It’s 2 p.m. on a Monday, and I’m still in bed. Pajamas on. No food eaten. Reruns of Law & Order: SVU on the TV. No shower. I did have a cup of coffee (the aforementioned last Starbucks Via in the house. I could use another cup but I’m not up to trying all your water to scoop ratio ideas yet).
Bixby is on the bed now. I think he was ignoring me most of the morning. I’m pretty sure I traumatized him last night screaming and crying. I wanted to be alone. Wasn’t sure I was ready for a long sleepless night.
I never imagined I would have experienced so much grief by this age in my life. I’ve lost so many pets. I look at the picture above, the glorious picture at Aly and Peter’s wedding, and am sad at the losses. Cousin Grace, cousin Cheryl, Aunt Marge, my dad, Uncle Jim, now Adam. How happy we all were then.
This was before we had any idea Adam’s body wasn’t going to be friends with alcohol. We enjoyed dancing, drinking, eating, traveling, so much stuff. I’ve spent a million minutes wondering why Adam? Why, with all the drinking going on in my circle of friends, was he the one cursed with the delicate liver? Science has yet to answer that question. Just like a man like my dad could smoke three packs a day for 40 years and not get lung cancer.
There was an answer for Adam… stop drinking. He tried. He tried so hard. He fought every day, and every day he drank added to his anxiety, which added to depression. He wasn’t sharing with anyone. I used to beg him to call family, friends, anyone. Just to do something beyond me.
Adam being defined by his disease is what scared him. I share his struggle because I want to help others. But he was NOT Adam the alcoholic. He was Adam the designer. Adam the creative thinker. Adam the gentle soul. Adam the caring friend, son, uncle and brother. Adam the thoughtful husband, who would create homemade cards to cheer me up. Adam the science fiction lover. Adam the dancer. Adam the musician. Adam the snowboarder. Adam the goof. Adam the joker. Adam the lover. Adam the fighter.
I think he was finally looking forward to conquering the disease. He was thinking of some day helping others.
Bixby has not always been in our lives. Our first dog was Bailey, a boxer/pit bull we picked up back in about 2003 outside of Petco. We had dog fever. We had been looking for a dog but had ignored Bailey on the websites because she was listed as a pit. Adam called me at a football game to say he had found the perfect dog. He convinced me to get over my irrational fear of pit bulls. One of the best decisions ever. Bailey was our baby. She wasn’t the perfect dog … we had to learn to be better owners due to her often-unpredictable behavior. But we are glad we learned.
Meka came into our lives two years later. Meka was Bailey’s best friend, and when Steve had to move away and didn’t think Meka would fit in an apartment, we gladly took him in. Bailey and Meka lived happily until Meka passed in 2011. Bailey died in October 2014, and our hearts were broken. It was one of the few times I had seen Adam cry. We held each other for awhile, celebrated her life with friends.
I wanted another dog a few months later. We had Chance the cat, but I wanted to give another dog the chance at a great life. Adam wasn’t sure, but I joked if he didn’t get me a dog I would want a baby. Ha ha! On Jan. 4, 2015, we welcomed Bixby into our lives from OutPaws Rescue in Denver.
Bixby became The Bix. Da Bix. The light of our lives. He is the perfect dog. He is struggling with anxiety now with the changes in the house, but every day he is calmer.
As Adam struggled with his depression and anxiety over the last year or so, Bixby was a solace. He napped with the Bix. He talked to the Bix about his pain. I heard him once when he was out of it and didn’t know I was in the room (had he been drinking? was it the Xanax? was it brain confusion from his disease? I don’t know).
When we knew Adam was not going to make it, I begged the docs to allow someone to bring Bixby to Denver. I thank Dr. Abigail Lara and Stephanie the nurse from the bottom of my heart for agreeing to look the other way and sneaking Bixby up the service elevator. I cannot thank Mike Carsten enough for leaving home immediately to pick him up and bring him.
Later, Adam said I was quite sneaky for getting Bixby in. He smiled. Bixby sniffed him goodbye.
Bixby is why I need to make it. I can’t let Adam down.
Shit, they weren’t kidding. Mornings ARE the worst.
Shit, they weren’t kidding. Mornings ARE the worst. First, you have been in bed for 10 hours but you don’t think you slept ever at all. Every time you wake up, you think “Adam is dead. He’s not coming back.” Then you will yourself to go back to sleep.
I don’t eat well in the morning over the last week. I used to love a big breakfast. Now I just hope to get hungry.
Came downstairs, and my mother-in-law had Harry Potter on. Reminded me of Adam in a good way! He always settled on Harry Potter if there was nothing on, or even if there were choices. He loved those movies. He never read the books, so it was always fun to go see each movie with him because he had no idea what would happen! Bummed that he can’t see Fantastic Beasts with me.
I’m worried about coffee. Adam tried to teach me about making a pot, but I could fucking never get it right!!!! He made the damn perfect pot of coffee. While he was in rehab I gave up and resorted to Starbucks Vias. His mom does a pretty good job, so did my sister when she was here. Should I just bag it and live with Vias? Should I keep trying? What’s the magic scoop to water ratio on a good strong pot of coffee?
Way too much crying today. Today, I am mad at Adam for leaving me. I’m not afraid of being alone. I’ve spent more of my life without Adam than with him. I just don’t want to live without him right now. I get it … I’m in shock, trauma, the worst stage of grief … that doesn’t make it better.
So thankful that I have friends here finishing up house projects that Adam never finished or couldn’t get around to. I’m realizing the depth of his depression that was mixed in with the addiction. I try to think of what he did that he enjoyed over the last five years. He wasn’t biking, doing pottery, playing music. He had his gadgets, his computer, sometimes he had work.
Why didn’t I realize that he was still drinking as much? Keep needing to remind myself that deceit/lying wasn’t a character flaw, it was part of the disease of alcoholism.
Oh wait, I will. You know why? Because Adam was the absolute worst at killing spiders. You have to COMMIT! I stopped asking him to do it.
But there ARE things that are going to go haywire without him around.
Shit, all those caps and lids. I am terrible at putting lids back on things. Everything dries out because of me. He could follow me around putting the cap back on toothpaste or correctly closing the pickle jar.
How do I work the Nest? I have no idea about how to control the heat in my house.
Who will save the lizards from the dog??????
Who is going to fix the security certificate on our email?
Dammit, I have to go back to being fucked over by mechanics.
It’s a good thing I’m not drinking because I can’t open a wine bottle.
The dishwasher will never be loaded efficiently.
I have a new hair dryer. The cord is tied up and I can’t remember to get the scissors to cut it so I lean into it on eight inches of cord. Adam would have fixed this by now.
Who will explain to me what kind of tree that is? What crop is growing there? My Nebraska boy knew it all.
Who will shovel the driveway?
Who will get me to work if I’m afraid to drive in the snow?
I have no CLUE how to use the barbecue. I still can’t work the Soda Stream, and we’ve already covered a good pot of coffee.
Today, I brought home the ashes of my beloved, Adam Michael Curry, who died on November 3, 2016, at the age of 43.
I don’t know what I would like to do with the ashes. They are just in a plastic box now until I find the appropriate Star Wars container for them. I think he would like that. Star Wars brought us together, Star Wars ran through our lives. Deciding on the exact Star Wars container will be the hard part. It’s not like I’m going to put him in something with Jar Jar Binks on it.
I received the death certificate with the ashes, and I was too curious not to see what the cause of death was, even though of course it was all related to cirrhosis of the liver. There were four causes listed:
Multi-organ system failure
Cirrhosis due to alcohol abuse
None of this was a surprise to me. Adam had been fighting alcoholism … true alcohol dependence … for a long time. I read on the CDC website that only about 10% of excessive alcohol drinkers are actually dependent. Of course, the doctors and counselors all knew Adam was of that 10%. His brain had been rewired by the disease, he tried to stop and was successful multiple times, but kept going back even though he had been originally diagnosed with cirrhosis in 2011.
I tried everything … sort of a dumb cliche, because I finally had to learn his addiction wasn’t in my hands. Rationally, I know that, but it’s still hard to not want to play the blame game with myself: what more could I have done? I left him, gave him ultimatums, he went to rehab. Eventually I realized I would never desert him. I told him I would never leave him and would stay by his side forever as long as he kept fighting and trying. And he did.
When he died, he was 72 days sober. We were at the Anschutz Medical Campus, part of UC Health in Denver, for liver transplant evaluation. We were being evaluated despite not having the six month sobriety rule most transplant centers have. We were so lucky to have that opportunity; we were told it was because of the support system Adam had … and because our GI doctor believed in him, too. I was his biggest advocate. I knew his disease inside and out. Our motto was “Follow instructions; do what the doctors say.” Adam had decided he wanted to live. As a friend said, he was rewriting his story on sobriety. It just turned out to be too late.
We were deferred from the transplant list of course, and we accepted that. They wanted to see just more counseling and see the commitment to sobriety. But on the day we were deferred, he took a turn for the worse and never left the hospital. I kissed him good night on Oct. 26. We were watching the World Series. We were going home on Thursday, counseling appointments set, ready for the next fight.
On Oct. 27, when we arrived at the hospital, we couldn’t wake him up. He was having an episode of hepatic encephalopathy. Hours later, they called a medical emergency as he was struggling to breathe and there was evidence of another variceal bleed. The MICU and liver doctors saved his life that night, and I am so grateful, even though I just had a week more with him.
He woke up long enough on Nov. 2-3 to talk with me and his family. We shared our love for each other. He was so glad to be off the respirator. I’m not sure he really understood he was dying, as his brain was never quite clear. I hope he didn’t. I told him we were making it and going home again. I have no regrets in that.
I remember these words from him: “We’re going to be O.K., honey.”
I lay in bed with him for hours, listening later as he talked nonsensically. I hardly left the room or ate for two days. I held him as he breathed his last at 10:42 p.m., his mom, dad, sister, my sister, his step-mom, step-brother, and 3-week old niece by his side.
Now I am alone. A widow. My future crushed. We had no kids, just our dog Bixby. We had no big plans in life; we just enjoyed each other, expected to grow old together. Now, I’m left wondering what my life is and will be.
I have wanted to die with him many times in the last week. But I’m an atheist. I know death will not bring us together; it just is an absence of pain. Adam knew the pain he was causing me, and I know he wants me to be free. I will love him forever, have a hole in my heart forever, but I am going to fight. Fight for happiness again.
I will not go quietly into the night. (I’m quoting Independence Day here, and Adam would love me for it. Mostly.)