What We Can Handle

Posted on Thursday 8 March 2012

I know that God will not give me anything I can't handle.  I just wish he didn't trust me so much.

I was hoping that this year was going to be better than last year. If it is going to turn out that way, I’m having a really tough time seeing it right now. I know that God never gives us more than we can handle…and right now, I’m dealing with everything on my plate, but I really hope he doesn’t have any more bad news for me for a while.

Yesterday afternoon, I got off s/v Pretty Gee to find about half-a-dozen cars, including two police cruisers surrounding her. I found one of the police officers so that I could get him to move his cruiser, since I was supposed to meet my friend Dave for dinner.

I asked the officer what was going on. He told me that he had to escort the family of my marina neighbor and friend, John Anderson, to the marina and let them in because John had been killed in a car accident last Friday morning. I spoke with John’s father and his younger brother, Jim. I gave Jim my phone number and told them to call if there was anything I could do.

This was a real surprise to me, since I was probably one of the last people to see John alive. Last Thursday evening, he and I spent about 90 minutes talking about T-Morn, his sailboat, and roughing out plans for the various projects he had coming up. I had volunteered to help design the new hardtop bimini for the cockpit as well as the new cockpit railing/davits that he was looking at adding.

John had a dozen other projects, including replacing the deck, building a new bowsprit to replace the one damaged in Tropical Storm Irene last year, and expanding the galley and adding a new refrigerator setup. I was looking forward to working with John this spring and summer.

Just before I left the marina that night, John asked me if I could swing by the marina he worked at and look at the WiFi setup there on Friday. Apparently, whoever did the original installation didn’t set it up so that the mooring field he was the manager of got coverage, and he wanted to see if I could fix that.

When I went by the marina he worked at on Friday morning, he never showed up. I called and left several messages but never got a call back. I guess a call from Fiddler’s Green would be too much to expect. This certainly explains why John never called me back or showed up, though no one at the marina seemed to know what had happened at the time.

That’s three friends of mine, all sailors, that have died in the last month. I am really getting sick and tired of losing my friends. While Paul and my other friend John had both been fighting their illnesses a long time–Paul was on an LVAD and had a serious history of heart problems, and John was fighting cancer–John Anderson’s death was completely unexpected, as most car accidents are. I do have to wonder if he would have survived had he been wearing his seatbelt and not ejected from his truck on impact.

Things on the Ellie front aren’t much better, but at least she appears to be making her studies and classes the priority they should have been all along. She appears to have followed the advice I wrote about her courses and isn’t taking all four killer courses that she had been planning on taking this semester.

I think that her taking Accounting, Macro-Economics, Micro-Economics and Statistics all in a semester where she is still trying to get her academic footing back after a losing her last semester to drugs and alcohol would not have been a good idea. She would likely have failed or done poorly enough that she would have lost her scholarship.

She says she is seeing a counselor. I really hope whomever she is seeing will help her address her alcohol and drug addiction problems as well as the underlying self-esteem or anxiety issues that drove her to abuse drugs and alcohol in the first place. However, if she isn’t willing to tell her counselor the truth about what is she is doing, I doubt that she will get much, if any, real help from them.

I doubt the counseling will do much for her, because I doubt that she has admitted to herself that she has a drug/alcohol problem. As far as I can see, she is still lying to herself and to everyone around her–about her drinking, her drug use, about me and about us. Her denial is still too strong and until she is willing to face the truth, very little healing or improvement will happen. Until she is ready to face the truth, no one can help her.

She appears to be drinking and doing drugs a lot less this semester. From what she and her friends have said, she isn’t getting high, drunk or both four-to-seven days a week like she was last semester. She seems to have cut back to drinking and doing drugs on just the weekend. It is an improvement, but she really needs to quit drinking and doing drugs completely. She doesn’t appear to realize that or want to do that yet.

At least the reduced drinking and drug use has allowed her body to recover to some degree. She certainly looked a lot healthier than she did in the photos she posted in early January–she wasn’t gaunt or jaundiced and her eyes weren’t red, teary and bloodshot. One of her new drinking/drug friends at least made Dean’s List last semester, and I hope that means they’ll be a better influence on her than her previous friends–one of whom dropped out of school entirely.

Personally, part of me hopes that these changes aren’t enough to let her bring her grades up and save her scholarship, only because that part of me thinks that losing her scholarship is the least damaging way for her to realize she really does have a drug and alcohol problem. Losing her scholarship and having to drop out of the college she chose for herself is likely the softest, least damaging way for her to hit “rock bottom”.

I don’t think that will happen now though. I also think it shows that it was the right decision to walk away from her. If her cutting back on her drug use and drinking allows her to deny that she does have a problem with alcohol and drugs and she manages to keep her scholarship, then it is enabling her–rather than truly helping her. If she cut back on her drinking and drug use because of what I’ve done or said, then I have enabled her illness–which was not my intent.

Most of me hopes that she does manage to salvage her scholarship, because I know she would be devastated if she had to quit the college of her choice and go to a state school like her brother did. She was so proud of getting into the college she is currently in–and chose it because it is fairly well-respected and a Catholic college as well.

However, from what I’ve seen, she’s still making some poor choices though. The first is that she is still drinking and doing drugs. I would have thought that the drastic drop in her grades last semester would have showed her that she clearly has a problem with drugs and alcohol- Yet, she still seems to refuse to admit she has a problem with alcohol or drugs.

She’s still lying about so many things as well. It is very sad to see that her addictions have turned her–a young woman who was one of the most honest people I ever knew–into someone who doesn’t think twice about lying–even if it hurts people she loves and cares about.

I guess Paul’s advice to me last year is very true when he said, “How do you know when an addict is lying? Their lips are moving. I never thought that would apply to Ellie, but that certainly appears to be the case now.

It appears that her ex-boyfriend–the one who cheated on her at the beginning of last year–is still trying to keep in contact with her. I have to wonder why women do that--why do they stay in contact with men that cheated on them and treated them like garbage? I guess she just doesn’t realize that she deserves better yet–maybe she never will.

Then again, it really isn’t that surprising considering how her father treats her mother–I think she thinks that is how the relationship between a man and woman is supposed to be. From what I understand, bad and abusive relationships are not all that uncommon with the children of alcoholics or alcoholics themselves–and she is both.

I also thought her car crash in January would be a wake-up call of sorts, but I guess it wasn’t serious enough for her to learn from. I don’t call it an accident because if it was drug or alcohol related it was completely avoidable. She was very lucky that another vehicle wasn’t involved and that no one was injured or killed, including herself.

Maybe, if the accident has been serious enough to total her car, she might have taken it seriously, since she just bought the car last summer. But, it wasn’t enough to total the car–so she likely doesn’t think anything of it. I’d guess that she did about $1000 worth of damage to her car. Anything much less, and she probably wouldn’t have filed an accident claim, and anything over $1500 would probably have resulted in the insurance company declaring her car a total loss.

My guess is that the accident happened late at night, when she was driving back to her family’s home after drinking or getting high, and that it was a relatively minor single car crash that left her vehicle damaged by drivable. I think that because no one else was involved and the late hour, the police weren’t called and she wasn’t given a field sobriety/drug test.

If someone else had been involved or if it had occurred earlier in the evening, it is likely that she would have gotten arrested for driving under the influence. Given when she said she took her car in for repairs, it is very likely that the accident happened during the first week of January–where she was high or drunk much of the week by her own admission. The only one who will ever know for certain is Ellie, and I doubt she’s willing to admit what really happened.

In any case, I wish her well no matter what she decides to do, because she is someone I love and only want the best for. However, I don’t see her succeeding at the dreams and goals she had shared with me until she finally gets some real help for her alcohol and drug addictions.

I pray that she doesn’t get injured, killed or kill or injure anyone else on her way down. In spite of the lies she has been telling and the horrific things she has been doing, I still believe that deep down somewhere inside the addict the good woman I love still exists. I know the good woman I love would hate to be responsible for injuring or killing someone else–I doubt the drug-addicted alcoholic much cares one way or another.

Unfortunately, I don’t think she will admit that she has a drug and alcohol problem until she ends up hitting rock bottom–where she ends up in jail, the hospital or living on the street. I don’t think she will really get help until that happens.

This is true for most alcoholics and drug addicts–they will deny what is going on until they end up where they just can’t deny the truth any longer. I doubt that her family will be able to help her if and when she does hit rock bottom. I also doubt that her friends, or what the people she calls her friends, most of whom are part of her problem, will be there for her or help her get better. I hope part of her remembers that I would still help that good woman–the woman I love–if she makes her amends and asks me for help, because I promised her and her mother I would.

However, for me to help her–she has to make a place for me in her life beside her and she has to show that she is as committed to me as I have been to her for the past eight months–because I will not settle for being a second-class citizen of her life any longer. She has to show me that she’ll fight to keep me to be by her side. I have promised her that I would walk beside her on her long road to recovery if she should want me there beside her, but she will have to prove she is worthy of my help–that was not always the case, but her actions over the last eight months have made this necessary.

The choice is hers, as it is for all alcoholics and drug addicts. No one can help her until she decides she needs and wants help. But, before she can do that, she has to admit she has a problem with drugs and alcohol and she has to learn to love herself enough to want to be better than the drug-addicted alcoholic she has been for the past eight months.

Until she does that, she is lost to her addictions. I know she is strong enough, brave enough, smart enough and stubborn enough to beat her addictions if she chooses to do so. The real problem with alcoholism and drug addiction is that they take away the will of the person who suffers from them.

Both drug addiction and alcoholism are progressive illnesses with cumulative effects on the brain and mind of the person suffering from them. The longer they use drugs and alcohol, the harder and less likely it is for them to ever really recover.

The damage from alcohol happen much more quickly in women than it does in men. There is a rule in alcohol rehab programs that says a woman will do as much damage in five years as an alcoholic as a man will in 15 years. I really hope Ellie figures that out very soon–before she does much more damage to her mind, her brain and her body.

I do blame her family for not helping her–especially her father who has enabled her illness, coerced her into lying about me and bullied the rest of her family into helping protect himself. At least her mother knew the truth, or did at one point last summer when she said, “Dan, I know you will always be there for us.” I think that was the last time I heard any of the truth from Ellie or her family.

While Ellie is not my family by blood–she and her family are family to me. They have been such to me, and I to them, for almost 30 years, and all of her life. I have cared for, guided, mentored and protected her and her siblings for all of their lives. I have loved her in some fashion for all of her life. I have known her parents since before they were even married.

The illness she, her brother and father suffer from and the lies they tell to protect themselves from having to admit they are ill do not change the truth of our history together. Lies can not erase the love, caring, devotion and friendship that we have shared for nearly three decades. I guess commitment and genuinely caring for someone has become such a lost and rare thing that it is not understood any more. That’s a sad testament to how badly our society’s values have fallen.

I still pray for Ellie every day. In spite of the horrible things her illness has made her do and say, I do not blame her for it–I can no more blame her for what her illness has caused her to do than I could have blamed Gee for getting cancer. I wish she could see herself through my eyes and realize what an amazing person she is to me. She was, at least before her illness took over her life, one of the smartest, most beautiful, and strongest women I have ever met. That’s probably why her falling to her addictions still surprises and saddens me so much.

May God watch over my beloved Ellie. God bless her and protect her, even from herself. May God grant her the strength, courage, and will to fight her illness and return to being her true self. May God grant her the wisdom to see the truth—both about her illness and about us.

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