Restoration by Water - A Story of Alcoholism and Family
Last night I was remembering my uncle Virgilio. He was a magnificent guitar player, loving father and husband, a sweet man. But when he drank alcohol, he would become violent, so violent that he would be taken to a sanitarium and put in a strait jacket. I know this because my mother told me when she tried to visit him These were precautions, we were told, so patients would not harm themselves.
When he would come back from these retreats he seemed a broken man, without strength or energy, even embarrassed or ashamed. Detoxing from alcohol or any substance takes many days of rest and recuperation. The detoxing period may result in depression and anxiety mixed throughout the subsequent sober days. Also, medical research now states that detoxing may take several weeks or even months. During this time the person is susceptible to seizures.
My family didn’t realize how fragile this time of recovery was for him. They were happy to see the real person back, they wanted to forget what had happened and be glad he was okay even though this happened repeatedly. In the early sixties of the past century, there was not a lot of information or treatment for alcoholics or addicts. A few non-professional people fought this horrible disease with spiritual meetings and the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Even this flimsy reed of hope was soaked in shame and pain. People were unwilling to admit there was a problem even in the midst of repeated offenses. The alcoholic wants to stay sober but can’t, and the family wants to protect the alcoholic with cover-ups and worst of all with their silence. Claudia Black in her landmark book It Will Never Happen to Me, states the unspoken rule on addiction is: “Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust and Don’t Feel.”Surviving such a situation, family members are at a loss in re-establishing family ties because no one has voiced their feelings. These supressed feelings later cause enormous obstacles for recovery.
My uncle was in one of those susceptible times of detoxing when the family went on a beach outing - to escape and reunite. As he was sitting on the beach playing with his children, he saw a wave take his wife deeper into the ocean and could see her struggling to stay afloat. He swam to help her, and the wave that brought her in swept him deeper. What I know now is that he had a seizure and was unable to get out. This information came to me recently in a moment of meditation. I share this story now in hopes that it may help someone else.
In my spiritual tradition, I lift a prayer for Uncle Virgilio's soul.
Blanca Trigueros-Lytle, MA is a spiritual director living in Windham, Maine. She graduated from George Fox Seminary in Portland, Oregon in 2016. At the start of her spiritual journey, she received training in the performing arts at Portland Actors Conservatory in Oregon. Performing the role of Antonia in “Much Ado about Nothing,” with Shakespeare in the Park. The arts opened the door to her creative imagination for writing. She has written, produced and directed three plays and a one-woman show that was performed at the Seattle Fringe Festival. She will teach “The Art of Drama and Comedy” at Windham Adult Education in the autumn. Currently working on her daily reflections journal as well as offering daily healing prayers for her community as well as spiritual direction. .