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You can only save yourself

I’m not sure I should even tackle this topic, lest it make me start crying. But somehow that makes me think it’s exactly what I should write about, because writing is about feeling. It’s my way of releasing the things that otherwise would gnaw at me and drive me crazy. In order to grow, I need to write, so that’s what I do.

My only paternal uncle lives in my hometown in Connecticut, in the house that was my grandparents’ and is now his. I don’t know what goes on in his head (or anyone’s head other than mine), but after my grandmother died in 2006, it seemed to destroy him. His girlfriend is an alcoholic, and he has become an alcoholic as well.

In the epilogue of Magical Shrinking I write about going to visit him in May 2010 when I was in Connecticut. I was so nervous about showing up to the house, and when I finally arrived, he wasn’t there. His girlfriend was, and she wouldn’t answer the door even though we were on the phone, talking, and I could see her through the locked screen door. She couldn’t tell me where he was, other than it was a rehab or halfway house.

She was drunk. Shitfaced drunk. She asked if I could find a lawn mower and mow the lawn (the grass was very high, it looked bad), and when I said no she asked if I could cut her cat’s claws. These things made me start to sob and I returned to my rental car and left.

This feels like too long of a story to write about, but without any background information, the way I’m feeling won’t make sense. Maybe it doesn’t have to make sense?

When I finally saw him, he was in a halfway house and was sober. He looked good, which is not how any of our relatives described the way he’d looked the last time they’d seen him. Still, I was going back to Colorado the next day, and there wasn’t really anything I could do to help him other than visit and talk with him.

It’s November and that was May. I’ve not heard anything good about how he’s doing.

But I’m afraid to call. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’m afraid his girlfriend will answer the phone, or worse, that he’ll answer and be as drunk as she was that day when I was there.

I’m really worried about him, and yet I don’t call. His brother, my father, died directly due to alcoholism at age 52. And now he’s become an alcoholic over the past few years. It makes me so sad I can hardly think about it.

After showing up at the house and his girlfriend being so insane and drunk on the phone, I ended up at my aunt’s house. My two cousins were also there. I wanted to go back to the house and beat the shit out of his girlfriend. Just break right through the door and kick her ass. They told me not to go back there, not to try to talk to her that night, and not to hurt her because I’d be the one who’d go to jail.

Part of me is ashamed of letting him down. That my grandparents would be really disappointed in me, because I haven’t been able to keep him from this. From destroying his life. That’s what I thought that night as I drove away, tore away from the house and that street as fast as I could. That I had let it happen.

I know that’s not rational. There was nothing I could have done about his actions. I moved away from Connecticut fifteen years ago. And even if I was there, what could I do? Nothing.

Sometimes people we love kill themselves with drugs or alcohol. That’s life, unfortunately. It used to be me. I’m the one that used to make people worry, and maybe even cry with concern. I was the addict and I couldn’t even allow myself to think about how it was hurting other people.

I hope he’s okay, but I don’t think he is. I’m going to call there this week, no matter how much it scares me. If he dies and I never made the call, how will I feel?