Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cunning, Baffling, and Powerful Part 3

The final part of Laura's email about her friend Daria. 

October 2008
Daria's husband Don had her move out in October of 2008. He couldn't cope any more and from her description, the fights were getting more out of control. He had a restraining order put on her so she moved into my sister Karen's house. I certainly could not and do not blame him for throwing her out of the house. She was apparently violent when she was drunk and it was getting worse. We could hardly credit Don's description because she seemed so gentle when we saw her. However we could see that she was spiraling out of control and we still prayed constantly for a miracle. Her obsession with Alice continued to the point that my brother in law insisted that she could not talk about Alice any more. Hearing her rant about Alice was disturbing because it showed her complete deflection of anything concerning her own behavior.

It also came to light at that time that several times she passed out drunk and her son Mike escaped the house and ran down the street. She was lucky he wasn't hit by a car because he is not an average child who could be expected to understand about traffic. It also happened at least once during vacation so she could not be trusted with him.

February 2009
Daria had gotten her own apartment and that just seemed to feed her illness. She had pulled away from all of us so we saw her rarely. One night I got a call from her brother in law who is a doctor in Montana. He said that Daria would go to the hospital to get fluids. 

I went over to her house, but when I got there she refused to come to the door and unlock it. My sister Karen came over because she had a key to the door, but did not have a key to the deadbolt. Daria refused to come to the door at first, but after much cajoling we got her to come. It was pathetic. She opened the door and then staggered back to where she had been lying. She literally was lying down in her dog's bed curled into a fetal position. 

We finally got her into the car and over to the hospital. I stayed all night at the hospital and finally she was committed. They had to do it against her will, but it was necessary because she was a danger to herself.  Daria's requirement was that she wouldn't go to the hospital unless we took care of her dog Smoky. We had an extremely old Labrador, Darling, who did not get along with other dogs. The day before this happened, Darling lost her battle with her age and we had to put her down. Because of this, we were able to take care of Smoky and were able to get Daria into the hospital.

I picked Daria up from the hospital and continued to tell her the truth. The doctor said she was dying. We were all telling her that she was dying from her alcohol consumption, but she still refused to acknowledge it. She pretty much broke off contact with us which meant she was drinking heavily and didn't want us to know.

March 2009

Daria was jailed. I'm still not sure of the reasons, I believe it was violating the restraining order.  So for the first time in a few years, Daria was forcibly sober.

Daria called from jail and said that everyone was picking on her.  Nothing was her fault. I tried to talk to her and show her that people were trying to help.  I told her that she was near death. I sent her two letters. The first that laid out the cold hard facts about her alcoholism and the fact that none of us expected her to see her next birthday. The second telling her that she could beat the alcohol if she had a spiritual awakening. She didn't want to hear any of it.

Talking with her was really a chore at this point. Whenever I talked to her, everything was someone else's fault or it was due to pressure, or something else. It was never that she was drinking herself to death. Even when you pointed out how events related to her excessive consumption of alcohol, it didn't matter. She still didn't believe it.

Unfortunately, they released Daria after her hearing. I knew it was a death sentence for her, but they obviously cannot jail you without good cause. I knew at that point she was going to die. I hadn't seen anything that showed that she comprehended what was happening. You can't choose to be sober when you still don't admit that you're drinking.

My sister Karen who is the gentlest of souls sat down with Daria and told her she could have nothing more to do with her. Karen didn't expect her to live until April and wasn't going to stand around watching Daria kill herself.

Summer 2009
My brother in law and I went over to Daria's house to try and get her to eat. Rob is wonderful at coaxing people so he was at least trying to get food into her system. She was staggering drunk but of course denied it. I opened her kitchen cupboards and saw many bottles of opened wine there. I told her since she wasn't drinking I'd get rid of all the alcohol for her. She got furious and started yelling that we had to leave the house. She said she was going to call the police on us if we didn't leave immediately. Rob and I left.

January 2010
Daria was driving with a friend and was hit broadside at an intersection by a young man who ran a red light. She had blackened eyes and hit her head pretty badly but didn't go to the hospital. Her family finally convinced her to go to the ER to get stitches and have her wound cleaned. It seemed like she was going to be fine, but the delicate state of her liver proved otherwise.

February 2010
I get a message from Daria's sister that Daria has been put into intensive care. Apparently her liver was damaged in the car accident and was shutting down. Daria was not expected to survive more than 30 days. Daria was still in denial about it.

Daria was put on the liver transplant list and sent home to wait for a liver. Seeing her was terrifying. Her stomach was bloated to 3 times its normal size and her color was orange-yellow. She couldn't eat much so we took turns going over to her house to bring her food and help her. 
March 2010

Daria was re-admitted into the hospital. She was bleeding in her esophagus and underwent surgery to stop the bleeding. We were told that she would not make it through the night on March 13. I was in town already for one of my daughter's concerts so my husband just dropped me at the hospital to sit in vigil. Surprisingly, she survived that night, but the end was near.

My sister, Karen,  came to see Daria and did not recognize her. There is nothing to prepare you for the sight of someone dying of liver failure even if it is described to you. Their eyes take on a bright yellow color that outshines a highlighter yellow. It appears that if you shut off the lights, you could still see those horrible eyes. They no longer look human. Their stomach is hugely bloated, almost as if they are pregnant, and their limbs are emaciated. Their face shape is distorted because at this point, their kidneys are also failing so they are puffy. The color of the skin is also more of an orange-yellow than anything you would subscribe as a normal skin color.

As expected, Daria died on March 23, 2010, just two weeks before her 49th birthday. In the end it was a mercy. For reasons I cannot understand she was completely unable to fight the alcoholism. No amount of praying or tough love made any difference at all. We had one more year after her being jailed so it was one more than we expected. 

She has left a huge hole in the life of her son. He will not remember his mother, but maybe that is better because of what the alcohol had done to her. We can recount to him the best parts of her. That she loved him even though she was very ill. She was a wonderful cook and entertainer. She loved people. All of that but she still didn't love us enough to stop, so my only conclusion was she couldn't. It is hard to believe it was a couldn't versus a wouldn't. But that is the only way I can work myself into forgiveness. She had all the help anyone could require. She just wasn't able to choose sobriety. I don't know why.  

As to those of us left behind we all struggle with anger as well as sorrow. I cannot fathom why she couldn't love her son enough to stop drinking when she was pregnant. She wanted a baby so badly, what could possibly make her drink throughout her pregnancy? She was a pharmaceutical representative so who knew better the effects of drugs and alcohol on a fetus? When she was in treatment for months and months, why couldn't she decide to stay sober? Why give up after just a couple of days after leaving treatment? Did she want to kill herself because of guilt over her son? I don't know. Couldn't she love us enough to stop? She adored her dog, why couldn't she stop for him? 

She turned from a wonderful person to a lying manipulator who didn't care about anyone else before she died. My sister Karen summed it up  “I think we're here only out of pity at this point. She hasn't been a friend to us for a long time. She has lied to us, thrown us out of her house, cursed and screamed at us when we were trying to help. She is no friend.” I think the only way I can reconcile this is that at the end, we were no longer talking to our friend that we loved so dearly. We were talking to a disease. A disease that had completely taken over our friend to the point where we couldn't find her in there anywhere.

The only good part is that everyone who loved her has a clean conscience. We all tried to help her. We all tried to save her. Her husband did everything in his power to get her the appropriate treatment. He lived with her as long as he could stand it. He still tried to allow her into their son's life even when she proved to be very unstable and undeserving of any such consideration. Her sister and father tried to talk sense to her, and offered whatever support that they could. All of the friends who lasted to the end did everything that they could to try and help her. There was no avenue that had not been tried to assist her. None of it worked because in the end she would not or could not choose sobriety. 

 I appreciate that Laura has shared this story.  I don't think that there is anything that families can do for  those who refuse to help themselves by reaching out and desiring to get sober.  No one has to go it alone with alcoholism. There are recovery groups for the families and for the alcoholics. 

I truly believe that learning to detach with love is one of the most important lessons in Al-Anon.  There are so many sad stories like this that I hear at meetings. Eventually though, family members who get a sponsor and work the steps find that it is possible to cope with a loved one's alcoholism.  Tears are replaced with laughter and anger replaced with compassion.  Find a meeting, make a start at recovery and keep going back. It does work.


  1. that is truly a sad story, the whole way through. the part that screamed out to me for more attention was her unusual way of being "childlike" around her father. Perhaps there was a dark secret there that never came to light. Most people with normal childhoods don't just pick up a bottle and run with it. I think for most alcoholics there is a past, something they are running from. I know it is true for me.
    Perhaps sobriety alone was not enough for her and she needed counseling for other things as well, and treatment centers probably try to provide that, but if the patient doesn't open up, there's not much to be done.

  2. is is a shame that she could not get it.but than again I was in denial myself.Than again I was 38 when I finally got it.I started in my teens and quite off and on several times.

  3. I did not choose to use. I did not choose to recover. I got to the point where SURRENDER was the only thing I could do. If I could simply choose to stop, I would have. My using was an OBSESSION, not a choice.

    Thank you for sharing this, Syd.

  4. I only have to change one or two of the details in this, and it is my beautiful niece's story.

  5. It's a powerful disease. I think Kitty has a valid point.

  6. Heartbreaking, yet it happens all around us, doesn't it? This story is testament to just how ugly this condition can get.

    Thank you.

  7. Why do some of us get sober and others do not?

  8. Even knowing the ending, I kept reading. We always want people to "get it" to see what they are doing to themselves and others and somehow feel cheated when they don't. Sometimes we do "get it" and that alone will drive us down further. Everyone loses in her story. sigh.

  9. I love what James said. I do think for some it does come down to reaching a place where you have no other choice but to surrender, to give up, because what you are doing isn't working. It is killing you and you are in misery. The choice is to live in denial or to surrender your will.

    Thanks Syd for posting this....it was so sad. But it is unfortunately reality for so many.

  10. Ah, this hits so close to home for me. The only difference is - the alcoholic females in my family seem to outlive everybody else. For whatever reason.

    I just feel so bad for the children. That is why I half raised my niece and nephew. And I never will regret that. The bond we have is beautiful.

  11. It amazes me that sobriety is FREE and just waiting to be picked up in the rooms of AA ... and yet so many people don't reach out for it. We can only pray that the message will get through to those we love, and to all who suffer from this horrendous disease.

  12. Yes, perhaps she was drowning a secret. About her father.

  13. I don't talk about it much Syd, but I drank a full fifth of Jim beam every night for 17 years while working two full time jobs for the last 12 of them.

    I tried the AA way and what I found in every single meeting I ever went to was a clique that if you hadn't been a part of it for a few years at least, you were ignored, no one came up to me and told me about the "how this thing of ours works." Maybe I wasn't wearing the right clothes or didn't know the secret handshake.

    So I personally have no respect for AA but I do not condemn it either because for some it is their religion. their way to salvation.

    This woman may have found the same thing in treatment and tried to go to meetings and found that no one would let her fit.

    That she died is a tragedy and the way and why of it is even more of a tragedy still. Yet at the same time she made her choices and she suffered the consequences of them and everyone who stuck with her suffered as well.

    A gun would have been faster and easier to understand.

    I got sober Syd, going on 11 years now. I got sober by quitting. By not focusing my life on work drink sleep, work drink sleep.

    But by not worrying about whether I could go a week without a drink just going that week, then before you know it I was a decade without alcohol. I do not avoid alcohol or them using it Syd. I just don't drink it.

    Now I know this blog space is not meant for people like me but you write well and I like to read fine writing.

    As for Daria, she is asleep safely in the house of her ancestors and her remaining friends and family can move on with clear conscience as your correspondent related.

    I personally have no tears for her or for them. That was her destiny and like all destinies we make or break our own. May her friends and family that still live find true peace without regret.

  14. I truly believe that learning to detach with love is one of the most important lessons in Al-Anon.

    So very true, Syd.



  15. Thanks, Syd, for posting this gripping, heart-rending story. My father died at that very age and in much the same way.

    I saw God at work in much of this story, despite its sad ending. Not the least of which is that she sent this story to you and you chose to post it. You have a large audience, and my prayer is that someone will read this and be helped by it.

    I have a program friend who held a resentment about her mother for years because she attended Al-Anon, but did not find recovery. She did inventories around this resentment, prayed the resentment prayer, took all the suggestions of her sponsor but still could not free herself from this resentment.

    Then one day, another program friend said, "What if your mother didn't find recovery so you could?" That was the thing that changed everything for my friend. She was able to see her mother with gratitude and compassion, and be a loving daughter when he mother became ill and needed care.

    It's a very sad fact that not everybody gets saved. Sometimes even those who find their way into the rooms of AA and Al-Anon don't find recovery. I don't know why. I only know I'm powerless over it.

    I do believe that this blog does a great service in carrying the message of Al-Anon. I'm grateful for it every time I visit. Thank you for your service.

  16. Syd,
    this is an eerie read for me. I had another fellow blog friend that I followed (who passed away this past february) whose name was Daria and her husband named Don. Her symptoms of liver failure were the same- the difference however was that with my friend, she suffered from liver cancer while your friend's friend suffered from alcoholism.
    Made me realize how much the symptoms, number of people affected, and so forth are very much the same for both diseases. Yet the differences between how we respond to people suffering through them is so completely different...


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