July 9th, 2011

crossed heart

Why I watch Intervention –

Originally published at Cassie Alexander. You can comment here or there.

This is going to be a long post. It's been brewing all day. I was debating on it, but this is my journal and my space, and it's a weekend besides and everyone knows there's no one on the internet on a pretty weekend, muchless a Saturday night, so here goes.

When I went to therapy last week, I talked with my shrink about the portrayal of some of the people in my book. Specifically the addicts. I was worried I might hurt a relative's feelings.

I write a lot about addicts. A friend in a crit group once asked me why I wrote about so many addicts. It's because I understand addiction. It's lovely to write about, addict characters always have something to think about, something to lust after. It's all consuming, it's meaty, it's lovely, to some degree it's easy (or comes easily enough to me, due to long experience.)

What's not so lovely is being related to an addict.

I don't like looking at my phone when I get calls and doing time zone math to figure out how late it is where they are and how drunk they are by now. I especially don't like getting calls so early in the morning it's clear they're too drunk to even bother to do time zone math to figure things out. I was giving report after working a whole night, and by the time I was done with it, I had two calls and one slurred voice mail message, accusing me of forgetting a birthday.

Dear Relative: I did not forget your birthday. I have never forgotten your birthday. I have it in my calendar. I have always called. I am sorry I did not send a gift this year. I have been busy. And even if I did forget your birthday -- which I didn't -- don't call before dawn accusing me of forgetting your birthday. Just don't.

I sat there in my car for awhile in the parking lot. Some small part of me is well adjusted, and thank god for that. An inner voice. Someday I'll talk about it -- my shrink loves that I have it, it's like built in cognitive therapy, it's the part of me that's always defended myself. It's probably what got me through my long path to publication, maybe she's the writer and I'm the shell, I don't know. Sometimes it seems schizophrenic, but it's always protected me. It hardly ever talks out loud. And this morning when I was low, dreading calling back, dealing with another outburst, walking on eggshells again one more fucking time, my inner voice hopped out. "We are not responsible for him."

I think maybe that's the first time I've had that thought, muchless said it aloud. I sat there, reeling, thinking I'm not, I'm really not.

I realized then that that's why I love the show Intervention. Because apart from the train wreck effect of watching other people's lives, and pausing it to explain to my husband how similar some of the people on the show are to my patients....it's a way for me to watch people get it. It's cathartic. There's other people who have these problems in their lives, and there's the addict, and there's them getting to finally say what they've always wanted -- what I've always wanted -- to get to say, only never had the nerve, or chance.

Where I was growing up, no one had alkie parents. Or, I'm sure they were there, but everyone hid them, behind the veneer of middle-class America and frequent church attendance. No one ever said, "Hey, this is fucked up for you to have to deal with. You shouldn't have to put up with this. You shouldn't feel unsafe. People should not be hitting each other in earshot of you. You should not have to be used to hearing people fight." (Or be thinking its corollary, "You can't tell your mom about this, because if you do, she'll never let you see your dad again, so you have to keep it hidden deep inside," which makes you complicit to the core. And then who do you have to blame for things later, but yourself, because you never told anyone.)

Not that it's an excuse, but part of it -- and who I am -- is a byproduct of the times -- I'm old enough to remember when there were no open container laws in the South. It was there, but no one talked about it, or I didn't know enough to go seeking for help. When you're in it, it seems normal, anyhow.

I pulled over to get gas on my way home and called back, intending to just have a brief "Let's get this over with" talk. I got their voicemail. I left a message that said they could call until 8:30, but afterwards I'd be asleep. They didn't call then. They waited for five hours, until I *was* asleep, and then called, twice, to leave another angry voice mail message. "It's my birthday. No one cares." *click*

I waited till I got up a few hours later, and then called back. And got voicemail again. And said -- for the first time in my life -- to not call me drunk anymore. I don't appreciate it. I love you, happy birthday, I'll talk to you later on this week.

He called back. I ignored it. I don't know what the last message says. My husband listened to it, and deleted it for me.

To think I was thinking about changing some of the stuff in my book because it might make him sad. My therapist said I deserved to say what I wanted in my books. That that's what they're there for. And they really are. Because I'll never get that moment like they have on the show, where everyone gathers around and gets the chance to finally say what's in their hearts. I've only confronted him once, because I was always scared anything I'd say would just make him drink more. True, it probably would...but that's on him. Not on me.

I've talked about stuff with friends, and on other blogs before. I should go to Al-anon some. I've been reluctant in the past, because I can shove thinking about this away for months at a time, and when I'm good I'm good, you know? But therapy's been helping reorder my thinking processes tons, and maybe I need to shed this last anchor too. I don't want to deal with it because I get so angry that I have to deal with it -- with anything else fucking related to being responsible for any part of him -- again, and yet, if I don't, it'll always drag me down.

Goddammit, he's calling me again. Right now. Heh. I wish I could make stuff like this up. I'm turning off my phone for the rest of the night.

Thanks for listening, journalfriends/internet,