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.