Wednesday, 11 July 2018


This post is about breaking the silence.

This is not about crime fiction or books or creative insights. This is about a personal situation that is crushing my family, a trap from which we cannot escape. This could be long enough to fill a book, because there's so much that could be told, but I don't have the heart to write that particular book.

My adult son is an alcoholic. He suffers from severe chronic depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other problems which I don't think have been properly diagnosed. He self-harms. He has anti-depressants and sleeping aids that he doesn't take, preferring to self-medicate with alcohol. A great deal of alcohol.

He has no history of traumatic events in his past, just four years of horrible grade school teachers who systematically destroyed his self-confidence because they didn't like boys and didn't like pupils who preferred to draw pictures rather than excel at math or science. When he finally got out of there and went to high school, puberty hit. The biochemical changes that swept his body were like the final straw.

Like so many other people with mental health issues, he has trouble holding a job. He has trouble with personal relationships, and has extreme difficulty letting go when they fail. He's single. He wants to live on his own, and we want him to, but he struggles to function in basic day-to-day situations.

What have we done as parents to try to help him? Everything we can think of. See, here's the crux of the thing. If we wash our hands of him, tell him to sink or swim on his own, grow up and be an adult, he will fail. Alone, without support, he will lose his job, lose his apartment, end up on the street and perhaps take his own life. It's come close a few times. This is not a situation where a little failure is a good thing. Failure for him is disastrous for all of us, and possibly fatal.

We love him very much, so we stick with him. We stay by the phone all the time. Literally, 24/7/365. We talk to him every day, often several times a day. When he's drinking, the calls can come in the middle of the night and last for several hours. Once, he was walking in the Ottawa cemetery at 3 am and called me from there. When he called again at 5, he was at the police station after having been mugged and nearly knifed. Only one of so many, many nights of deeply upsetting calls.

We blew our savings a few summers ago on a 30-day rehab stint that failed miserably. We're deeply in debt because we have to help him pay the rent and buy groceries, not to mention the cellphones that have been lost/damaged/destroyed. His cellphone is his only link to us, so it's essential. You've probably noticed how expensive they can be.

Whatever money he makes ends up being spent on alcohol. We're retired, on a fixed income. Money's scarce. I don't sell enough books anymore to pay the printing costs, let alone contribute to the family budget. And since most of my time is spent either with him or stressed to the gills about him, I'm not exactly churning out the new titles right now.

If you think we're enabling him and should stop, you have no idea what it's like to live this way for 11 years with no sign of a recovery. You have no idea what it's like to sit all weekend in a crappy apartment with someone you deeply love and watch them drool down the front of their T-shirt and rave about the latest lost love, hour after hour, saying the same things over and over again. Someone you love. Someone you raised from an infant to a little boy to a young man, to this.

I've taken him to the hospital. I've taken him to the Royal Ottawa Mental Hospital. Multiple times. No one seems to be prepared to deal with this situation. The Royal has a walk-in addiction treatment program that's available from 8 am to 11 am, Monday to Friday, excluding stat holidays. I live an hour away from the city. Try to get an alcoholic in distress or in a deep funk into the car and through traffic to a hospital in the morning, on a weekday only, before they lock the doors at 10:50 am.

Are you kidding me?

He refuses even to talk about another rehab stint, because he hated the previous one so much. Alcoholics Anonymous is not an option. He did AA as part of the rehab, and it's not for him. He's not a practicing Christian, and he balks at the idea he has no control, that only God can decide if he will recover. The Blue Book is filled with stuff about businessmen and housewives from the mid-20th century. It's not relevant to his life. I support him in this. AA is badly out of date and unresponsive to today's young people. Don't hate on me if you're a big AA supporter. I'm glad that you are. It's just that it's done nothing for us.

Right now he's on a five-day drunk. He's abandoned a contract assignment that was supposed to pay his rent this summer. I don't know where this is going. I've lived with this for so long now, for so many years now, that the stress is almost unbearable. I don't know how to get through tonight. Tomorrow night will probably be the same, all over again.

While my wife sits with him on the phone right now, I'm here at the keyboard doing the only thing I know how to do. Write.

Breaking the silence.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018, 10:58 pm

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