June 10, 2019
During the phone call with Julie and my older son and daughter-in-law, there was growing momentum toward trying an intervention, that the only way for my younger son to admit his dependance on alcohol was to approach him as a unified group.
Time was more than up. There were too many signs that Alex was drinking heavily. He had deflected my question two months earlier. With his answer, he didn’t convince me. But, I am not one to confront people, to call them liars, to push them to the point it might place an irrevocable wedge between us.
I let his less-than-half-truth response stand.
And I kept seeing the signs, such as how he stayed up all night every weekend and then slept all day. Not a sound of movement coming from his room. The way people sleep who are not tired, but passed out.
When I made my mental list of all of the signs, it was half a dozen items long. And, even as it was a convincing list, I was able to provide another reason for each item. Even for how each weekend played out: He’s always liked saying up late. That’s all it is.
My mind returning to the phone call, as I weighed each idea for how to approach Alex I feared the intervention. Knowing his personality, I was growing in my conviction that he would lash out at us. That, in fact, the opposite of recognizing this was the turning point of his life, he would feel cornered. And, to defend himself—to keep himself from having to admit the truth and face the mountain of a climb which is sobriety—he would fight back.
Deny. Deflect. And depart.
And not only would nothing have been gained, everything would have been lost. Alex would have been lost to us.
Reaching the apex of the debate, I heard the garage door. Alex, who had lived with Julie and me for over a year, had arrived. I said, “He’s home,” opened the bedroom door and closed it behind me. I met Alex in the hall.
I didn’t have a plan. I knew I had to confront him, but how could I do so without erecting a wall instead of building a bridge?
My stomach already knotted, as he approached it twisted more tightly. The knot was tied to my face. Tears welled in my eyes. Alex asked, “What’s the matter? Did someone die?”
I choked out a weak “No.”
My mind spun as the intensity of the moment caused my grief to deepen. I believed this was it. The moment. If I could not achieve a breakthrough now, I might never. Later, Alex agreed. He recognized his drinking had grown so deep, and had gone on so long, that he feared his death was imminent. He was sick, constantly. Hangovers had deepened. Recovery took longer.
Alex: “Are you okay?”
Me, finally, gently, voice quavering: “I hate to call anyone a liar, but I don’t think you’ve been telling me the truth about how much you are drinking.”
Finally, the question found my voice: “Are you an alcoholic?”
He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t flinch. He looked me straight in the eye as tears welled up in his.
That yes felt as good as the moment I watched him arrive in the world. There would be no need to continue my questioning. To question his response. To respond with accusations.
That yes meant the healing could begin.
We had a lot to talk about. I told Alex of the family phone call that was in progress. He wanted to talk one on one right then. He said, “Let’s go out to the porch.”
I ducked into the bedroom. I gave them the good news. I joined him on the porch.
Alex came clean. That yes meant he no longer had anything to hide. He knew his father’s attitude—he could trust that I would not judge him. I would not condemn him. Admitting the truth puts the past where it belongs, gives power to the present, allows the future to begin.
We sat on our porch couch. Alex told me everything. I asked loads of questions. He provided honest answers.
As soon as we took our spots on the porch, Alex said, “I feel a weight has been removed.” He repeated that several times over the next hour.
We talked about whether he needed to detox. About rehab. About Alcoholics Anonymous. About how to get him onto a path of successful sobriety.
The next day, he reported what he learned about AA in Indianapolis. Meetings take place every day, in every neighborhood.
And the next day, he attended his first meeting.
And the next day, he attended his second meeting.
And almost every day, until the pandemic created the lockdown, he attended meetings. He made friends, who know the struggle. He got a sponsor. He’s now become a sponsor.
While the event I recall here occurred on June 10, it is not Alex’s anniversary. That is June 4. I’d forgotten that he told me he had not consumed any alcohol for six days before our talk.
He easily admits that he would not have succeeded at sobriety on his own. He told me of previous tries—once, he succeeded for three months—and how situations led him back to drinking.
He needed support. He needed AA. He needed his family. He needed accountability.
Alex’s first year of success story is an important one. Too many people are stuck where he once was. Addicted. Harming their bodies. Straining relationships. Wasting money.
This past year, Alex learned much about himself. About what works. And what doesn’t work. About the importance of being held accountable. About his faith in God.
I hope soon to post his own words on these vital topics.