him. That maybe I was wrong when I yelled at him about the damage he’d do to his daughter. About how it would shape who she was. I had realized I was wrong about so much in my life and felt defeated by the times I was right. Still, I stand by my original assessment. I think that he had a good heart and that he really wanted to stop. It’s stupid and sad that he didn’t. But I don’t regret a minute of the time I spent trying to help him. I wasted nothing. It is part of who I am.