About alcohol…

The wedding (photo by Amy Balbirer Windham)

The alcohol question.

I think about this question often. What is my relationship with alcohol now? What will it be in the future?

It’s difficult to separate alcohol from Adam’s addiction and illness. Certainly, alcohol destroyed his liver. But equally as certain, so many of my best memories with Adam involve alcohol. Was alcohol the center of these memories? No. But we enjoyed sitting on the beach with a beer; wine tasting; finding new breweries; tasting crazy concoctions. We liked a lazy Sunday morning on a downtown porch, talking about politics, gossiping, people-watching and eating breakfast with coffee, a mimosa and a Bloody Mary. Certainly, here in Texas, as I sit on the porch watching Air Force football while writing this, Adam and I would have had a beer in hand by now. It’s vacation, it’s football, it was us.

Truth is, I didn’t drink nearly as much before Adam. I drank shitty beer with the occasional tequila shot. True story… Adam probably fell in love with me when we are at McAllister’s downtown (remember that place?) and I ordered tequila shots (right before Jen and I headed to see the Monkees at Pikes Peak Center). They offered training wheels, and I scoffed. Only rookies need the lime and salt. Adam eventually introduced me to “sipping tequila” and I generally left Cuervo behind. McAllister’s was the place we could never leave on a Sunday, drinking beer and playing Golden Tee (that game was like crack) with friends.

We liked the Manitou Springs Wine Festival and Swirl Wine Bar (we were one of the first regulars); the new breweries that popped up in the Springs, camping with cocktail hour; Disa’s gin and tonics at school, blue-cheese stuffed olives in martinis along with carpaccio at the Chop House, collecting 17 plastic cups from Coconuts by the Beach in Florida; pre-made screwdrivers in our backpack at Starfest. The discovery of sour beers … a sour for me and an IPA for him. The Warp Core Breach at Star Trek Experience in Vegas with Paul and Michelle; a glass of wine with Adam’s scallops and linguine while watching the Walking Dead. Wandering up and down side streets in Heidelberg and finding the off the beaten path absinthe bar where we were the only tourists, where we communicated haphazardly through the language barrier with the bartender. Sitting in a square in Cologne, Germany, watching the Germans celebrate because their team had just won a friendly over some other country. Going from place to place in Bruges because I had a giant spider bite that itched so badly I could only sit for about 30 minutes before needing to move to get my mind off of it. Sipping wine on the banks of a river in Germany with a baguette and cheese. Wine in Paris, beer in Amsterdam, and all sorts of weird stuff in Japan.

Lots of alcohol, eh? I didn’t think we drank any more or less than our friends. But of course, I was oblivious to what Adam might have been drinking at home while I wasn’t there. I didn’t know the pain and anxiety he must have felt with the deceit and the lying to me. When he would swear he would never drink again, and a week later I would find the hidden bottle of gin.

To hate alcohol is to hate my 17 years with Adam, and I won’t do it. Whatever you may think an alcoholic is, you might be wrong. Adam was a light in this world; he wasn’t drunk all the time, he wasn’t abusive, he didn’t pass out at bars or say rude things. He wasn’t an obnoxious drunk. He was perfect in my eyes. A perfect man with a perfect illness. An insidious illness we are just beginning to understand.

It was scary for us, more so for him, to think of a future without alcohol. Does that sound weird to you? Everything we did pretty much included alcohol. We had 12 years together before we realized this was bad for him. I could stop after two beers; he could not. He “knew” he shouldn’t be drinking, but at 40, how do you really think you are going to die from liver disease? You just don’t. It’s not happening to any of your friends, so why you?

I haven’t had a drink in about 95 days. That’s the longest for me probably since I went to college. Last night, playing poker, with drinks everywhere, it was hard for me to not join in the drinking fun, get a little buzz. And I’m definitely not an alcoholic. How difficult must it have been for Adam? He said “I’m fine if you drink, I’m fine if my friends drink.” The fact is, he wasn’t. He was terrified of “ruining” other people’s good times, of changing my life so drastically.

That is where my biggest guilt comes in. Why didn’t I realize how hard it was for him? I would have quit along with him. But I guess part of me was mourning the loss of our lifestyle, too. I worried about a lifestyle; instead I lost a whole life.

I would like to toast to Adam again. To taste a new IPA and scrunch up my nose and say, “ewww” and go back to a saison. To sip a great bubbly and say “you would have liked this, Adam.” I might be hypocritical. Fuck you if you think I am. I’m just trying to deal with the loss of my husband in any way I can. My entire life has been ripped from me and I don’t know what to do.

So just try to smile with me and enjoy that IPA.



6 thoughts on “About alcohol…”

  1. All right, then. We’ll toast Adam:

    This reminds me of one of my favorites from The Clancy Brothers:

    The French drink wine, the English tea.
    The Yankee drinks his hot black coffee.
    The child drinks milk nine times a day.
    The Scotsman sips his whiskey toddy.
    You can keep you wine and keep your tea!
    My curse on him that brings me coffee!
    I’ll drink porter, if I may.
    It makes me feel content and happy.

    Porter quaffed down with a laugh.
    The gentry have their aching livers.
    Water is all right in tea,
    For fish, and things that swim in rivers.

    The poor man and the beggar, too,
    The poet in the corner thinking.
    If they’d money enough to spend,
    It’s pints of porter they’d be drinking.

    The miser hoards and stores his gold.
    The bee collects the summer honey.
    When that miser’s dead and cold,
    Someone else will kiss his money!

    Some go in for counting beads.
    More go in for chasing women.
    The scholar stays at home and reads.
    Give me the glass with porter in it.

    Porter quaffed down with a laugh.
    The gentry have their aching livers.
    Water is all right in tea,
    For fish, and things that swim in rivers.


  2. Laura,
    Your writing is raw, and poignant, and beautiful. I didn’t know Adam that well, but in every interaction I had with him, I felt like he was present and genuine, and I really appreciated that, and it had an impact on me. I am so sorry for your pain and am deeply saddened by Adam’s passing. You are in my thoughts a lot these days.
    Tricia Baugh


  3. So sorry for your loss and sadness. You are not alone Laura. The guilt you feel is shared and still, we can’t make people change unless they want the change themselves. I struggle that alcoholism is an illness-and not just about making healthful choices. I hope your writing may give you relief and some answers, and it has been helpful for me to hear your stories. I share in the struggle of having alcoholics in my life that I love. You are not alone!


  4. Laura, you have touched me to the core of my being. I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad that you will get on with your life and you know, like I did, that our loving husbands would want us to get the most out of our lives. Re: alcoholism. I love the explanation that I learned. It is not how much I drank, how often I drank but how it effected my life. There was no doubt that it had effected my life but what really got to me was how it effected my loved one’s lives. My husband greeted me in the morning with a loving announcement that I almost had two head ons and my daughter was crying. That was my aha moment. That was 37 years ago. Thanks to AA, I have been given a life that I could have never imagined. Alcoholism is a deadly disease that took my dad and would have taken my mom if she hadn’t gotten sober. I wish you a wonderful life, that Adam would want for you. Love, Jane


  5. I started writing a comment to you yesterday. In fact I had written a couple of paragraphs then stopped & deleted all that I had written. But after reading your blog today my heart told me to send you some kind of reply. I’m sure you don’t remember me… we met you many years ago in CC before you & Adam were married at a gathering at Steve & Bev’s. Our oldest son, Colby was 2 years behind Adam in High School. Adam would have remembered Colby. Laura, we have many thing in common. You see Colby too was an alcoholic. But had been sober for the last 4 years. Not an easy task. He had told me just weeks before his accident that staying sober was a battle every day. Colby & his wife Shelli had been married just short of 16 years. They didn’t have children & lived in Ft. Collins. On August 10, 2015 Colby was in an accident and received severe brain injuries. No one knows what happened. He was taking his dog for a walk on his skateboard & fell. We think he may have been hit by a car, but we’ll never know. Even the Drs. & Trama team said it was more than him falling off his skateboard. If only his dog could talk. 10 days latter, August 19th, he left his earthy home. All of his family was by his side. I wish I could have told him goodbye but he never regained consciousness. We all know he knew we were there. You & Shelli are in the same club, & it’s a club that no one wants to join. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before. You’ve said so many things in your blog that are so true. Like being in a fog…reading so many different things on grief…& feeling guilty. Your brain is so full now & it’s hard to sort things out. Seeing Colby in ICU for 10 days was the very hardest. And still is…that’s what I see every night when I lay my head on my pillow. I’m sure you can relate. Now I think I’m starting to ramble and I apologize, but there is so much I want to tell you. I will look forward to seeing you Saturday. I’m a really good listener if you ever need to talk, & like you I’ve read many many things on grief. Just know that there are no guidelines, or rules for grief. Take your time, cry, scream, & never stop talking. And when someone says ” what can I do?” Tell them what I say…just come see me & talk about Adam. Take care of yourself Laura. Kathy Wegner


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