I drove PaPaw’s truck to take a chair for reupholstering today with my little son buckled safely in at my side. We’ve had this truck at our home for Noah’s entire life. While I was expecting Noah, Erick’s Dad, PaPaw, had a bad fall and resulting brain damage and has been in a Nursing Home ever since. Such a sad, sad story, especially when you know the rest of it.
Please understand, I share this only out of great love and concern for every person who has ever fallen victim to alcoholism and for all those who love them. Erick’s Dad is one of the smartest men I ever knew. He could also be charming and hilarious. Some of the best laughs I’ve ever had, I had over something he said or did. We still smile and chuckle as we recall and speak words and phrases he often uttered, remembering…
We don’t have enough garage space to keep PaPaw’s truck under covering so it gets dirty and every time I see it that way it makes me sad, so today I drove it through a car wash which still didn’t bring back any of it’s former glory. I told Noah, “PaPaw always kept his truck very clean.” Noah asked, “did it shine?” And with a sigh, I said, “yes, it surely did.” By the time we got home I knew what I had to do. I parked out front near the watering hose and gathered supplies to give the old truck a good scrubbing. I took the floor mats out and gave them a once over as well. All the while thinking back over the years, the hurts and heartaches, the disappointments that still linger, especially in Erick. I see the sadness all too often when people speak about their dads. Erick’s parents were divorced most of his life and many years he spent one or two weeks with his dad during the course of the year so their time was greatly limited and so, too, their relationship.
As Erick grew up and was able to drive to his dad’s home, their relationship became more regular with fishing trips and visits that lasted weekends at a time. Yet, there were always struggles.
Erick’s Dad was a teacher. He loved his work and was committed to his work. We knew he drank, but had no idea to what extent as he hid it well. He was married to a dear lady who encouraged a loving relationship between father and son and who did not approve of drinking. After many years of marriage, they divorced and then the drinking only escalated. The alcohol led to the fall that led to the brain damage that led to the end. Papaw is still alive, but we can scarcely understand a word he says. He is bedridden and his feeble body is drawn to the point he cannot move his legs and can only move one arm and that movement is limited. He was a tall, handsome, intelligent man who had earned a good living, amassed considerable wealth, and had a son who loved him dearly only to lose the ability to enjoy any of it as a result of addiction to the bottle.
He worked so hard and had planned well financially. He owned his own home, a parcel of land, his truck and had a chunk of money put away in addition to his retirement. He had told us time and again what he had and what he wanted Erick to do with it when he was gone, yet in an alcohol induced stupor he signed a blank check and gave it to a young man who had done chores for him for many years. The man and his wife filled the check in, in their own handwriting for $50,000 made out to cash, took it to the bank and cashed it. Just like that, $50,000 was gone to someone who had brought him 5 gallons of liquor a week before taking the check. Think about it….how long it took a teacher to set aside that kind of cash, and then how mind-altering substance led to squandering it all away in matter of seconds.
This man was no fool. In fact, his intellect was sharp, sharper than most at about a 140 IQ. From an objective survey of his life, he would have been considered successful. But upon closer inspection we find broken relationships extending over the course of his life with multiple marriages and divorces along with many failed friendships and finally financial, physical, and mental demise. Unfortunately this story is not uncommon. Many, many, many homes and families have been devastated, childhoods and innocence stolen away by the horrible ravages of alcohol and drug addiction, and yet as a society we continue to glorify drinking. Many folks seem to think it adds prestige or joy to their lives to add a little wine or a few mixed drinks into their social activities. My question is this…what is the cost? Why take the risk?
I wish I could say I’ve never drank any of it, but that would be a lie. I have and I know all too well how easily a mood can shift as a result of adding a potent drink to my body chemistry. I also realize how easy it would be to turn to that for relief instead of turning to the Lord in prayer for necessary help and strength. I truly believe alcohol and drugs is a modern day form of idolatry. Think about it. If we are going to socialize with intent to get a little tipsy, we can know we aren’t inviting the Lord into our gathering. We are to be sober, in more ways than one, always ready to give an account for the hope that is in us. When we are in Christ, we go first to HIm for help in all circumstances, not to alcohol or drugs or any other vice. He alone is our strength, our hope, our help and our confidence.
So, as I see where we are, seven and a half years into having a family member unable to communicate, feed himself, clean himself or otherwise enjoy life, I ask that you consider the cost of alcoholism, of the message it sends to the masses when they see you drink. All I have to do is look into the sad eyes and countenance of my husband as he stands at his dad’s bedside saying, “see Dad, I’ve brought Noah, your grandson to see you” only to have his dad stare with vacant eyes back to him to know the devastation of addiction. Noah has cried at bedtime before and said, “if only PaPaw could get well enough to go fishing with me and dad just one time…” It breaks my heart and gives me courage to tell the truth of what can happen when we don’t recognize the dangers involved in drinking. No one is immune from addiction. The only sure way not to fall victim to drugs and alcohol is to abstain.