One Alcoholic Can Affect Many Lives

A Family in Crisis - a True Story

Senior Man Drinking and Smoking
One Alcoholic Can Affect Many People. © Getty Images

We were all friends back in the '60s. Our priorities reflected the era: drugs, sex, and rock & roll—not necessarily in that order. Many of our generation moved on, grew up, and became productive or even successful members of society. A few remain stuck in the insanity of the time—the fog of substance abuse—searching for a dream that can never come true.

Although some of us stayed in touch over the years, most drifted to parts unknown.

When the telephone call came, with an invitation to come back "home" for a visit, I had not heard the voice on the other end in over 20 years.

I accepted the invitation and made the trip, not realizing I would be walking into the midst of a family in crisis—an emotional powder keg ready to explode.

It is a tragically perfect example of how one alcoholic effects so many other lives; a story of alcoholism spiraling into a full-fledged family disease. All the classic roles are present in this family, setting up the dynamics that create and proliferate insanity. The following is my view of the "players" in the latest act. The names, of course, have been changed.

The Players

The Alcoholic - David — His bouts with various illegal drugs in the past 35 years are almost legendary, and through them all he drank. Alcohol is now his drug of choice. He is at the stage of drinking everyday, beginning with a beer first thing in the morning in order to "take the edge off." David is no longer a "functional" alcoholic, not having any visible means of support for years.

Mostly a life-of-the-party "happy drunk" he can fly into violent rages at the slightest provocation. Having some of his enabling devices pulled out from under him suddenly, he is desperately seeking another enabler.

Enabler No. 1, The Doting Mother - Esther — She spent the last 30 years blaming everyone else for David's problems — the friends he hangs out with, the women he has married, the evils of society in general.

In her eyes he was never responsible for his own problems. She financially enabled him through the years by giving him money, whenever he asked for it or whenever he rages at her. She still does.

Wife No. 1 - Glenda — She married David while still a teenager; they were divorced 24 years ago as a direct result of his cocaine abuse and subsequent violence. She remarried and has a child, but is now divorced again and lives alone with her young daughter.

Wife No. 2 - Missy — Long gone. One of the few in David's life that did not enable him, although she did leave him with a ton of credit card debt that almost bankrupted him, and then got out while the getting was good.

Wife No. 3 - Julia — The mother of David's only child, a son. She divorced him two years ago after he "dropped out" and refused to get a job. When all her efforts to manipulate him into taking responsibility for his family failed, she quit in frustration.

The Ex-Mother-In-Law - Mary — She plays the role of provoker. She never liked David and was never reticent to let him know it. She constantly confronted him with his shortcomings in a condemning and judgmental manner. Many times she was his "excuse" to get drunk.

The Abandoned Son - Andy — An absolutely brilliant kid with probably a genius-level I.Q.

When his parents' marriage broke up he sought comfort in food, becoming obese at age nine. He is scared of David; oftentimes refusing to go for his every-other-weekend visits. As a result, his weekend visits take place only at Esther's home.

The "Daughter" - Susie — The eight-year-old daughter of David's Current Girlfriend. She is affected by his presence in the home to the point of complaining to her father and grandmother. For the first time in her life she is beginning to miss days at school and her grades are slipping.

The Current Girlfriend's Ex - Greg — Susie's father is very upset with the presence of David in his daughter's life.

He has threatened to take action, both legal and illegal — meaning that he has threatened David if he doesn't leave. Ironically it was David who introduced Greg and his ex-wife.

The Current Girlfriend - Glenda — Yep, the Current Girlfriend was also Wife No. 1. Glenda has become a successful businesswoman and is doing very well financially, although she is lonely and depressed about the break-up of her marriage to Greg. She was happy and flattered to have David's attention again, but she instinctively knew that something wasn't right. She is a perfect target for an alcoholic seeking an enabler. It was Glenda who made the invitation call to me saying, "I need to talk to you, please come!"

Next: An Alcoholic in Denial