Don’t tell her this story. Hearts can break in too many pieces.

Alcoholism kills.

I know. I already said this.

It bears repeating.

There are many ways alcoholism kills; there are many ways to die.

Here is one way.  My father told me to never tell this story because who needs to know their son died this way. Why break a heart in even more pieces? This is a true story and the person  who should never read it will never read it.

This is a true story of one way to die:

Lets call him a friend. Lets call him that, but know that he was a relative of mine. He had been a handsome, long-haired, intelligent young man trying to stay out of Vietnam. The Gods were on his side and he was never called up.

He rode a motorcycle, his long hair flying out behind him. He was a thing of Beauty and Joy and Recklessness and I thought him romantic and dangerous.

In a good way.

He drank. Who didn’t?  He married and had kids and took me in when I was in limbo and he swung me by my ankles through the sprinkler when I was a kid and the sun was shining down and the day would last forever.

He divorced and drank and the shadows grew long and he grew angry.

He cut his hair and sold his bike and he drank and he drank and he did not stop.

This is one way an angry man can die:

He lived in the back bedroom. He was indigent and Iowa winter kills. The back bedroom became his final resting place.

A seizure hit him. He ended up face down on the carpet. We will never know if the seizure killed him or if he bled to death.

We do know this:

The room he was in had empty vodka bottles lined up along the walls. In the vodka bottles was his urine. They were the big vodka bottles and were lined up two deep.

The seizure had somehow thrown him upside down; his legs up on the bed, his face in the carpet. Blood was everywhere. His blood soaked the carpet.

His blood soaked the carpet and dripped through the floor boards into the basement below; staining the concrete floor first red and then brown with age.

It was not just his blood that seeped through the floor boards, but his internal organs  too. They had collapsed. Alcoholism thins the organs making them weak. The force of the seizure and the struggle that ensued burst his organs. They basically dissolved and they too, made their way to the basement.

And what was left of them soaked the carpet and stained the concrete.

The bottles needed to me emptied and thrown away before the cleaning of the carpet could begin. Urine poured out and bottles disposed of, the rented carpet cleaner manned by my sister took days to draw this mans blood out of the carpet while it steadily dripped into the basement at the same time.

Eulogies are a funny thing; you remember the last you saw of a person; angry, drunk and disheveled, and you can’t bring yourself to talk of that reality. His kids are there and they hardly knew the man. His ex wives are there and his parents. You can not think of the blood and the urine and the anger and the rage.

Eulogies are a funny thing and mine went like this:

He was a  handsome, long-haired, intelligent young man trying to stay out of Vietnam. The Gods were on his side and he was never called up.

He rode a motorcycle, his long hair flying out behind him. He was a thing of Beauty and Joy and Recklessness and I thought him romantic and dangerous.

In a good way.

He loved his kids and took me in when I was in limbo and he swung me by my ankles through the sprinkler when I was a kid and the sun was shining down and the day would last forever.

That day, right now, is  going to last me forever. That is what I remember and what I will cherish; a day that will last forever.

Eulogies. Half truths and half lies and what ever it takes to help the others get by.

Alcoholism kills and the death, in my experience,  is never pretty. Never.


Don’t tell her this story. Hearts can break in too many pieces.

I miss him, I think of the day I chose to remember and my heart is missing pieces.

~ by Step On a Crack on November 6, 2011.

20 Responses to “Don’t tell her this story. Hearts can break in too many pieces.”

  1. He created some of my first/best memories. Chasing around the garden having a water fight. I could not have been much older than our Bee is now. I remember laughing so much it hurt and I cried. Good good memories.
    One more thing you did not mention. He was possibly one of the smartest people I have ever know. He knew the answer to any question. He could have told me to use hydrogen peroxide to get the blood out… some how I already knew that.
    Oh and Daddy would be very ok with you telling this story. He always knew you would change lives. You are. You are helping one post at a time. Helping me and others. And Yourself. Thank You.


    • He was an amazing man.Really. I miss him still. I tell you, this family is CURSED with alcoholism. It has been a wild ride to watch so many of our kin falter and fall under the wheels. You and I, sis, we beat it but barely. I am always aware of it lurking. Eternal vigilance, right?

      Daddy just did not want one person to know and we will never tell because of the pain it would cause. Daddy is right about that. yes he was.

      I love you Art! Jen


  2. Oh Jen. Alcoholism is a beast. It kills indeed. The madness of it: The anger it brings out in the alcoholic and everyone around him/her. I am so sorry you’ve had to witness it over and over again — in its most grizzly incarnations.

    My cousin, Mike has Alzheimer’s … that is what we are told. He is a dedicated drunk. He is a youngish man … I don’t know if he has Alzheimer’s or if his brain is saturated. These are reasons i don’t engage with my family too often.

    The fact that you take your family in and “brave” the disease is a miracle if not a punishment. No one should have to suffer so much from a beast from which you have retired! Thank God for you!!!

    What strength you have. I am in awe!

    I hope the blood disappears from your mind soon … it is vivd, painful …

    Love you to pieces!! 😉 mel


    • Oh Mel! Based on my experience and the years that have passed I would bet all my CD’s and most of my poetry books on the fact that your cousin Mike probably has Wernicke – Karsokoff. He is WAY to young for Alzheimer’s. WK is rarely diagnosed and hence this blog. I am so sorry and I totally understand why you keep your distance.

      Alcoholism is a Beast a many headed dangerous viper. It breaks my heart to see drinking glamourized on TV, in print ads, in the world. I really think it is a major problem with our culture. The blood is vanishing. Spending time with my family today helped. Reading your blog today and thinking of breaking the cycle was a PERFECT antidote to my melancholia.
      (I really want to see that movie with a friend. I battled depression for years…. comes with the territory ehh?)

      Love you too and you help fill the missing pieces… xxx Jen


  3. Jen–What Mel said!

    Your strength in face of a monster that you’ve retired is jaw dropping. God is good. You have life even with all this death and dying around you. Hold fast to the life and the faith!


    • Heidi, you know I often think of the first death, the death of Ace and remember that in the MOMENT I was able to be with my God in a Buddhist sort of calm. IN the moment I could let God in. Weeks later a REAL crisis in faith set in that lasted a good year or so. MY first crisis in faith EVER. I look back at that time and all the deaths and realize that the Crisis was of my Gods making. The struggle back, made me stronger in my faith. God did that. Weird how gifts show up in the strangest kinds of ways. Thank you for bringing this up. I had forgotten about my ‘darkest hour’ and I really need to remember it and hold it close. Thank you; again! xx Jen


  4. Your heart may be missing pieces but you have a big heart, and maybe the parts that are missing are only these bits that you are sharing with us. These parts, the ones you are sharing, aren’t really gone because a heart that is shared comes back bigger and fuller in every way.


    • Al, I pondered your comment for some time, mulling it over and I think you are right. In addition, I wonder if these deaths have made me more aware of my heart. The more I thought about it the more clear it is that getting sober and cleaning up and copping to my own character defects is really what made me more AWARE of my heart to begin with. You are a very insightful man. Thank you once again…. Peace, Jen


  5. The good parts are what the dead leave behind for us to cherish. The other stuff, that can go with them, wherever that is, but the good things are always there for us to remember, share, relive. The good parts.


    • Dear GD! YES! I was JUST thinking about this not 45 minutes ago; remembering the man I knew before alcohol destroyed him. I am finding I have blocked the rotten ness of the last decade of his life. I remember his Heart and his Humor. Thank you for bringing this up and thank you for popping IN!!! Peace, Jen


  6. Thank you for telling the story. I often wonder how many “back” stories there are like this. There are many ways to die an alcoholic death. No one would have known that I had died an alcoholic death if I had pulled the trigger of the .38 S&W I’d been practcing putting in my mouth the week before I walked into AA. They probably wouldn’t have put it toghther because of the “doule life” I was living.


    • Welcome and thank you for stopping by! Thank God you did NOT pull the trigger. That is a blessing. THIS is the core of what I am hoping to get at. Alcohol is so socially acceptable AND so dangerous! When you look at the stats of deaths caused by alcoholism they are skewed for the reasons you note. The death of my relative became just such a stat. The family argued with the coroner to have the cause of death put down as something else. His initial cause was ‘chronic alcoholism’. My alcoholic family members fought tooth and nail to have a a different cause noted. Alcoholics don’t like their future in their faces. We have had suicide in the family too and of course, it was never related to alcohol or drug addiction.
      I wrote about this issue in a post titled Alcoholism Kills. Sad. Very sad. AND YOU are HERE! Thank god for that. Peace, Jen


  7. Jen, parts of what you described are mostly likely how a friend of ours died recently. She, the one I also wrote about. I can only imagine what her husband and best friend saw and how those images can torment. For her, it was an impulsive relapse fueled by emotion (aren’t they alway?) The memorial took place on the beach just a few yards from where they were married. So bittersweet. The time I knew her was brief and when she was in full recovery. Again, I can only imagine how deep the pain is in your situation. Your strength is surely from God. It is no human feat to be able to do what you do. Thank God for you and his care!


    • Debby Oh my goodness! I am SO sorry for your pain and for her loved ones. The ‘bright side’ of this whole mess is that the few people still in denial about my relatives alcoholism did NOT see the end result. That is what my dad wanted us to protect them from. he did all the talking, thank God, and they can believe what they want about his death. There is an odd blessing in that I think. The visuals are haunting. I am SO very sorry. I can’t imagine their pain and yours. A death like this after a period of recovery would be even more devastating. To have the beginning of Hope and to have it end so violently is terribly sad.

      My strength I don’t think I have any is surely from God. It is not from me that is for darn sure. ditto. Thank God for God…. and for you. xxx Jen


  8. My mom died a horrible death six months ago. She suffered for a year from alcoholic cerhossis, but in the end Her brain hemorrhaged. They told me it would be a horrible death, but it was even worse than that. I wouldn’t wish that kind of death on my worst enemy. I am sorry that you have experienced that kind of loss and destruction.


    • Oh my God! I am SO sorry for your loss and for the pain! I worry about this: they say it will be bad, but will it be worse? How do you make it day to day with knowing it goes that way? One foot in front of the other I suppose and writing helps. YOU stopping by and sharing your story helps too. I am not alone and others have gone before me. I am heading your blog right NOW! thank you very much for being here. Peace, Jen


  9. Oh, Jen, my heart is breaking for you and your family. What misery. I can barely breathe.
    And what a frightening story you tell. I’m not alcoholic, but you’ve made me scared even to have a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner.
    I guess that is a good thing.
    Oh, I just cannot imagine the agony for you.
    I am doubling my prayers . . .


    • Dear Kathy, Thank you for doubling up the prayers! I am glad you are not an alcoholic and I pray that no one you love falls into the abyss. I know that a glass of wine for turkey day is traditional (We had wine on turkey day as Kids. Messed up? Yes.) BUT if you are not an alcoholic then you are safe.

      I did not know until I was in college how messed up my family was. Until you meet ‘normal’ people you don’t have anything to go by. I did start this blog as a cautionary tale. A few friends are newly on the wagon (GO Guys!) and I have loved ones who are in danger. Telling the raw unadulterated truth seemed a good idea. I do want to let people I care about know the reality. Alcoholics Lie. Another post from a while ago; and very true. We need to begin to tell the whole messy sad awful truth about alcoholism in our culture. We just really really do.

      It is what it is AND my son will NEVER live through my childhood. NEVER. He will also know the very real risk of a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. He has had to live through some really hard stuff and ALL of it due to alcoholic or drug addicted family members. That breaks my heart. I pray constantly for guidance; How to raise my boy to be the man god wants him to be for the world, God, Faith, Grace and community. That is the path out. thank you for the prayers. I had NO idea that a world of Love and Support existed in this blog land. You are a blessing in my life. Peace, jen


  10. There is little comfort in truth, it’s why it’s so important to remember it.

    To not gloss over and pretend it was anything other than what it was.

    but, it is a kindness, to refrain from truth, for those who can’t handle it

    which is why sharing the story, as you have, is so vital

    in solidarity,


    • Nina, I agree. I fought my dad on this one. I wanted to tell the entire family every gruesome detail thinking that there is power in truth.

      My father was more Right; there is also great power in kindness. The truth is, the mother had been in and out of forced rehab her whole life and is a serious alcoholic. Daddy saw clearly that telling her the truth would mean little and would be only an act of unkindness. So much to learn, so many ways to grow…

      Peace, Jen


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