Monday, October 14, 2013

Death of a Life

As I write this, someone I know is in the hospital as a result of chronic alcoholism. This is the second hospitalization for liver issues in less than six months. She’s now in multiple organ failure, and her body is shutting down.

She is not expected to live more than a few hours.

She will die today.

The person I’m writing about had so much promise. Her family seemed perfect…A Midwestern home that could have been used in any movie depicting exactly the kind of place where you’d want to raise children. Green, grassy hills for the kids to roll down in the summer. Lots of trees that shed so many leaves in Autumn, as a kid you’d be knee deep in them if you took the dog for a walk in the ravine. Woods to explore. And a tiny creek.

Well-rounded educations with plenty of extra-curricular activities for the kids…Little League. Girl Scouts.  Karate lessons. Football. Violin. Flute. Band. It was all the right stuff to get the kids into college for bright futures. A Journalism major for one, West Point for another. The person I’m writing about chose Business.

She graduated at just the right time: it was that period during the ‘80’s when Fortune 500 companies realized that women could not only be assets to the company’s bottom line, they could be good executives as well. The person I’m writing about was one of these women; she got in the “Executive Training Program” of a company that would go on to become a household name. Like the home she grew up in, with her power suits, blonde bob hairstyle and winning smile, she could have been straight out of Central Casting for her role.

I’m not sure when she started drinking. I was closest in age to the baby in her family (the West Pointer), and we had very different interests: She was in that executive training program and was married to a very straight-laced looking guy with short hair. I was a teenager who was interested in music, concerts, and rock bands, and hanging out with boys with long hair. She swore, but not in front of her grandma. I swore openly and burned incense in my room, so my grandma’s husband told my parents I was “smoking dope in there.” (I actually wasn’t. I just liked vanilla incense.)

She was the person people said I should be like.

“Look at [name omitted for privacy],” one of the adults used to say to me. “She’s going to be something! You’re not.” (At that age I probably told the adult who said it to “f*ck off,” because I knew it wasn’t true.)

I never resented her. She was always kind to me, so why would I? Her lifestyle just seemed kind of… boring to me. She probably thought my lifestyle was weird, too. (It is!) That doesn’t make either of them wrong…Just different.

Actually, as I write this, I do remember something we had in common: she liked Aerosmith. And I have a funny memory of playing in her grandpa's vegetable garden when I was little: she was singing just the chorus of Paul McCartney and Wings' "Listen to What the Main Said," which I'd never heard before. I didn't know it was a song from the radio and asked very seriously, "What man?"

And In hindsight, career-wise, she was probably a bit of a pioneer.

That’s all gone now. When her drinking escalated, it faded away. Marriage number one, rehab, husband number two (who hung in there as long as he could until a second rehab was in order)…The great corporate job went away around that time too, I think.

God her parents must be devastated…

I am, and I haven’t seen her since I was a teenager. (We moved to California when I was 13.) I write about her in the past tense, because everything I ever knew of the person she really was is already long gone.

Last I heard, she had a really scummy boyfriend who was an active user. For the past year, she’s been in and out of the hospital with liver issues due to chronic alcohol abuse…

…which is where I began this entry.


It took me two and a half hours to write this. Is she…?

I have no more words.


4:57 P.M. -- I decided to post this journal entry on my blog in hopes it will be a wake up call for anyone who needs help, or incentive for people in recovery to keep working their programs. I've been intentionally vague and changed some of the details in order to protect her family's privacy. We haven't been in each others' orbits for a long time, and they don't engage in social media so it's doubtful they'll ever know it exists.

As I was formatting this just now, someone in the family just called and told me she died. There will be no funeral, because all of her friends left long ago due to the drinking. Her parents and siblings were at her side when she died and are devastated.


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