Everyone has things that are hard to say. This is mine.

You guys — I am so tired.

At the end of this day, Wednesday, January 12, exhaustion has descended.  I am in bed.  I am wearing jammies.  My head hurts a tinge, but only because I am too lazy to get up and walk ten steps to the bathroom for some Excedrin.

This tired is the kind of tired that follows a very full day, a day when you have a million things on your plate, and all of them are good.  I think, “is it just Wednesday?” and I remember the full agendas coming up tomorrow and Friday, with lots of tasks and to-do’s, and those things are good, too.

Sometimes I’m so grateful for my life, I want to fucking cry.

*  *  *

At this very moment, my husband is at an intervention for a friend.  It’s the first time I’ve ever known someone, in real life, who has received an intervention.

We all have a lot of theories.  About how his alcoholism started.  We have all been frustrated, all have ropes that we have sworn we’ve reached the end of, and then, look at that.  More rope.

It’s happened again, and again, and again with this friend.  Some of us have taken him to rehab.  Some of us have taken him in.  When he didn’t have anywhere to live last summer, I woke up one morning and looked out my window, and saw him sleeping in our hammock.

*  *  *
I went to his wedding a few years ago, back when I first started dating Ross.  I didn’t really know anyone there.  It was at Barr Mansion, and there was a seated stringed trio, and salad with pink dressing, and smiled anecdotes in the air about the couple and their courtship.

At one point I was standing by myself on the perimeter of a big, wide dance circle. Ross was I don’t know where.  It was one of those moments when, surrounded by people, you just feel kind of lonely.  You can sense the personal histories and the long friendships in the room, and since you are not woven into those histories yet, you stand, quietly, respectfully, at the edge of circles.

That’s when he, the groom, grabbed me by the hand.

“C’mon, Tolly!  Dance with me!”

I was startled.  And thrilled.  We danced one song. 

And you know?  I’ve danced to hundreds of songs since then.  But that dance sticks out in my memory, because it was such a kind and thoughtful gesture.  At my own wedding, several years later, it never once crossed my mind to look for that one lone soul, shyly shuffling their feet, desperately wishing someone would ask them to dance, or talk, or share a drink or do anything together.

But it crossed his.

*  *  *

Last night I was telling Ross, “sometimes it just seems so selfish.  This life that he is wasting.”

And then I remembered my own life.

I remembered how criminally effortless it is for me, for most people, to make myself breakfast in the morning, to grudgingly pay my bills, to call my Mom.  It’s not like that for him.

There are plenty of alcoholics in my family, but I’ve experienced them at a distance.  They aren’t my mom or dad, they are jovial uncles, and one now-recovered aunt.  As a result, I’ve just heard snatches about alcoholism.  “It’s a disease just like any other.”  “You can be high-functioning.”  “You can’t just go cold turkey, you have to ease off or your body will go into shock.”

Now that I am watching it up close, though, it surprises me that I’ve never heard anything about homelessness.  I mean, I’ve heard the two concepts linked in an abstract, TV news statistic way — “over 1/3 of America’s homeless struggle with chemical dependency” — but I’ve never heard anyone say, “sometimes, certain alcoholics just slowly, steadily lose everything, including available places to live.”

And it is so bizarre to watch.  Especially through my point of view, standing in the middle of my incredibly cute little life, with the husband and the cat and the job and the fulfilling hobbies and the parents who love me.  I look at him, and I see someone who hasn’t lost the will to live, exactly.  More like he’s lost the recipe to life.  He keeps adding salt when he should be adding sugar, and he repeats this same mistake over and over again until the cookies taste like absolute shit and that’s when I finally realize, “this is a disease.”

*  *  *

Here’s what I’ve learned, in my very brief and still continuing exposure to alcoholism: It’s really hard to be sympathetic.

It’s hard because, unlike someone with cancer or diabetes, they look, act, and behave just like you and me.  Except when they are opening up a beer.

He came over to our house this summer while Ross was away, and we were sitting in the living room. He asked, “could I sleep here tonight?”

I started crying, because all of our friends had collectively agreed together: “Showers and coming inside for a glass of water — those are ok.  Giving him a place to crash is not.”  It was shortly before we started using the word “enabling” in every other conversation regarding this friend.


He immediately waved his hand graciously, like I had just said, “no, I’m out of printer toner, but I can get it for you on Tuesday.” He smiled a little smile and replied, “that’s ok. I understand.”

“What are you going to do, baby?  What are you … doing?”

I asked him this while crying a little, and I don’t remember what he said.  I think he got up and said, “well I’ll let you get back to it,” which was nothing, I wasn’t doing anything.  Except for sitting there, looking at him, refusing to let him sleep on our couch, which just felt so cruel and horrible in the moment.

*  *  *
The good news for this friend of ours is that, though pretty much all of his institutions have crumbled, his marriage, his job(s), his welcome at his parents’ house, and his driver’s license, he does have sympathetic friends.

I asked Ross what he missed about him the other night.  I told him about the wedding, and I also told him about this one time the friend cheered for me during a bowling game, and I said, “that’s what I’m holding out for, the stuff that I hope comes back if he gets healed.”

Ross said, “I miss his creativity.  He’s a hard worker.  He’s funny and incredibly smart and he likes to make people laugh.  I think this thing is not him.  I really don’t think it’s him.”

He said it with such conviction I believed it, the distinct and firm separation between our friend and it, the foreign agent.  Like he caught a really bad strand of the flu, and just like the stuffy head wouldn’t be “him,” the red face and the random crying and the tone in his voice that wavers from venomously biting to pitifully childlike isn’t “him.”

*  *  *

It’s been a couple of hours now and Ross is still at the intervention.  Sometimes I think forcing our friend to get help, like, physically dragging him into a treatment center and all but strapping him down (Ross actually did that with him once) is the answer.  He’s staying with another friend right now, in an arrangement that’s about to end.  And then?  We don’t know.  We remind ourselves not to be fatalistic, but we also say: “He could be homeless, he could die; these are his choices if he opts not to get help.”

I’m not saying it’s Satan, all I wonder is: What if Ross is right. What if the person opting not to get help isn’t “him.”

If he wants help, he has to be the one to choose it.”  That’s another thing I’ve heard about alcoholics.

But, where is this choice-making power supposed to come from?  How does power get distributed, how do some of us pour ourselves a bowl of cereal like it’s nothing, and how do others (like my friend) forget to eat for days?

I don’t know how to end this post.

I guess now would be a good time to say something like, “I just hope he remembers that dance we had, and how great that made me feel.”  But he’s too smart for tinny platitudes.

I don’t think he even reads this blog.  If he did, though, I guess I would want him to get to the end of this post knowing — “ok. I am worth thinking about.”

We aren’t that close, it’s true.  But I seriously think about you all the time.