Save the Writer!

SavetheWriterIt’s taken hours of staring at a blank screen before deciding what to write today. How can I tell you what I need to tell you? What small peek inside my life will explain what I’m going through? How do I pour out my guts on the table without dying? What will the neighbors think?

This is a difficult post, indeed.

Many of you may know that I take care of my mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, which, in itself, is plenty to keep a household hopping. It tests the resolve of the best of men, and I, sadly to say, am probably not the best of men. I try. I try to be the loving son, the good brother, devoted and caring, patient yet strong, sensitive to others’ needs, and for the most part, I thought I was succeeding.

But I haven’t been…I’ve been floundering.

You see, there is another disease in the midst that causes more problems than the Alzheimer’s ever could, at least at this point. It’s the sickness of addiction—or more precisely, alcoholism. Let’s not even call it that…let’s just call it alcohol misuse and abuse. But the point is, it has not been pretty.

I have a sister, a wonderful woman with a personality that sparkles more brightly than the mischievous gleam in her eyes. She’s funny, smart (but she doesn’t think so), beautiful (almost to a fault), and actually gets my jokes. Everybody loves Sis—when she’s not drinking.

When she drinks, she becomes someone completely different. She doesn’t think she’s funny, smart, beautiful, or that anybody loves her. She’s angry and destructive, both to herself and the world around her. Such is the lot of an addictive personality and the people who care about the addict/alcoholic.

It’s more maddening than the Alzheimer’s.

All Sis wanted to be was a housewife, like my mother. After a year in college, she met the man that would become her husband, and at nineteen, was married and began the happy life she envisioned. She and her husband enjoyed five years as a couple before deciding to have kids: first a boy, then two years later, a little girl. Life was perfect in the little pink house with the white picket fence.

Pour alcohol into the mix.

Now, I’ve done my fair share of partying, so when I write this, there is no judgement involved whatsoever. We were raised in the Mad Men era, where afternoon cocktails were par for the course. Darrin Stevens and Larry Tate drank and smoked on the job and we watched every minute of it. Ed McMahon came out with his own bartender’s guide (we had the book), and Johnny Carson would throw alcohol-related barbs at him every night in jest. Drinking was cool. Fun. We laughed about it.

My parents were young military who entertained a lot and that was the version of social networking back then. It was something they had to do to get ahead, which my father did. We kids learned a lot about alcohol—how to mix drinks, and more drinks, and more drinks. I think I memorized Ed’s book.

That was the purpose of alcohol, at least from where we stood, to get as plastered as one was able and still drive home. Yes, drinking and driving was commonplace back then, too. Friends did let friends drive drunk.

Alcohol destroyed my sister’s marriage. It was a universal solvent that dissolved everything it had the chance to soak. Her husband was a philanderer who would party with his friends, think he was single, stay out late, and truly neglect his wife.

Sis didn’t have the greatest self-esteem to begin with, and her husband’s maltreatment repeatedly fed into her doubts and insecurities. I begged her to get out of the marriage, but she held on, drinking more to feel better, yet never quite able to reach the point of becoming comfortably numb.

There is no such point for the alcoholic.

A few years ago, Holy Week was in full swing when I received a desperate call from my niece: “Uncle Mike, you have got to come pick up Mom; I can’t handle it anymore.”

“I can’t right now, sweetie, it’s the week before Easter and I have too many commitments. As soon as the holiday passes, I’ll be over.”

Niece couldn’t wait, and plopped her in my lap on Good Friday. She was a mess, and that year I prayed for a different resurrection.

“I didn’t come here to quit drinking; I came here to help with Mom,” she sloshed.

I let her think that, and actually, she was a blessing—in the beginning. She had no job, no money, no transportation, no friends, no party-buddies. Of course, she was miserable, which led her on the search to find those things…at least the party-buddies. Church, healthy living, recovery, self-analysis, responsible friends—all those things were foreign to her. She feared the unknown and resisted it with all her might.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Socrates)

Of course Sis’s life is worth living, but it needs a thorough check-up: x-rays, labwork, rehabilitation—the whole gamut. I’ve been trying to help her find those things while she continues to find the booze.

How does she get the alcohol? She dates, and latches on to the biggest losers who love that side of her. Of course, trouble usually isn’t far behind.

So I try to write. I try to read. I try to follow and comment and review and make light of things and put a little laughter back into my life. I used to be funny…I mean, split-a-gut funny. And I’m not just saying that. You’d shit your britches over some of the things I’d come up with…I know people who did.

But now my life is in constant interruption with scattered doses of sanity and joviality.

When I write, focused and preoccupied, it provides the perfect opportunity for Sis to dash off, sometimes for days at a time. This has become more and more frequent since her “relationship” started with the guy diagonally across the street.

So once again—oh, the constant once-agains—my life, my career, and my future go on hiatus for the sake of family. I barely sleep, my mind is always spinning with solutions to problems that no one wants to face (you know, except me), I’ve lost weight, broken out in hives all over my arms and legs, and take low-dose aspirin to prevent a heart attack. Lord knows, my heart is battered.

All this painful revelation to say that I didn’t get a chance to read the book, and I knew you wouldn’t believe that the dog ate my homework.

There is a reason that I choose to read the books that I do. And watch the movies that I watch. Now you know a little bit of that.

PBC (2) 150x225This post, believe it or not, is part of the Progressive Book Club. In this case, it tells the obstacles we writers face, things that throw a wrench into our plans, but eventually work their way into our stories. One day, I’ll write about it.

For a list of all the participants who probably read the book, click on the link below.

I’ll read Save the Cat!, but for now my priority is to Save the Writer!


ML Swift


46 thoughts on “Save the Writer!

  1. ML, I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with all of that! So hard to watch someone basically self-destruct. I don’t think anyone will care that you didn’t read the book.
    Praying for your family, man.

    1. Thanks Alex.

      When I look out at all the people in this blog world, I sometimes wonder what their back story is. I’m not unique; we all have a story.

      Thanks for the prayers.

  2. I’m with Alex on this- it’s fine to take yourself off the hook on this. I know it wasn’t easy to do that– I know how seriously you take writing and the commitment to the PBC, so I’m especially proud and impressed you were able to take a deep breath, be candid and just say, hey can’t be done this month. Prayers your way my friend.

    1. Thanks, Julie, for your comment and for always being there…listening to me at some of my ugliest moments cussing to high heaven.

      I appreciate it more than I express.

  3. Absolutely with Alex. Forget the book. Be sure to look after yourself and retain the strength to help look after your Mum and your Sister. I completely agree it is shocking to watch someone you love spiral out of control , and to stand by watch them, knowing you are completely powerless to help.

    Now ,wearing the hat that goes with the day job, You need to stand back and let that self destruction continue, until your sister recognises that she has a problem and wants the help to stop. That is the first step to her recovery and the start of the upward climb once more.

    My thoughts are with you and your family. You are not alone, in the world of blog or with various health professionals which hopefully provide services in your area.

    1. Thanks, Julie.

      I’ve stood back and provided such tough love it bordered on tough hate. I’ve looked into programs, centers, and all the resources available, and because they have to be free, it’s not like I can just say, “Take her.” They all tell me she has to want it. She has to be the one to make the decision.

      I’ve known that, and try to sit idly by, but yes, there are resentments building on my end. But I do clearly know what I’m dealing with. It’s taken 25 years of therapy to get to that point of clarity.


  4. Hugs, Mike. I’m sorry you’re going through all this.

    It sounds like it’s time for some AL-Anon for you and some tough love for your sister. Hang in there. Don’t destroy yourself taking care of everyone else.

    1. Yes, my support system has dwindled down due to my never having time to myself. If I were to go to Al-Anon, it would provide yet another opportunity for the mice to play.

      I had a vacation planned for Sept. last year. First one (w/o Mom) that I’ve had in over six years. Sis remained drunk the entire week beforehand, so there was no way I was going to leave Mom in that situation…so I had to take her along. Needless to say, it was no real vacation. And it’s stuff like that all the time.

  5. Take care of yourself Mike. It’s like on the airlines, you can’t help others unless you attach your oxygen mask first. Only then will you be strong enough to assist those around you.

    I’ve lived with a lady who abused alcohol (or abused herself with alcohol). I have a lot of funny memories from those days, and, because she had a beautiful little girl, a lot of sad memories.

    I hope you are still writing, even if it’s just for yourself. Writing down concerns can help clear your mind. Sending you lots of cyber hugs xx

    1. I just want my life back!

      I still journal when I can. I haven’t done much creative writing because I haven’t really felt inspired. My writing has been…mean. Angry. The MG/YA book that I’ve written (needs its first revision) doesn’t need the grittiness of that voice.

      So I’ve put that on hold and have begun a little story that uses that voice nicely. Thanks, Charmaine.

  6. So sorry to hear it’s all going so poorly. I’m with Melissa and Charmain. You cannot be your sister’s parent. It’s more than enough that you need to be your mother’s parent.

    Oh, and though I have no excuse, I haven’t quite finished the book. I will get it done and get my (already half-written) discussion up before night. If you are really thinking about screenwriting, hang onto the book–I think it might be very useful. Otherwise (not to steal my own thunder) there are probably better writing books.

  7. My heart and prayers go out to you, my friend. I know all to well the chaotic nightmare that dealing with someone who struggles with alcohol abuse is, and how that can completely mess up your life!

    Hugs to you!!


  8. Reading you makes me think on many aspects of my past. It is a glimpse of the “other side”. Long time ago I was standing in the destructive side. One doesn’t get to see much of what is happening to those on “the other side” except the fact that they don’t understand what one is going through. Of course, now that I see it backwards, the feeling was mutual. It’s really difficult to deal with a person in a self-destructive stage, no matter the path she has chosen to do it.

    I really wouldn’t dare as much as give you advice, but a humble opinion. You can’t do this by yourself. No one can. The helpers also need help to be able to continue their work.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, Mike.

  9. Like others have mentioned, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Mike.

    I have family members who are alcoholics, so I can empathize with you.

    Take care of yourself and your family…that’s the most important thing.

    1. Like so many have said, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
      I think we are all ok that you didn’t read the book. Save it for another day. And for now, just take care of you and your family.

      As you said in one of your earlier comments, we’ve all got stories. We all have life stuff going on, so we all get it when things go sideways.

  10. I’m not part of this group, but have the book sitting on my desk — a loan from a crit partner. I’m sorry you’re dealing with such hard things. My husband’s mother has an addiction problem, but I’ve never met her. I just know what he still has to deal with. And it’s tough to see out loved ones age and fail and not be themselves. I’m so thankful my parents are still healthy, and I pray they stay that way for many years yet.

    1. You don’t have to be part of any group to swing by here, Mary. Good to see you.

      I guess it would be easier if it weren’t so many things at once. One crisis at a time, I say.

  11. You have so much on your shoulders right now Mike. Don’t worry about the book. Take care of yourself and take the time you need to do what needs to be done. My heart goes out to your family. ((((Hugs)))))

      1. Thanks Lynda. I believe that to be the case, too. Sometimes I worry about what mysterious ways He might work to get through to her. And to top it off, I went to the doc yesterday and found out that this bug has developed into bacterial pneumonia. I knew there was a reason I gurgled when I breathed.

  12. you didnt have to divulge all that and we still would understand, but i appreciate you sharing a glimpse of your harried life. you have brought joy & knowledge & now inspiration! thank you!

    and prayers for strength and success for you and your family!

  13. Mike,

    Thanks for sharing your life, and like all your friends here, I pray for your strength and wisdom. You seem like a nice guy. Guess what? The “nice guy” is a role that sucks! I played it, and I will never utter those lines again.

    1. Yes…I’m beginning to believe the adage, “Nice guys finish last.” But other quotes find me that say, “What you do unto the least of these, you do unto me,” and “Forgive seven times seventy.”

      My only solution is to continue to look for outlets that can help her better than I. Thanks, Joe.

  14. Way too much information, Mike, for the greedy eyes of the public, although I understand your need to vent. Such a heavy weight on your shoulders so you took a moment to unload some of the heaviness here. But you’re good people and I’m sure you already know our struggles make us stronger. So I just want to remind you to flex your muscles and stand strong. You’re not alone. God’s got this. Step aside and let Him have it.

    1. You know, I often wonder what is too much and what is not enough, and yes, showing this more personal glimpse into my life has made me feel very vulnerable.

      However, my need to vent did not precipitate this post. As a matter of fact, I’m not mad or blowing my stack in any way, shape, or form. I’m at the end of my rope about it, always turning to God and feeling like I’m not getting any answers or direction.

      Sometimes “safe” subjects are like an unflawed character. Superficial and boring for the reader. And there are many such blogs. I want to go beyond that. I want my readers to know me with a deeper POV.

      That’s not to say that my life is an open book—hardly—but I know that this is an issue that’s not unique to me and I want others to be able to say, “I’m not alone in this…let’s see how he handles it…let’s encourage each other.”

      When we ignore the issues that need addressing, we’re sidestepping the big white elephant in the room. And he takes up way too much room for me to ignore.

      Thanks, as always, for your valued input, D. You do keep it real, and I’ve always appreciated that.

      1. Greedy eyes are just that….greedy. And my point is to not get too overly comfortable with this beast called “social media” and divulge too much of yourself on this type of vehicle. It’ll turn around and bite you on the butt. Maybe it’s just me but I get protective of people I like. I’ve been bitten by the beast. Didn’t want to see you take the same bite.

      2. Yeah, I agree. I’ve had some bad experiences in the past about the greedy eyes and shallow friendships (and continuously get butt-bitten in the process). And that’s what I mean about too much and not enough. Sometimes my honesty is a double-edged sword…a character strength and defect all at the same time. I’m redefining my blog minute-by-minute as I figure it out.

        I’ve got a few memoirs on the reading list that should give me some guidance of how to incorporate more life experiences into my writing without divulging my own story.

        I’m slowly coming out of this illness (it has really had me utterly exhausted) and will be swinging by soon! I appreciate your words immensely.

  15. Hey Mike,

    A lot of support and prayers have been given, but I want to share a different idea. You mentioned your church. I would encourage you – even implore you – to go to your church and share this information with your pastor/priest/etc. Your church should be more than happy to help you get away, have a vacation, etc. If they are unwilling or unsure of how to do so, you really should consider finding one that will.

    My authority and right to tell you this comes from 20 years of pastoring myself. I am convinced that, if there are these type of problems, your best chance is to involve your church – or find one that can help.

    I hope that encourages and challenges you. I pray that you will find comfort, help, and support at this time.


    1. Thank you, Chuck, and it’s funny that you say that. Another friend of mine suggested turning to the church (of which I’m very active), and it never once dawned on me to do that. I’ve always been one to do what I can to be one of the helpers and not one benefiting from their kindness.

      When my sis first moved here I tried to get her involved in the church, but it’s not conducive to her way of thinking at this time. I didn’t and (with the exception of one friend) haven’t brought up her difficulties because I didn’t want past mistakes to give people a preconceived notion of her.

      She’s really a great person…just a little astray.

      But anyway…I digress…keeping my mouth shut about it has not proven successful for either her or me, so yes, I will take you up on your advice and will be contacting the appropriate people for help with this.


  16. I know EXACTLY what you mean. I don’t talk about it with those that don’t know me, hell I barely acknowledge a lot of the trauma to anyone outside of my exclusive, intimate, four person circle.

    Life, well, life can just suck.

    One step at a time, take a breath. I know what I did to regain myself, and it wouldn’t work for many people. But – find your way – there IS a light at the end of the wormhole.

    1. Thanks, TJ.

      Life can bite a big one at times, can’t it? Right now I feel like Jodie Foster being stretched through the wormhole in Contact. Half my face is left behind screaming and the other is looking forward in anticipation.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing with me. You’re welcome back at any time.

  17. Dear Mike, we’ve been on a slower connection all this past week and haven’t been able to load your WordPress blog site for some reason.

    So sorry to hear of your personal struggles. Few things could be weightier than alcoholism in the family (we know, alas, from our own personal experience).

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to you for strength and perseverance.

    1. Thanks KNM. With all of it, including the pneumonia, it really made for a weak Mike, sniveling in the corner and licking wounds that never seem to heal. WordPress sometimes gives me difficulties loading the stats page, but the comment boxes on Blogger give me more trouble than anything. Many times they rarely load for me, which sucks, because I like to comment. I always have something to say…whether people want to hear it or not is entirely different.

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