Monday, December 16, 2013

Those That Go Before Us

Two years ago almost to this day, I wrote a blog about my brother Pat who went before me on the road to sobriety.  In Shining Examples, I talked about how I watched him from the sidelines for almost twenty-five years while I waited until it was my time to embark on that peril fraught journey.

Today I want to tell you another story of one whom I watched from the sidelines.

I met my friend, Pattie, ten years ago.  A few short months before I met her, she died.  She had  esophageal varices that silently bled into her stomach until she bled to death.  They pumped new blood into her and they performed CPR and they brought her back.  She told me once that she wished they hadn't.  She'd wanted to stay where she'd gone but she had to come back and take care of someone. Bob, her husband.

They told her if she ever drank again, she would die.

I met her when I was living on a boat and drinking and she was living in a mansion and not drinking.  I never knew why she liked me.  People that loved her called her the Dutchess, people that didn't, called her something else.

I loved her.

I watched her go out in the middle of the night, in the middle of a hurricane to refill a generator so that she could continue to post hurricane updates and health and welfare statuses over her VHF radio.  She wore a floral raincoat with nothing underneath, except her pearls.

I watched her get up in the middle of the night to come out into her living room, where all of us hurricane bound drunks were strewn, and walk over to Bob's chair and pick up his drink, sniff it, and proceed to carry it over to the sink and throw it out.

I watched her as Bob's health declined and his drinking increased.  She didn't drink.

I watched her regally maintain her dignity, while those around her tossed the ragged remnants of their own into the wind, like confetti at a death march.  She never touched a drop.

I watched her after Bob had a stroke and sometimes didn't remember who she was.  She was tired and she talked to her doctor about just having one glass of wine a night to help her relax and sleep.  He gave his reluctant assent.

Bob died a few months later.

I wrote her earlier this year and told her that I had quit drinking and how I had watched her, years ago, as she stood so strong while her husband and all of us who surrounded her drank with no regard to how it affected her.  I told her that now, as I struggle with the drinking that surrounds me. while I cling with a tenuous grip to my sobriety, I think of her.

She wrote back and said that she had stayed sober for eight years to take care of Bob, but now she was having fun.

She died two weeks ago. Her stepson's blog Natural Causes says she bled to death from  ruptured esophageal varices.

She's finally made it back to the place she didn't want to leave.

P.S.  I struggled about whether to write this blog, Pattie was the epitome of class, and it is hard for me to reconcile the person I know with the means of her death.  But Pattie was a woman who, while I knew her, found her purpose in helping others.  I think she would want her story to help others.


  1. Sending a hug and a thank you for sharing about Pattie as you knew her. I read of her passing a week ago. It amazes me how small this on line community is.

    1. It is indeed a small world, pm me at karymayhickey@gmail if you'd like, I'd love to talk.

  2. Funny, I have been newly reading Jim's blog there, and had no idea there was a connection here. Wow...small world.

    Anyway, this is sad, for sure. As I mentioned to Jim, this illness just takes us away in horrific fashions. No active alcoholic that leaves us goes in a pleasant manner. There are some really ugly ways of leaving. No Hollywood death scene. Just ugliness. And it shows us how tragic this illness is. We would go to then end of the earth to get our fix, knowing full well it will kill us at some point. And that was me. I knew that my alcoholism would kill me at some point. I had my suicidal thoughts which turned into more than thoughts. Luckily the Creator intervened and I was relieved of them the moment I was relieved of the obsession to drink.

    Ugh. I am so sorry to hear of your friend.

    One is too many, a thousand never enough.

    Thank you for sharing this.


    1. Eerie, isn't it? Seven degrees of Pattie.

  3. Thank you for this perspective on Pattie. I have some strong doubts that she ever really quit -- because of 2nd hand information -- but will open my mind to the possibility. An important thing to remember is that the example she set helped you get sober. I have written before about how stories can be helpful whether they're true of not.

    I will have to realize that despite my reservations and resentments, that she is responsible for saving a human life.

    Thank you, again.

    1. Jim, I have no doubt that you have a right to your resentments and reservations, Pattie was a complicated person and could be very unforgiving. I saw that in action myself. None of us get to see every facet of a person and none of us know the person as another knows them. I loved your father also, and I'm sorry you didn't get to see him in his final years. I wished I'd known him in better times.

  4. Wow, Kary. You know a lot of people, and you have a lot of stories to tell. And you tell them magnificently! Thanks for this one. It's an eye-opener, or more accurately a keep-eyes-opener, for me!

  5. Thanks JustPlainPhil. I seem to know my share of people who have relapsed after several years and then died. I'd be foolhardy not to carry these stories close to my heart. I have ample warning that there is no such thing as going back to "just one."