Our neighbor, Deb, met me outside of our campers to say she wasn’t going to attend the Super Bowl party at Henry and Paula’s site. “The energy isn’t right for me,” she said, “and I have to listen to that.”
Deb is 28 years sober, but she still follows one of the key precepts of AA – don’t hang around people or places that put your program at risk. Having already been around our hosts, she knew that Henry was an all-day drinker and she’d didn’t want to be around that.
When I told Beth that Deb wasn’t going with us, we decided to go anyway. My program as a a non-drinker didn’t include the AA precept. As important, I don’t like to renege on a commitment and I thought Henry was a fun character. He entertained me as a self-confessed, “super red neck”. Yeah, I’ll admit it – I was going as an observer of people as much as looking for an enjoyable diversion.
Potato salad, guacamole and a 15-pack of Natural Light for hosts in-hand, the three of us (Beth, me, Bradley) arrived at the party. Two other campers, Barb and Jerry, from Minnesota were already there.
It really was a pleasant evening learning about Barb and Jim’s past and sharing with one another the different life experiences that brought us to the road. We weren’t watching football, that’s for sure.
Paula made some great pork chops on the grill and everyone ate except Henry. Apparently, once he eats he sleeps, an aspect of big drinking I’d never heard of before last night. Without any food in his belly, though, Henry started getting less lucid. He started slurring his words and shouting out curses into the air for no reason I could see. The rest of us were chatting, but I was starting to see what Deb feared – the sad dance that occurs between an alcoholic and his wife.
Paula was trying to talk to me, but she kept having to shout at Henry, “Shut-up or I’ll send you into the camper!” Needless to say, I was no longer enjoying the scene. It went from entertaining to excruciating really fast.
As the halftime show finished, Beth and I locked eyes and knew now was the time to depart. In addition to the scene I spoke of, the night was turning cold. We said our “good nights” and back to our much smaller camper we trudged.
“I’ll talk to my sponsor,” I told Beth this morning. We both wanted to do something, but neither of us are AA members or trained in substance abuse. I know about ACA, the Adult Children if Alcoholics program because I’m in it (and love it).
“The opposite of addiction is connection,” someone said at a TED Talk. So, maybe I will remain friendly with Henry and Paula. Maybe I will say something to her about getting him some help. Likely as not, this won’t work if she’s enabling him. Let’s see what my sponsor says. If nothing else, I will be friendly because that’s what I would want.
I’m feeling sad about it all. My dad was an alcoholic and so were others in my legacy. I probably shouldn’t have brought the guy more beer, but I said I would.
It’s one of the truths about bored retirees, the unemployed or others hiding some sort of pain – alcohol makes us numb. Like pot or pills or any other substance or behavior, they work until they don’t. An alcoholic can be quite loose and funny until he becomes incoherent. Been there, bought the t-shirt.
I will meditate on my thoughts and actions here. How can I act with compassion and understanding instead of being “an observer.”? How can I accept that others observe me with the same fascination as they would a character in a play?
The most important thing to me in this moment is to avoid thinking I am superior or inferior to others. I don’t like competing and I don’t think the world is better for it – unless we all know it’s a game. Like a Super Bowl.