Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Tribe


Sunset at Holyrood Pond - Newfoundland.

Once upon a time I decided to do something about my drinking, known as "The Failing" where I come from. The Failing was an exclusive classification given to drunken old priests in large stone mansions with a doddery old housekeeper cleaning up after them. Or a gawd-luv-'im bank manager soaking his braincells to mush every night in the pub while his wife and childer hid behind the curtains, starving and waiting for another smashup of the remaining sticks of furniture. Status was everything when it came to categorizing these swanky alcoholics.

A drunken woman wouldn't be spoken about in the same breath. She'd deserve a fresh gulp of air and a brand new paragraph full of words like "a drunken slut", or "she should cop herself on" or "her poor suffering husband should leave that terrible wan, the church would give him an annulment for sure, they'd understand."

The old double standard, still rampant to this day I'm sorry to say, especially out on this Rock where women die in droves from untreated alcoholism, too ashamed to make themselves visible in recovery houses or detox centres. Small island, endless gossip syndrome.

I hang around recovered alcoholics. They're my tribe since June 1986.

I've learned a lot about the disease. Yes, much of it is hereditary, some of it can be environmental. You get the old nature vs nurture argument. But the debating society can continue without me. I yam who(m)I yam. Whether it was because of grandparents or aunties having it, I really can't be arsed. I did once. But it's just a distraction from the recovery. The drinking is merely a symptom for all the emotional shyte underneath, festering, needing a regular airing. With those who understand completely.

All I know is if I walk into a function/party/wedding/funeral and one or two or three of my tribe are there we will seek each other out with an ESP that would astonish you and immediately zero in for an often silent hug before we move on.

Why? You might ask.

Because we live in spite of.

When so very many died because of.

My tribe.

My life.

11 comments:

  1. I think you will find part of the tribe in every Irish family.

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  2. I agree GM, rampant in Ireland but a lot of recovery in Ireland too, 6 of my family alone.

    XO
    WWW

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  3. I think there is still massive indulgence/turning a blind eye to those who habitually over-drink. Not just men but women. I know several women who drink just as heavily and nobody says a word. Binge-drinking is still seen as an essential part of Irish culture and anyone who doesn't join in is an oddity. The toll on people's health and families is often dreadful. You must have been very determined to kick the habit.

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  4. Most of the previous generation in my family on my mother's side were alcoholics.Many of our friends here are "recovering" alcoholics. It's a big tribe.

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  5. Nick there is a distinction between heavy drinking and alcoholism.
    Heavy drinking is often a rite of passage and many such drinkers can quit when they want to.
    Alcoholic drinking means the power of choice has been removed.
    Only the drinker herself determines the classification - often through much suffering and denial.
    XO
    WWW

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  6. Hattie:

    Yes, global. Everywhere I visit I'm instantly connected. :)

    XO
    WWW

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  7. Many confuse heavy drinking, binge drinking, and habitual drinking with alcoholism. Yes, they can certainly go hand in hand, but with one basic difference; alcoholism is a physical disease. I was married to an alcoholic. I attended Al-Anon regularly while she went to AA. I got to know many alcoholics. Some became friends. I attended the funerals of too many of them.
    Eventually, I had to leave my wife. Her violence became too much for me to cope with. She was told by one doctor, "If you don't stop drinking you'll be dead within twelve months."
    I wrote about it on "Sparrow Chat" - a short story entitled, "Patience Was Her Only Virtue". It's in the sidebar. It's all true apart from the ending. I'm still alive, but I might not have been.
    I've known many habitual, heavy, drinkers. They're not alcoholics. Alcoholism is a vile, family destroying, illness for which the medical profession has no cure. The only cure lies with the alcoholic themselves and so many cannot achieve it and pay the ultimate penalty.
    You did well to stay off it, WWW. The tribe can be a great support.

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  8. A daily reprieve as you know RJA and thanks for your thoughtful and personal comment.

    Being in Al-Anon you have a great understanding of the destruction of the disease and you are well aware that the family of the alkie are sicker than the alkie. All those reactive behaviours have to be dealt with.

    I am so fortunate that many in my family have followed me into recovery and we can "speak the language of the heart" to each other and not just BS.

    I will read you story.

    XO
    WWW

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  9. Pardon my ignorance (as I've never been a heavy drinker!). Jenny assures me there's a big difference between heavy drinking and alcoholism. She was a heavy drinker when she was young but had no trouble cutting back as she got older. Very different from the uncontrollable craving you're talking about.

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  10. And may the tribe flourish and grow. It is doing precisely that over here too.

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  11. That's really interesting - even though my area tends to be backward in many things, I haven't seen any gender disparity in how alcoholism or other addictions are viewed. Women are well-represented in recovery programs here and don't seem to elicit any particular judgment based solely on gender.

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