…And the Earth Moved: Two Liars
“I’m an alcoholic.”
There it was. Clear and honest and painful.
Steam rose from cups of freshly brewed and newly poured coffee as I looked across the table at my friend and mentor.
A burly, tall former Marine, SW stared back at me with red rimmed eyes and tears about to breach his wall. Torture and relief spoke through his brave admission. I listened.
He told a tale of the progressive and unyielding clutch alcohol had on him. He spoke of the cravings yelling at him to stop for just a couple of drinks as he drove home, leaving one place and being pulled back into another, leaving there and popping into a third for a quick bite of dinner on the way and polishing off a couple more.
A few drinks on the weekend blurred into the work week evenings and the evenings into nights. He hated the struggle of his sleepless nights fueled by a deep depression and an incessant scratching, unnerving call to have a drink. He answered that call. He had to.
Over time the rise of the sun meant shakiness and slight nausea, a drink his only cure to steady himself and clear his mind.
A man used to being around other people during the day in an office, SW’s current work kept him at home which made it more convenient to hide and even more of a hell to endure.
The Seducer promised to relieve his troubles and pain, fight back his equally evil twin, the Liar of depression, and to make him normal again. He delivered on his promise.
At least for a short while, the Liar’s voice chanting he was unworthy, a failure, and a nothing was silenced. For a brief moment during the small hours, SW was allowed a respite from a year ago tragedy that twisted his Earth into a contortion of shock, rage, and take-your-breath-away pain so deep it crossed into the realm where words fail.
It didn’t happen all at once; affliction rarely does. The lies of addiction require time for planting and nourishment over many suns and seasons. The Liar sees to it. With a watchful eye, he tends carefully over his work until it’s ready. Powerful and merciless, the fruit of his harvest chokes the life out of you.
SW and I talked for hours sitting in the booths at breakfast. We traded stories of struggle, volleys of failure and resilience.
From the outside looking in, you would have no idea SW was battling alcohol addiction. Well spoken and well kept, he was clear and steady, his thoughts and movements solid. In the years I have known him, I’d never seen SW in any state resembling inebriation. On those occasions when we drank, I marveled at well he could hold his drink. He was never a slurring, staggering drinker even after consuming more than enough leave the most experienced a slobbering mess. SW may have been a drinker, never a drunk.
In the rearview, that’s where I missed it. The apparent normality of it all.
It is a strange and dangerous ability of the alcoholic to consume and consume but not appear to suffer any of its effects. Greater amounts are more easily metabolized resulting in the need for even greater amounts to leave them satisfied. Satisfied, yet never fulfilled.
There’s no secret sauce. It’s the nature of addiction.
Seeing such a strong man in pain was sobering. Remembering the hard hand that life had dealt this good, faithful man over the years, well it seemed damned unfair. My friend didn’t deserve it. Who does? Well, there are some but he’s not one of them.
Addiction and depression are old and familiar acquaintances of mine.
SW and I have bonded in friendship as well as in a shared understanding of the soul destroying power of the Liar and his little brother, the Seducer.
However, it’s not what defines us as friends or individuals. It never will be.
One of many things I learned from him years ago is that power and healing can come from sharing with others, those who have similar struggles, the reality of living with depression.
Some people view addiction and depression as nothing more than a weakness of will or character. Go see a shrink, dry out, just quit, get your head right, suck it up and get your life together. I can tell you that someone who is really suffering from any addiction or depression can no more just talk themselves back to good health and recovery than can a late-stage cancer patient.
Additionally, society attaches a stigma to addiction and depression. It shrinks back from sufferers, especially depression and especially depression in men. The more I speak to other men, the more I find how common depression is in both our professional and personal worlds. It is pervasive. Even in this modern era, due to its stigma, depression is very often a silent killer.
Our loved ones do love us and are there for us but they can never truly know the dark bottomless chasm of depression. That’s a kindness and a blessing. It has long been my sincerest hope and prayer that this malady, this legacy I’ve inherited dies with my last breath.
While there is sorrow and pain, this is no self-serving sob story of life’s two victims. No, no. We’re both way too strong for that.
SW has taken the first step. He is taking a hard look in the mirror he’s holding up to himself and his life. He doesn’t like what he sees and what he believes he’s become. Part truth reflects back at him, the other whisper is the same song, second verse from the Liar.
Sometimes mirrors do lie. The reflection must be viewed through a clear lens.
It takes more strength than anyone but SW will ever know to see his reflection and own it, to commit to making a positive change, to reach for hope and to reach out for help. I’ll be on the road right beside him. He will not be a dark reflection in my rearview.
This tale is not one-sided. A brief history of my time is up ahead. We’ll take a turn down that side street for a piece before we return to the main way.
That’s enough for tonight. Tomorrow’s another light.