It’s Complicated

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Once again, the universe is knocking on my door. Hello, it’s me again.

This time by way of a post on addiction, alcohol to be exact that stirred up a memory I haven’t thought about in years, 10 to be precise. Our minds are complex places.

The memory is of my sister-in-law and her untimely death due to her prolonged use of alcohol. Her story, like everyone’s, is complicated. The big gray area does exist.

Her name was Debbie, she was 51 years young.

My first impression of Debbie was that she was beautiful, intelligent, fun, creative, and talented. She loved her baby brother very much, and she shared a birthday with my sister. A winner.

As we got to know each other better, I realized something was off, but not having any experience with alcoholism, I just thought she was a bitch. I was naive, and everyone around her was in denial.

I learned that when their mother died suddenly at 48 years old, Debbie was in the middle of a typical mother/daughter squabble, and they were not on speaking terms. Forgiveness also died that day.

Debbie and her siblings were grieving the loss of their mother individually, being left with a disabled father in disbelief and not much help. Two siblings had spouses for support, and three were left to their own devices. Grief is a complex emotion, and this was a recipe for disaster.

All three chose alcohol as the device to numb the ache. One escaped. One continues his imaginary competition with Keith Richards, and Debbie, wearing an anchor of guilt for two decades, was found dead in the melting snow 10 years ago this week. Free at last.

As I said, Debbie was intelligent and creative, two skills that come in handy when you’re keeping a secret of this magnitude from the world around you. Keeping it alive is another story.

Living a lie every dang day had to be exhausting. I can’t imagine trying to keep up with the responsibilities expected of me while strategically contemplating how I will sneak in a drink and keep my act together throughout the day. That is no joke; it’s a full-time job.

I know she wasn’t the first or the last to juggle this lifestyle. We’re only human.

Over the years, her intelligence and creativity grew exhausted, while the disease grew arrogant, insisting on vodka in her coffee, leaving the creamer on the curb. Acceptance? Blind eyes? Both?

As with everyone in her life, we grew frustrated trying to help someone who was not ready to receive the offers. She was in her own way.

Correction, she was ashamed, and shame is a powerful emotion. Seducing her with lies quietly convincing her she was worthless while blocking love like a linebacker. Vodka was her helmet.

So, we made excuses to justify the behavior and make ourselves feel better. Talk about creativity.

  • She’s only hurting herself.
  • She’s a functioning alcoholic.
  • She’ll know when to stop.
  • It’s not like she’s sitting in a bar all day.
  • The list goes on …

After two turbulent marriages, endless lost opportunities, burnt bridges, and too many stints in rehab, the secret was sitting center stage, not Debbie, and it showed. You can only fall down so many times, literally, before surrendering or succumbing.

According to the coroner, she “succumbed” to her disease, alcoholism.

We are ALL worthy of being the best version of ourselves.

If you are suffering, please ask for help. There is no judgment. Make the call.

Do it for Debbie ❤

Alcoholics Anonymous — 800-839-1986.

17 responses

  1. This is such a powerful essay, and yes…we deserve to be the best versions of ourselves. I’m so glad you added the hotline number that’s in play 24 hours a day. They are so kind and comforting, even if you just need someone to listen.

    Your sister-in-law’s story will help another. I can assure you of that. As a sober alcoholic, I thank you down to my socks, for writing it. :0

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your story. It takes a village ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve always loved that expression.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Lisa for sharing this painful and powerful story. I was a train wreck waiting to happen, but a series of events caused me to stop drinking. Over fourteen years later, I still have the urge at times to drink, but is more of a faint echo. But, stopping was the best thing that happened. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Keith and thank you for sharing your story too. I believe openness is a key factor in healing.


  3. We are in the middle of this issue with a close relative. We can clearly see the downward spiral but they are still in the “I can stop whenever I want, I just don’t want” cycle. Her siblings have save her from the box under the bridge but they are exhausted. Not sure what is going to happen next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a sad state of affairs for all parties. I remember the stretches of peace and then bam the loop started all over again. I hope your story has a happy ending.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too but we’re not headed there right now.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved your essay, Lisa and can feel the loss of your friend in your words. It’s too bad that more people don’t reach out for help. Alcoholism is a disease.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It sure is a disease. I know for Debbie she always thought she could handle it on her own … ugh.


  5. Alcoholism touches so many families, mine included. I have often joked that it is on pretty much every limb of my family tree, but joking aside, the reality of how destructive this disease is, is absolutely heartbreaking. I am so sorry your sister-in-law was unable to overcome her addiction & lost her life to this wretched illness. Thank you for sharing your story & shining a light on an issue that truly needs to be talked about more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alcoholism certainly doesnt discriminate. I also feel there is a stronger shame connected to this disease for women. Thank you for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Addiction, of any kind, is a disease that damages many more than the person actually consuming the poison. It is a disease, and help is just that phone call away. It isn’t easy, but it will be worth it. Thank you, Lisa for sharing your story of someone you cared about. I am still praying for my person and have to believe they will finally make the call.


  7. There is a lot of addition in my husband’s family, including two members who eventually took their own lives. I think it is way more common than many of us think (me included until I met my husband’s family). As someone who doesn’t have the problem, I find it hard to fully understand, but the results are devastating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here and when I tell you I was clueless to it, that is an understatement. You are so right that it is much more common than we think, and it leaves a wake of devastastion.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I am so sorry to hear this tragic story. It’s a horrible disease that took the life of a dear friend about 4 years ago. I was incredibly concerned for years because I felt like my older son was heading in that direction when he was in his 20’s and early 30’s. He would come to visit for a weekend and an entire bottle of vodka would disappear while he was there. Things weren’t all that great between us so I couldn’t say much of anything. If I did, it just seemed to push him father away. He decided on his own to quit cold turkey (about 4 years ago) after he and his wife had two children and hasn’t had a drink since. Thank God! They have since had a 3rd child who is the sweetest child you could imagine. I feel so incredibly blessed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! That is a blessing indeed. Sounds like your son recognized what was more important in his life … his wellbeing. I’m sorry to hear about your friend ❤ Thanks for stopping by.


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