Thursday, June 23, 2011

What Led to All of This Craziness?

Eddie and I met in 1980 during our second year of college in Douglas, Georgia.  He was a baseball player, and I was a basketball cheerleader.  The first time we officially "went out" together was on a double date with another baseball player and his girlfriend, who was also a cheerleader.  We went to see the movie "Blue Lagoon."  I remember how embarrassed I was because I hardly knew Eddie, and there was (for that time) a lot of nudity in the movie.  It obviously turned out OK though, because we never dated anyone else after that.  Just like Eddie and I, the couple we double dated with ended up marrying each other several years later.  Sadly, I recently learned that her husband had passed away the same year as Eddie.  I couldn't help but be struck by the irony of this - the four of us started out dating together and 29 years later we each lost our husbands within seven months of each other.

Eddie and I continued dating for three years then married in 1983.  We had moved to Columbus, Georgia by that time because of school (Eddie had continued his baseball at Columbus College).  During the time we were dating, I knew Eddie drank a lot, but I didn't think too much about it.  After all we were in college and that's what a lot of people did.  I assumed once we married, settled down, and went to work that would change - and it did for awhile.  Eddie was always a hard worker and made a good living.  He enjoyed hunting, fishing, exercising, and playing softball.  He would do anything to help a friend.  When Trey was old enough to play ball, Eddie helped coach several of his teams.  He loved his family.  In the beginning, he didn't drink every day.  Most of the time he only drank on weekends.  But I began to see that when he did drink he drank too much.

Over the years I began to notice that no matter how successful Eddie was or how much he accomplished, it never seemed to be enough for him.  He always thought he should be making more money, buying more things, impressing more people.  He didn't have to work at making others like him.  He had a great personality, and everyone liked him for who he was.  But he never believed this.  Eventually he started drinking more.  He thought he needed to "loosen up" every time we went out with our friends.  In time he was drinking every day.  It was then that I realized Eddie was an alcoholic. 

During the last five to six years of our marriage, Eddie's drinking took over his life (and mine too).  He still managed to keep a good job though, until the last year.  I learned through my reading and counseling that he was a "functional alcoholic."  He was able to hide his drinking from most people and to function like a "normal" person.  Only family and close friends knew he had a problem.  During this time Eddie went back and forth between believing he was an alcoholic and denying he had a problem at all.  He would go to counseling for awhile then quit.  He attended AA meetings then stopped.  He went through an outpatient treatment program but didn't stick to the follow-up plan when it was over.  It wasn't until he lost his job as a direct result of his drinking that he finally admitted he was an alcoholic and needed help.  He entered an inpatient treatment facility, and I thought this was finally the answer ... he was going to get the long-term help he needed.  He received help, but it wasn't long term.  He stayed for six weeks.  I spent the last five days and nights there with him.  I tried to tell the counselors and doctors that he wasn't ready to leave, but they insisted he was.  I had known him for almost 30 years.  They had known him for 6 weeks, but according to them they knew best.  Eddie had said all of the right things, made all of the right promises - he was always good at convincing other people.  So on the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2009 we came home.

I knew the first week Eddie was home things weren't right.  He wasn't drinking, but he wasn't following through with his responsibilities for continuing his treatment either.  He was supposed to attend AA every day, no excuses, no exceptions.  He went to three meetings that first week.  He was supposed to get a sponsor but didn't.  He was encouraged to see a counselor but he never did.  He met with our preacher one time but never went back.  This continued for the next several months.  He focused less and less on his alcoholism until he finally stopped going to AA at all.  He was having trouble finding a job during all of this, and that began to eat away at him.  Finally in February 2009 he started drinking again.  This time, I didn't have anything left.  I had done everything I knew to do.  I had encouraged, supported, begged, pleaded, threatened but nothing had worked.  So I gave up and ignored it as much as possible.  I saw his old habits return - hiding his alcohol, lying about where he had been, disappearing for hours.  This time I didn't even bother trying to cover for him.  I knew he was drinking again every day, but obviously what I didn't know was how depressed had become.  It was that combination of alcoholism and depression that led to his decision to take his own life.

I no longer tell myself that I could have done anything to make a difference in the end.  Eddie had been on a path to self-destruction that I didn't have the power to change.  I regret that I wasn't able to do more, but I've worked hard to accept that I did all I could.  I've always heard the expression "hindsight is 20/20", but if I had it to do all over again, knowing what I know now, I honestly don't know what I would do differently.

          Serenity Prayer
God grant me ...
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.


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