Friday, June 02, 2006

Here’s the rub on alcohol – It comes with a twist

My old friend, Wayne Trout, who I wrote about last June, was a very funny and talented man. Unfortunately, he liked to party hard and that helped lead to his downfall when he went to that Giant AM-FM Radio in the Sky last June. Wayne didn't mind practical jokes and he didn't care whether he was on the giving or receiving end. I remember an old story about some preacher of temperance and decided to write one to Wayne. Of course, I made up an authentic looking envelope and mailed it to him, with a SASE. Perhaps you've heard of it before. It went kind of like this:
Reverend Ernest P. Horton
World of Faith Tabernacle of Tolerance and Temperance
Eustis, FL

Dear Brother Wayne,

No doubt you have heard of me and my world famous work in the cause of temperance. For many years I have been appearing on the lecture circuit, traveling all around the country, holding Old Fashioned Hallelujah! Tent Revival Meetings. All are welcome. Perhaps you are familiar with some of my better-known talks such as "Down with the Devil Drink" and "Rum and Rebellion" also available on cassette tapes, free of charge for the asking. For the past two years, I have had as my constant companion a true and faithful friend, one Clem Fortuth, who sat with me on stage. I would point him out to the faithful at hand as a horrible example of the ravages of alcohol. Clem originally had a splendid background and was a man of fine education, reputation and family connections. During the years when he should have given thought to the development of his character, he grew an insatiable appetite for rum, whiskey, beer, Scotch, and other intoxicating beverages. There were times when Clem's condition was pitiful. Here was a brilliant man who became a wreck of his former self. He would sit on the platform with me, drooling at the mouth and staring at the audience with bloodshot eyes. Clem was a testament to the evils of alcohol. Unfortunately, last month Clem passed away. A mutual friend has given me your name and I wonder if you would kindly consent to accompany me on my fall tour? All provisions and lodging will be provided.

Very sincerely yours and I thank you in advance,
Reverend Ernest P. Horton
After reading it, Wayne knew it was a joke, but he couldn't quite figure out who sent it. I know he suspected me, since we were pretty close friends back then and he knew me well, but I never admitted it. Oh, yes, he asked. He asked a lot of people, showed it to everyone and laughed each time. In any event, that little story leads into a more serious one.

My friend -
I'll call him Mike - had a terrible drinking problem. It almost became his downfall, too. Many years ago, soon after we met, he asked me if I would come by and pick him up that Saturday morning. I don't recall where we were going to go, but I do remember arriving about 8:30 and he had a beer in hand and quickly offered me one. "Are you kidding?" I asked.

"No. Are you? This is already my 3rd one."

The more I got to know Mike, the more I understood he had a very serious drinking problem. I'll be the first to admit I like to drink occasionally, but nothing like him. Over the time I've known him, and that's been about 12 years, he's lost at least one year of work due to drinking, and I'm talking about the times when he did have a job. I've had long talks with him over those years, to no avail. The strange thing about serious alcoholics is that nothing is ever their fault. Nothing.
Never. It’s always someone else's. He would ride his bike home from bars (he didn't have a license to drive) and crash into parked cars. Then, when we'd see him banged up, it was always the other guy's fault. They ran into him. Hit & Run, each time. We all knew better.

The stories can go on and on, but there's a message here and it's about how the
Spirit of Death pays an early visit to some not sober long enough to realize it and never stops beckoning for those who remain nearby.

About two years ago, Mike collapsed after bleeding from his mouth. He was rushed to the emergency room and the doctors knew right away what it was all about. He remembers that night and when he awoke a month and a half later.

When too much alcohol is consumed over many years, the liver becomes damaged by
cirrhosis, a disease that slowly destroys the bile duct. The liver can shut itself down by not allowing it to perform its biochemical functions. Damaged and dead liver cells are replaced by fibrous tissue, which leads to scarring. Blood backs up in the portal vein, since the liver is not working, and flows backwards, under a lot of pressure the liver and other organs normally slow down. This can lead to varicose veins in the esophagus called esophageal varices. Under that heavy pressure, these tiny veins burst and you throw up blood. This is exactly what happened to Rick. His major organs began to shut down. He was placed on life support and the doctors purposely kept him in that condition. A respirator was connected to keep his brain from dying.

His sister and brother-in-law flew in from California to be by his side. They are basically all he has left. They remained here in Florida for over a week and were here for one of our now famous hurricanes.

Twice, the doctors wanted to shut down the machines.

Twice, his brother-in-law said
no. “All we have is time,” he said. They had to return home to be with their children and left me as the watchdog and messenger. Of course, they maintained close contact with the doctors. The second "no" came from California.

When Mike finally came out of his coma and was allowed to return home, his sister, brother-in-law and I had already decided the best thing for him was to move in with them.
Go west, old man. He fought it tooth and nail, but eventually acknowledged it was the best thing to do. With a liver function of about 2%, the doctors told him if he has one more drink, he’d die. In February of 2005, Mike left Orlando. He’s on total disability and is drawing Social Security and Medi-Cal, California's equivalent of Medicare. Things went seemingly well for about six months or so and then, one night he called. I knew right away what he had been doing. He went through a few of these setbacks, but seemed to overcome them and remained pretty sober for a while.

He called me the other night.

He made me promise not to tell anyone what he was about to say. I said yes, but don’t think for a second that I didn’t already know. We talked for hours and got nowhere. An alcoholic is not an easy person to rationalize with. They cry for pity. He said his sister wants him out of the house by July 1st. That's what made him drink again. No, I said, your sister wants you out of the house BECAUSE of your drinking. Try to impress them with the truth. You just can't do it. They suffer from an incredible lack of self-esteem and lie their way to the truth as they see fit. Remember, it’s never their fault.

He is drinking like the days of old

Here's the twist. I promised to not say a word. If I don't, he will surely die and I will feel guilt for the rest of my days for not giving him that one last shot at life. I am a loyal and good friend. I can keep my word or call his family. Or I can send him that letter.


  1. Great blog.

    Send him the letter. You can send it to me then I can forward from St Louis (the post stamp will throw him off as to it's origin).

  2. Keeping your word is useless if he ends up dead. We all enable those around us who are addicts because we are afraid that if we confront them, or "tell," that they won't like or love us anymore. They count on it. I know - not only am I one - sober for 18 years - but so is my mother, who hasn't been sober for 40. We don't do our loved ones any favors by keeping silent. Just my $.02

  3. Anonymous #1: I have a brother who lives in the St. Louis area. If sent from there, he would automatically assume it was him. Thank you, just the same.

    Anonymous #2: "I am my brother's keeper" may be along the line of what you are saying. I agree with you that keeping my word is useless if he ends up dying by his own hand. Yes, he has control of his life. Not me. He is in his fifties. I can try to hold his hand and lead him, but if he chooses to go in a different direction, is it still my fault? I am not enabling him at all. The way you stated it is the same as how these alcoholics always blame someone else for their misfortunes and problems in life. I have spent countless years talking to him, and now his family. What more can I do? I am not afraid to tell anyone. I am just sick and tired of all that I've said go in one ear and out the next, all the while, somehow blaming me for it all. Yes, me and everyone else along this twisted and muddy path HE chooses to traverse. What would you suggest I do from here?