Thursday, June 20, 2013

Maya Called It.

 When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. 
~ Maya Angelou

Addiction.  Alcoholism.  Both diseases.  We are ignorant.  We deny it.  We deny the disease(s).  We deny our ignorance.  Our denial is a protective mask of survival, defending our ignorance, comforting our guilt or shame, safe-guarding our ego.  We are self-absorbed and insensitive to the reality of the disease(s) before us.  We are afraid.  We are exposed.  We are confronted.  We are ashamed.  We are confused.  We are resentful.  We are affected.  We are vulnerable.  We are powerless.  We are not taught to understand addiction or alcoholism as a disease, though that is exactly what  they are.  We are taught to look through a filtered lens, restrictive, narrow-minded of how an addict or alcoholic looks or behaves - - another protective mask safe-guarding our ignorance, denial, affliction - - our ego is determined to avert embarrassment.  We are wounded, suffering and unprepared. 

When my father entered rehab in 1998 (read He's One of Us),  Boomer and I were dating eight months.  Dad was in in-patient treatment.  To support him in his early recovery, I went to the family group meetings held before visiting time.  I was learning alot in those meetings.  I was learning even more direct from my dad, the alcoholic in recovery, who began telling me, teaching me about his addiction to alcohol.  He told me about the day I was born, that his celebration of becoming a new father was spent all day at the race track - - gambling and getting drunk.  He told me about his deceptions and manipulations to others at all costs so he could drink.  He told me about how he increasingly isolated himself, elusive, secretive - - all for the desire and need to drink.   His drinking contributed to his divorce from my mother - - I was seven.

My dad watched me zealously soak up the knowledge, sometimes grasping more than he did.  He told me, "Shannon, I think you're going to get more out all of this anyone."   One Sunday morning, I met Dad for 7 a.m. mass and breakfast, when afterward he and a recovery buddy "kidnapped" me to join them at an open AA meeting.  "She gets it, and wants to get it," dad told his friend.   It was through this learning I began to recognize the same signs in Boomer.  Starting to call it out to him, reminding him about Dad.  I mean how many times do you have to be at a social gathering and the man you're with is falling down drunk before you start to scratch your head and say to yourself, "Houston, we have a problem.  Something's not right here."  In fact, that summer, I confronted Boomer about his drinking for the first time (read Reality)  I got the extended version of that classic deflect song and dance, "I don't have a problem, I'm just going through a rough time."

Boomer sat next to me at breakfast with Dad in the fall 1998, we were heading to a Notre Dame football game, as Dad presented me with a birthday card that had $400 cash in it.  My birthday is in May.  His signature in the card read, "Happy Sweet 16 Shan. Love, Daddy."  You see, on my 16th birthday, when I still called him "daddy", Dad went to the track, got drunk and spent $400 cash that was suppose to be my birthday gift.  When he picked me up a few hours later, he gave me a card with a check enclosed for $400 instead and asked me to hold it until he told me it was o.k. to cash it.  I still have that check today.  Though he didn't know that when he gave me that card in 1998 - - he knows it now.  Dad has recovery and sobriety now for 15 years.  I however, was just getting started dealing with my ignorance and denial of alcoholism... 
  • Confused:   In 2005, Boomer was diagnosed with high blood pressure, put on medication and given strict instructions not to drink.  He didn't oblige.  On one Saturday night, after an evening out, we were smooching (read Smooch) in the kitchen when he collapsed to the floor.  He was conscious, but his blood pressure plummeted.  He resisted my taking him to the e.r., I got him there anyway.  Six hours later he was released.   
  • Afraid:   In 2007, I moved in with Boomer (read Migration) and found the 1st empty half gallon bottle of vodka while vacuuming - - under our bed. 
  • Exposed & Confronted:   In 2008, Boomer was fired as a 3rd-party consultant on a client project because he showed up drunk at a business meeting (read Familiar).  When he said, "I was released," and I asked why, the deflecting began,  "They thought I was drunk at a meeting."  "And were you?"  "Well, I had a few drinks the night before..."  "And you're not concerned that might be an issue?"   That's when Boomer turned the tables to me; direct verbal personal attacks on me taking private, vulnerable things I've shared with him about myself and firing them back at me as a direct character assault.  That's what alcoholics do.  They have to.  Deflect attention for the imploding disease infiltrating our lives (read Dear Diary).
  • Shame & Guilt:  For me, these were my biggest obstacles - - shame and guilt.  No shame or guilt because Boomer was an alcoholic.  It was shame and guilt that  - - I thought I had learned so much about the disease, its attributes, and using that knowledge was not helping him get sober.  It wasn't helping me either.  For years I carried the burdensome thought in my head, "You know better Shannon, do something.  Your father's an alcoholic for heaven's sake.  He taught you so much."  Pretty soon, I was just as deflective, elusive, secretive and manipulative as my beloved - -  all because of my shame and guilt.  The disease does that too.  It makes the loved ones of alcoholics just as sick. 
  • Resentful & Powerless:  What I learned from my dad wasn't enough.   My knowledge was ancillary and limited, secondhand if you will, and barely scraped the surface of what I needed to know, to understand, to do.  I didn't know that until I went into recovery (read Bowing) myself.  I was suppressing my growing resentments - - of the disease, of Boomer, the deterioration of our relationship, the fact that I seemed to be the only one who gave a shit, it went on.  Boomer was only getting sicker, spiraling, and growing more angry and resentful himself.  I was just as powerless over his disease as he was.  Difference was, I didn't deny it anymore, and my ignorance and resentments diminish the more time I invest in recovery. 
  • Affected:  November 2012, Boomer died from alcoholism (read Reality is a Bitch).   It doesn't get more affected than that.    He was affected.  I was affected - - by both Boomer and my father.   Truth is, anyone and everyone who knew Boomer, loved Boomer, interacted with him in anyway has been affected by the disease of alcoholism.  Even if someone didn't know Boomer personally, but care for someone he was close to, has also been affected.  If you believe otherwise, well, let's just say that's denial and ignorance. 
Boomer told me from the very beginning, "SMO, you and I are more alike than we are different."  But before I truly understood and accepted his disease to be a disease, I didn't always see it.  I equated alcoholism as defining who Boomer was.  That's not true.  He was sick with a disease.  Like someone who has diabetes or cancer, it's not who they are, it's something they have - - a condition, incurable without acknowledgement or recovery treatment.  But it was in his personal vulnerabilities, his sensitivity as a human being, that deepened my comprehension of how accurate he was (read Mother and Perspective) - - our wounds, our sufferings and how unprepared we each were to deal with them.

I love Maya Angelou's words.  I use to take them at face value.  I don't anymore.  What I've learned is that when someone shows you who they are, what they're really showing through their words, actions, attitudes, or lack thereof, are their wounds, their sufferings, their denial, their ignorance  - - unacknowledged,  untreated and fully protected by a threatened ego.

May we all recover from the crap we carry. 


  1. Beautiful.. I will share your story on my page.. it may help someone.. God bless you..:)

  2. Thank you. There are so many who are suffering and affected, family and friends too. Peace to you.