Knitting Kneedles

Sunday, January 01, 2006

I am reading a book right now that's really hitting home with me. It's called "A Million Little Pieces" written by James Frey. Mr. Frey wrote this book about himself. The reason that it hits me so close is that it helps me see a lot of what my own father went through with his own addictions. In this book, James is 23 years old, addicted to alcohol and crack. He's been drinking since he was 10 years old. Hard to believe, I know, but it's true. One night, he woke up and found himself on an airplane, and had no idea how he got there, or where the plane was going. His face was bleeding, he smelled of body fluids, and was a disgrace to himself basically. He asked the flight attnedant where the plane was going, and it was going to Chicago. Apparently his parents were there to meet him, unbeknownst to him. Two people and a doctor had dropped him off at the airport and a friend had called his parents letting them know he needed serious help. They take him to a treatment facility in Chicago and the things that James is going through are incredibly awful. He realizes that he's done all of these things to himself, he doesn't seem to be blaming anyone but himself, but oh how he struggles with detoxification.

My own father struggled with one of the same things as James Frey. I don't know at what age he started to drink, but my entire life, until I was 16, he'd always been a drinker. Most nights, I seem to remember him drinking to the point of passing out on the couch or the floor or whereever he happened to be at the time. We just sort of got used to it. There were times when he'd go to a rehab center to try and quit. Sometimes worked longer than others. There was one center in Washington state, which is where I grew up, that had the best recovery rate in the state, and he went there. To no avail. It was the last center he went to. I think I was 14 or 15 or so at that time. He tried AA meetings, support groups of other types, religion, counsling, etc. He knew he had the problem, and I believe that he really wanted to get rid of it. But sometimes what you want and what you can fight off are no match for each other. One always wins. Sometimes it's not the one we want. Sometimes it is. My dad was awesome. He was great when he was sober, and even when he was drunk, he was still my dad. He never hit us (unless it was a well deserved spanking, and I only remember 1 or 2 of those really) and he did not verbally abuse us or molest us or anything like that. I think he drank to get "rid of himself" so to speak. So that he didn't feel, the same way James does in this book. There were times when my dad had consumed so much alcohol, and his body was so resistant to certain amounts I guess that once or twice when he was in the hospital (for breaking an arm after stumbling and falling or something) that the doctors were literally shocked that he was alive, that the amount of alcohol in his body was beyond that of someone who should still be alive. I guess that's what years of drinking can do to a person.

The last time I saw my dad was when I was 16. He had been sober for about 3 weeks. He was driving me to my aunt's house in a nearby city and I was going to stay with her for the summer and work where she did to make some money for myself. Things were great, and had been for those three weeks. He dropped me off, I told him good bye, I can't remember if I told him I loved him, but I'd like to think I did. Two or three weeks later, my aunt and I were getting ready for work. The phone rang, and my aunt NEVER answers the phone in the morning, as she has her time all perfectly planned out, and phone calls didn't fit into the schedule. But for some reason that morning, she answered the phone. She sent me to work with the nieghbor (work was just across the street at the apple/cherry shed where we'd sort the icky ones from the good ones, weigh them, pack them, etc...crappy job, but good money for a 16 year old kid). I figured that it was something to do with her daughter, who had just had a baby about 2 days before. Then, an hour or so after we were working, the supervisor approached me and said someone was coming to pick me up to take me to the hospital. I asked if the baby was ok, and I'm sure she thought I was nuts. She said 'Maybe your aunt just needs some emotional support.' So I waited for my ride, thinking it would be my cousin's fiance Carlos. It wasn't. It was an old family friend. I questioned him endlessly about the baby, still convinced that it was Miranda (the baby) who was at the hospital with problems. He was quiet most of the drive and said we'd just have to find out, he didn't know what was going on. We got to the hospital and there was his wife, who grabbed my hand and held it tight. It was then that I knew it wasn't anything to do with Miranda. I asked what was going on and she said my mom would tell me. What? My mom's here? Then my mom came around the corner, and told me that my dad was there, that he had tried to commit suicide and it didn't look very good. My dad had tried more than once, twice, three times to commit suicide, so I was shocked that they'd actually taken him to the city where I was, which had a larger hospital than the one we actually lived in at the time. I remember hoping that they didn't airlift him there because my dad didn't like to fly. Later I found out they didn't, they took him there via ambulance. Apparently, right after my dad dropped me off, he went on a drinking binge that lasted from then until he wound up in jail. He ended up getting in a huge fight with my mom, of which I don't know the details, and really don't want to at this point. My mom took my little sister and went to a hotel to stay at, had a restraining order against him placed, then later for some reason or other had it lifted. The proper paperwork wasn't done in having the RO lifted, and the police were called over an argument my dad had with a neighbor. They arrested him thinking the RO was still in place, and in their custody he attempted to take his life. He had a splint on his arm wrapped with an ace bandage, and he used the bandage to try and hang himself. They saw him on the monitor, then took the bandage away. They didn't put him on a suicide watch, just left him. Sometime later, they saw him on a monitor again, and he had attempted again, with the collar of his shirt and the waisteband of his undergarments. He was successful in that attempt, had been without oxygen to his brain for several minutes and they revived him to a comatose state, then transported him to the hospital where I had met with my mom and everyone else in the world, or so it seemed. He never awoke from the coma, he was in it for about 30 hours I think. My mom and everyone else kept asking me if I wanted to go into his room and see him, say anything to him. I never did. I have no regrets in not going in to see him. The last time I saw my dad, things were great and he was sober and happy, we all were happy. That's the last memory I wanted of my dad. Not him hooked up to every machine around to live for him. He had no brain activity, a machine was breathing for him, and his lungs were filling with fluid. Death was setting in even before it completely took over. I had no desire to change my memory of him. My sister, bless her heart, needed to say good bye. I am so glad I didn't witness that. She was only 8 at the time, and dad was her best friend in the entire world. I know that it was hard on my mom to take her in there to say goodbye to her daddy, who it seemed like she was just barely getting to know.

So anyway, back to this book. I think I am understanding a little more about my dad. Not in anyway excusing his behavior, but maybe getting an understanding of why people with addictions such as these do what they do. And how sick they really are, and how these things can eventually turn them into something that makes them not want to live, not have the will to live. I now have somewhat of an idea of what my dad went through during his times at the treatment centers he was at. I know that those people in those centers truly cared about my dad. That they sincerely wanted to help him and see him still alive today. I will never forget his AA friends at his funeral saying the Serenity prayer, and showing that they loved my dad and cared for him profusely.

I'm sorry for going on about this, I hope no one minds. I guess this book just really brought out a lot of emotions I thought were hidden inside. I am greatful, ever so greatful, to have been able to know my dad for the 16 years that I did. I learned a lot from him. I miss him a lot, and I really wish that my own children had the chance to know him besides me just talking about him.