Loving and Leaving an Alcoholic: Am I Self Centered?

The day after spending Christmas with family, I received a text message from a close relative.

You are a self-centered piece of crap. Good riddance. You’re not welcome here ever again. Period. Everything was planned at our expense.

What the fuck did I plan? What the fuck is everything?

I love my family, my extended family, and my in-laws. However, like most family gatherings during the holidays, tensions can break – especially when you see them only once a year. Lack of regular communication, assumptions, and fantasy-perfect Facebook and Instagram feeds bolster false impressions that build throughout the year. Why no, there are no problems in the family. We’re all perfect, and so are you.

I admit I had a few reservations about attending this family gathering from the beginning. It wasn’t due to the usual family disputes: politics, religion, or family gossip. The real reason? Alcohol. Like most holidays, partying is a big part of the celebration. No biggie unless a beloved family member is an alcoholic. That changes everything. Alcohol abuse ruins families, relationships, careers, and lives. This holiday was no exception – booze flowed freely, as expected. But this family gathering was different. I made a bold statement on Christmas Eve – to everyone.

For me, I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit by any means. For me, it was another drunken night, much like countless others I’ve seen many times before. With a level of unbearable angst, I broke. I left the family celebration – peacefully. I didn’t explode in a fit of anger. I didn’t provoke anyone, nor was I aggressive or belligerent. I quietly stood up, announced I could not watch the alcohol abuse any longer, informed everyone I was leaving, and calmly walked out. I called an Uber, went to a hotel, and flew home on Christmas Day. Although I felt broken, I was hopeful that treatment would be sought because I took a stand and intervened.

Apparently, the timing wasn’t convenient for my family. Last time I checked, most people don’t schedule their breaking point.

You are clearly not a ‘stand up’ kind of guy. Any psychologist would agree. [You were] rude to the hosts. Immature, Dave.
[The family member] was not crazy drunk or anything.

Uh, by any measure, chugging nearly a fifth of Crown Royal whiskey all by you’re lonesome in a couple of hours is a lot of alcohol. Anyone would be quite intoxicated.

Sadly, the family was not fully aware of the severity of the problem. After all, I wasn’t going to broadcast in advance that getting plastered was a regular event. I wasn’t going to call them up beforehand and announce that nearly 200 Crown Royal bags were discovered – stuffed in a cabinet like trophies. I wasn’t going to advertise that the drinking was out of control for the past 18 months. 

This is normal holiday drinking – we all get drunk.  

A week into the new year, extensive outpatient therapy was scheduled for three hours a day, three days a week. I was hopeful. No one wants to see a beloved family member ruin their life with an addiction. After 90 days of treatment, some success was achieved.

With permission, I spoke to the therapist first-hand:

We only scratched the surface; it will take years of therapy to treat the underlying demons.

After hearing this news, I was fearful of the future. I was afraid the demons would rise again. I was in full-time panic mode.

Gradually, the alcohol abuse began all over again – but this time, it was binging on the weekends – nursing an entire bottle of Crown Royal from 8 PM to waking hours the next morning. Desperately, I tried to control and cure the disease. My desperate measures were powerless, though. Loving an alcoholic is a grueling and painful experience.

Although sobriety was short-lived, treatment may have never been sought if I didn’t take a stand and intervene on Christmas Eve. Likely, there would have been job loss and worse consequences. Before the relapse, I was thanked for saving the life of someone I loved so dearly.

Walking out during a family celebration wasn’t easy. And it certainly wasn’t an act of selfishness – it was an act of love – an intervention of hope. It was the most brutal yet the most unselfish thing I’ve ever done.

Yet, the ridicule still echoes:

You’re a self-centered piece of crap.

My apologies. Next time, I’ll be sure to schedule my breaking point at your convenience.

 

“File:Licor (249190917).jpeg”by Rodrigo.Argenton is licensed under CC0 1.0

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