The Truth


I pride myself on being an honest person.  I will tell you the truth and I can’t stand anyone who doesn’t do the same.  Dishonesty is just absolutely unforgivable.  That said, there have been some things that I have kept to myself. It begs the question, “is omission dishonesty?”  I used to think not.  There are many things I have kept to myself, things I haven’t written about here or anywhere, because I felt I was protecting Brian or his friends or our family or … or myself.  I always felt this was the right thing to do and never questioned it until last night.  Last night, someone who is very dear to me mentioned that I have portrayed Brian and the situation one way here on this blog and in public and yet I present an entirely different picture to him in our private conversations.  I admit that I bristled at this at first.  I’m very sensitive about anyone saying anything negative about Brian or his life or his death, so I kind of freaked out.  Being the thinker that I am, however, what he said spun around in my head, twisting and turning, trying to find the right place to click in.  When it did click in, my stomach bottomed out and I realized that I’ve been helping no one by omitting the truth.  I’m not protecting anyone, but might in fact be hurting someone by keeping it under wraps.   There’s another part, too.  Everyone who knew Brian already knows what I’m going to say.  This isn’t a surprise to them.  It’s not a surprise to our children.  It’s  not a surprise to our friends.  It’s not a surprise to our family.  It’s certainly not a surprise to me.

Everything that I have written about Brian here and everywhere else is absolutely true.  He was hilarious, loving, gentle, kind, sweet, generous, talented, and supportive.  He was a hard worker, an idea man, an incredible father, husband, and friend.  Brian was something else, too.  Brian was an alcoholic.

I don’t talk about it too much because I have always thought it wasn’t my story to tell.  Brian’s addiction was his story, his issue, his bourdon to carry (interesting how close bourdon is to bourbon, eh?) While he was alive, I always thought it was his place to either tell people or, as the case most often was, show them.  Now that he’s dead, however, I can tell that part of the story because, as anyone who has ever been in love with an addict knows, the addiction doesn’t just affect the addict.  It affections EVERYONE involved with the addict, from family members to employers to friends to other people out on the road.

The big truth, the ugly truth, is that I had been reaching the end of my rope being married to an alcoholic for some time and the reason Brian was out camping alone the night he died was because I had had enough and asked him to leave.  My full intention – and the intention that he knew I had – was for him to leave, sober up, and come home again.  It had happened before and there were years of sobriety sprinkled in here and there.  I had hoped and expected the same would happen again.  No one could have predicted what happened.  The healing process and the recovery since his death has taken me down some seriously fucked up roads, but I have realized a few things:

I would have stayed with Brian until the end.  Whether that meant actually staying married to him or leaving and staying close by, hoping and waiting for his recovery.

While we had a very strong and enviable love, there were a lot of problems with the life together.  While we did a lot of fun things together, it was mostly all within a small scope of area and a small scope of activity.  I have realized that I have done more living since Brian died than I did while he was alive.  I became quite content to stay here in the same mindset and the same lifestyle and I stopped dreaming and living and growing and exploring.  Well, not totally stopped – I still did some pretty groovy things, but I know now how limited I felt.  No more.  As a dear friend of ours said to me, “He freed you so beautifully.”

There is a sensation of being continually slapped in the face when the person you have chosen to spend your life with and raise your children with chooses a bottle over you over and over and over again.   His addiction had him by the balls so tight, I’m surprised he could walk.  He didn’t want to hurt me, but he did, and he hated himself for that.  Vicious circle.  Brian only raised his voice to me 3 times in 14 years and never once raised a hand to me.  He wasn’t a mean drunk, he wasn’t an angry drunk, he wasn’t abusive, but he was emotionally unavailable, distant, selfish, self-absorbed, and felt he was immortal and invincible.  You can’t convince a brick wall that they are a field of grass.

I write all of this not to make Brian look bad or to badmouth him or to make anyone think differently about him.  He truly was incredible.  I am writing about it because, my omitting it, it discredits the truth.  My kids will read this blog someday and, while I want them to have primarily positive memories of their dad, they were here every day and are very much aware of the truth.  To omit it discredits their experience.  I write it because, as the wife of an alcoholic, I hid the truth for 14 years and, damn it, I’m fucking tired of hiding and covering and explaining and carrying the weight.  I write it because I am moving forward and doing new and exciting things and opening my heart to new people and new experiences and I cannot do that honestly while hiding or omitting one of the biggest truths of my life.  Everyone who saw him knew, but we all didn’t want to see. Everyone deserves the truth to come out, including Brian.  The weight has been burying us alive and now, hopefully, we can all breathe a little easier and live.   We are only as sick as our secrets. It’s time to heal.



Before any of you start telling me about al-anon, I already know.  I’ll thank you to not bring it up.




15 responses »

  1. I admire you so much. This is a very brave, honest thing to share. And it requires a very deep level of accepting the full person, all of Brian — the good and the not-as-good — to tell the whole story.

    • It’s Satya. Have to tell the whole story. I feel more free now. I walked outside a bit ago and the moon was up. I looked at it and said, “We’re both free now, Brian.” It felt like a benediction.

  2. Thank you my friend. I lived your life for 20 years and finally had to save myself. Satya demands integrity and you are brimming over. You no longer have to defend or hide and your life and the lives of your boys will be richer than you ever dared to dream.

    • Karen, I had no idea. Thank you for sharing your truth with me. I think our lives, moving forward, will continue to grow. Thank you for the love and support.

  3. You’re right. “We are only as sick as our secrets.” We think we’re better off keeping the secret until we let it go and realize how much less sick we feel. Thank you for this incredibly honest post. It can’t have been easy – both the experience and writing this. Stay strong, Sarah. Oh the places you will go!

  4. I too, have loved an addict. Not with anywhere near the dedication/years you had with Brian though. It’s a tough road. Addicts are often such amazing, talented, intelligent and hyper-sensitive people. Sometimes I think that their filters between themselves and the world are so damn thin that the addiction is about adding a buffer zone. But then, that’s just my experience of loving one addict talking. I’m sure its different for each and every person out there who has to deal with addiction.
    My maternal grandfather came back from WWII as an alcoholic and my grandmother spent almost their entire marriage trying to “keep things nice”… hunting down his stash and watering down his bottles. He was always a sweetheart of a drunk but still… that was a lot of energy that went into dealing with all that, for the both of them.
    May Brian rest in peace and may you and your boys continue to blossom and shine. x

  5. It wasnt until the same year that my Dad died before admitting to himself and my mom that he was an alcolholic. maybe to some it was overt enough to be noticable,but i feel like more than not it was swept under the rug of his productivity and functionality. I’ve seen how alcolholism can pass from father to sons like a phantom. I’vebeen fortunate to have older brothers to show me the consequences of alcolholism and indirectly helpe me navigate around the obstacle they have struggled with, and to some extent are struggling with. Your willingness to be transparent highlights how our support systems and relationships are a good litmus test for where we are hiding ourselves and seperating ourselves from others. I feel like this blog and the choice to hold the issue with awareness will serve your sons in recognizing their abilty to stand with the same abilty to choose. To choose to manifest and expand on Brian’s awesome qualities, while honoring, as you said, his bourdon as a touchstone reminder to grow in ways he would wish for them, rather than repeat the same patterns of behavior.

    All three of us sons now are recognizing 5 years later, that while celebrating his legacy through engaging activities he enjoyed is appropriate, some ways are healthy and real tributes others, such as drinking, smoking, and over eating, were really habits we had taken on previous to hos death, and by titling them as tributes we were covering up that really, in truth, the tribute was an excuse, honor thy father daily, became honoring a drink daily for some brothers or smoking daily or a glutanous diet. All these things also had the effect of cutting us off from the deeper levels of the grief process, taking the helpful lessons, holding his presence in our hearts,and as i know he would wish for us… Moving on, to improve upon that legacy and express ourselves in healthy ways my father may not have always been able to.

    Long response, but you struck a chord with my process here. These issues and relationships to substance abuse, food included, are still in my lap. Im still working with them, this blog post has given a boost to facing where im still stuck, so thank you. ” if ever you dont know the meaning of something in your life and it seems unredeemable, always look at how your heart can grow from it.”- Dr. Judith Orloff

  6. 🙂 the truth is nothing to be ashamed of or hide. Everyone has a truth, but only a few can speak it honestly and brutally and own their truth without worrying about what anyone thinks . You did so, as eloquently as always. And I can see how many lives you are touching. You’re weaving quite a web, Sarah. What a tribute your living is, to Brian. I would guess he’s smiling at you, no matter what. That love was and always will be pure… I think so anyway, just from conversations we had. Truth and honest are becoming a lost concept. Nice to see yours, beautifully.

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