rehab is for quitters

An update on my neighbor, for those of you who are familiar with our trials and travails over the past few years which I delved into in graphic detail here

I realize that I never adequately explained our prior relationship – the one we had before he became so chronically alcoholic and started doing things like exposing himself and saying weird shit to me.  We were close, close friends.  He was the kind of person you just immediately knew you had something in common with.  We spent HOURS talking, and when he got married, I became good friends with his wife and we three spent a lot of time together talking about everything and anything.  OK, we were usually drinking excessively also, but I honestly didn’t realize until about 7 years into our being neighbors that he was an alcoholic – and only when he told me that I’d never seen him sober.  Never.  As in 7 years of being his neighbor.  That was a real shock to me, and he only admitted it to me then because he was starting to have some serious health issues and the very beginnings of some crazy alcoholic dementia episodes.

Needless to say, things went downhill pretty rapidly for him after that.  Then there was the exposure incident and the fence incident, etc.  I spent a few years being extremely pissed off at him and his fucking addiction.  I hated the addiction that took my friend away from me and I hated my friend for letting it happen.   I watched his former showcase of a home and yard deteriorate at the same rate as his mental status; what was once a beautiful, 150 year old house with gorgeous landscaping became a mess of peeling paint, sagging porches, and unmown weeds.  He became well-known down at city hall for the constant mowing citations.  The only time he left the house was to make his twice daily beer run – 9:30am and 3:30pm, like clockwork.  We stopped speaking completely after the exposure episode and his physical appearance went from well-groomed alcoholic to the more traditional, disheveled alkie look. 

Last November, something quite miraculous happened:  My neighbor went to a detox and rehab facility. 

One Saturday afternoon Ken informed me that the neighbor was leaving the house and getting into a car with a duffel bag – definitely an unprecedented event because nobody ever visited him, not even his own family.  His wife spent most of her time at work, or at the stables riding her horses.  She still  loved him, but couldn’t stand his addiction.   For him to leave the house for anything other than a 5 block jaunt to the Quickie Mart – well, it just wasn’t a normal occurrence.

“I’ll bet he’s going to rehab.”  I said hopefully.

“Naw,” Ken said, still peering through the break in the curtain, “he’s got a 6-pack of beer with him.”

“Honey,” I said in my Miss Know-it-all voice, “NOBODY goes to rehab sober. ”

Of course, as is usually the case, I was right (God, it’s such a burden being right ALL  THE TIME!).  Drunken neighbor completed 30 days of rehab and has been sober ever since (6 months).  Last week we talked for the first time in a long time.  He was outside painting his house (!) and I was out watering plants, and I got to say some things that I’ve wanted to say for a long time – about how glad I was to have my friend back and how much I had missed him.  He didn’t exactly apologize directly for his very bad and hurtful behavior, except to say that he knew he’d done some things that were terrible and that he didn’t understand at the time that what he was doing and saying was unacceptable.  That the alcohol had distorted his version of reality so much and that he didn’t realize at the time why everyone had abandoned him.  We smiled at each other and went back to our respective chores.  I felt relieved and happy to have a friend back.  It’s unlikely we’ll ever get back to the way things were – our relationship suffered some irreparable damage because he victimized me at a time when I was extremely vulnerable and frightened of the world.  Even though I know it’s something he wouldn’t have ever done as a sober person, it affected me terribly, for a variety of personal reasons. 

I hope he can stay sober, I really do, but I know the statistics are against it.  Relapses happen more often than not and sobriety is a daily uphill battle.  If he starts drinking again, he won’t live much longer; but right now I have an old friend back who is reveling in the joys of home maintainance and gardening again, and who seems happier than he’s been in years.  It’s a gift I’ll gladly accept.


2 Responses to “rehab is for quitters”

  1. 1 V- June 6, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Addiction is heartbreaking and yet so many are under the conviction that they are “only hurting themselves.” I hope he makes it…

  2. 2 createandsmile October 28, 2009 at 12:18 am

    The symptoms that come from addiction are the disease. We have free will to take that first drink or drug. 100% free will. I have had my experience and I am on the fence if it’s a moral issue (the behavior under the influence tells me it’s nothing else but a moral issue) or is it a disease. I’m not a Dr. I do tend to look at it this way, reading and interpreting the symptoms of a disease help doctors to diagnose it, but these symptoms themselves are not appropriate treatment pathways. For example, if a patient is screaming about some extreme lower body pain, doctors do not treat this pain by disabling or removing vocal chords. However, if using drugs and/or alcohol are having negative consequences and deeply hurting the ones who love you most then quit no matter what it takes. We are all responsible for our own actions no matter what. One shouldn’t be praised for going to rehab while the other is ostersized for not going. AA was a movement with very little success before it. Somehow along the way, it became commercialized (against one of their principles) Also, AA may have unknowingly hurt their cause by asserting addiction as a disease for so many years, 1) without any consistent clinical data to support the claim, and 2) by offering a spiritual or religious approach in their 12-step program. One might imagine this ‘treatment’ as being the equivalent of addressing a disease like MS with prayer BUT this isn’t such a bad thing. Prayer does work for those who have faith. The outcome though isn’t always what we prayed for. I had an emergency appendectomy. I went to emergency, they diagnosed it immediately, had surgery within an hr and were in the hospital for four days recuperating. I never have to worry about appendicitis again, I didn’t expose myself to anyone on the way to the hospital and I had not gone from well-groomed appendicitis to the more “traditional”, disheveled “apendie” look. In summation, people choose to take a drink or to take a drug. People with terminally ill cancer did not take anything that they knowingly would give them cancer. Even someone allergic to peanuts will stay away from them. Look at all the people, rightfully so including myself, against the pharmaceutical companies creating pharmawater that is our drinking water. Yet we’ll take anything a Dr. gives us. You can’t drink or drug? Don’t do it then. Yes, it’s that simple if you want it to be. Period.

    A very beautifully worded comment. My neighbor has not gone the AA route and, like me, feels ambivelant about the religious, or higher power aspect of it. As a side note, he is an artist. The work he’s doing now is 180degress different than what he produced drunk. These sweeping canvases are beautiful and polished and magnificent. He’s finally showing his work now in addition to holding a full-time position for the first time in almost 2 decades. And he’s still sober. An amazing story. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your words.

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