Being an artist is two-fold: having something to say and having a way to say it. If you’re thinking, I’ve heard that sentiment recently, you’d be correct to assume that I’ve finally watched “A Star Is Born” and there’s quite a few themes that spawn out on this topic, not to mention a few quotes from the lovely Bradley Cooper. Picture below, just ’cause.
But to back up a bit, I’ve noticed a theme quite often in my blogging…I have an idea, I search for inspiration, and inspiration usually comes in the form of words. Poets, writers, song lyrics. I build my own tangent off of this, finding a platform for my own thoughts and my own talent which is the written word.
I watched “A Star is Born” this weekend, having never seen any of the previous originals. I had zero concept of what to expect from the story other than (1) I love the music (2) I love Lady Gaga and (3) Everyone said it was a great movie. I assumed (correctly) that it was a doomed love story about a tortured artist and the good woman who fell for him.
What I didn’t know and thus did not expect was how heavily the story centered around the main character’s alcohol addiction. Of course, this isn’t new. How many movies, books, television shows center around a character with an addiction issue? The difference in watching this, for me, was how realistic and well-done it was. There was no romanticizing the alcoholic, even if he was Bradley Cooper.
As lovely and talented as his character was, when he drank he did so to excess. To the point of needing his geriatric brother to put him to bed. To the point of being unable to speak or walk. To the point where someone with a soft soul became nasty and purposely hurtful to the one person he loved more than anything.
In particular, there is a scene where she wins an award, and he drunkenly follows her on stage and embarrasses the crap out of her with slurring comments, an inability to stand, and a final cringe-worthy admission as he’s helped off stage that he thinks he peed himself.
That scene was hard to watch…why? Because through it all, she maintained her grace with a smile. Inside, you knew, she was seething, angry, embarrassed and quite likely overcome with a feeling of helplessness. I knew this. Because that was my life.
I could not tell you how many “things” PC ruined for me because of his drinking. How many nights that were supposed to be fun and social that went sour because of him. How many friendships dwindled off because of his behavior. How many birthdays and holidays he ruined by going overboard. The night of our daughter’s first birthday he proceeded to burn all of the decorations I had painstakingly handmade over the past weeks. Why? He claimed he “assumed I was going to throw them out anyhow”. Truth? He was shitfaced and feeding a bonfire.
How many photographs pop up on my Facebook Memories that should be happy moments but the first way that I characterize them is how drunk was he that day or what did he do later that night or oh that was the day this happened.
Specifically, there was one Thanksgiving that I very rarely talk about but absolutely goes down in history as the worst event from the chronicles of PC’s love affair with whiskey. On a bender, he awoke drunk and continued to drink, all the while indulging in activities such as chopping wood with a chainsaw, making a fire and attempting to cook our Thanksgiving meal “like the Pilgrims”, and blasting music and dancing instead of getting dressed and ready to go to his family’s house.
Once there, he continued to indulge to the point that it was embarrassing. He was having conversations with small children that were not appropriate. He was loud and swaying. He was borderline nasty…I could see it in his eyes and knew it was coming. He was pissed at me for ‘making’ him attend his own family gathering and his retaliation was to get drunk.
It sounds like nothing when I write it. But it was so much more. It was everyone’s eyes on me as I smoothly said good-byes, pulled up zippers on my children’s coats, thanked the hosts. No one acknowledged how intoxicated he was, save for his mommy who only commented “Oh some men can’t hold their liquor” as if this was a one-time gig, a holiday slip, instead of a regular ocurrence.
After screaming at me for ‘stealing’ his lighter and making a big show of walking home, he climbed into the car and we fought the whole way home. Once there, the fight continued and it escalated. He was beyond physical control, and fell into my car, intothe huge rocks that lined our driveway, and what he was doing when he fell was pulling our 5 year old son out of the car. He told me to leave, take our daughter (who mercifully slept through this) but I was not taking our son.
PC was covered in blood from falling on the rocks, and our son’s white shirt was covered in blood as well. In some form of autopilot, I went inside to get our dog, and PC tried in vain to stop me from leaving. He failed, and I yelled at my son to get back in the car. I threw the puppy in, locked the doors. I debated calling the police while PC rambled on and on that if I took his kid he might as well kill himself. I eventually dialed 911 but then hung up. In the background, my precious child sobbing, his life forever marked by this event.
(And if you think a 5 year old child won’t remember, I will correct you by saying he will most certainly remember, and I know this for a fact because every Thanksgiving since then, at least once, this child who is now a full-fledged pre-teen, mentions at least once: “remember the Thanksgiving Dad ruined?”)
What followed was a blur. It was me at a gas station not knowing what to do and realizing in the scuffle, my son’s car seat had been pulled out of the car and I was driving with him unbuckled. It was my dear friend calling me (after PC had called her husband to report that I’d “run away with the children”) and telling me For God’s sake, come here! in response to me saying I didn’t want to ruin their Thanksgiving but I didn’t know what to do.
It was her bursting into tears at my son’s blood-covered shirt, not knowing that he wasn’t (physically) hurt. It was her teenage daughter and friend’s taking my baby and puppy with wide eyes. It was me being horrifyingly embarrassed. It was her husband driving over to “check” on PC because I was worried he was going to hurt himself. It was the police repeatedly calling because (in case you didn’t know) if you hang up on 911 they will continue to follow through until they get ahold of you. It was a sleepless night.
It was PC showing up in the morning demanding to take our son with him (still drunk). It was PC calling me later in the day, finally sober, sobbing and begging me to come back. It was a conversation with promises to quit drinking and a removal of all the alcohol from our house. It was a final, weary submission from me…I came back. I wanted to be back in my home, back with my family. PC wanted us back. He was going to stop drinking. My poor, sweet children were exhausted and confused from sleeping in someone else’s house. I don’t even think PC apologized or acknowledged his behavior to our son, but everyone wanted to be home.
For two days, PC abstained. He was ill, pale, sweaty. I checked the garbage and the garage and all the hiding spots but could find no evidence of drinking. Maybe…just maybe, this was really going to happen. But on the 3rd day, he came home at lunch with an expensive bottle of wine which he gave to me.
“What are you doing?” I asked him. My heart fell, my stomach churned.
“I thought we could share this and watch a movie tonight,” he said. My crushing disappointment obviously was not the reaction he wanted. He then did what he does best, he turned it on me. He was trying to do something nice, apologetic, romantic…and that wasn’t good enough. We fought.
That night, he very ceremoniously poured himself a small glass of wine. He poured one for me too, but instead of drinking it I excused myself and went to bed. From there on out, he indulged in very calculated, controlled measures. 6 weeks later he nearly blew up our house by turning the broiler on the oven and passing out.
This was the cycle, and this is what resonated with me in that scene from “A Star Is Born”. It’s not the glamourous and sexy alcoholic who drinks too much but manages to remain beautiful. Its not the tortured but immensely talented artist who cannot make music without being loaded, and so that’s overlooked. It’s a grown man urinating all over himself while his wife accepts an award. Its a father falling into a rock wall and slurring threats of suicide with no regard to the child who is absorbing his every word like a sponge.
And what is the take-away from this, for me? What is the lesson? What are the mistakes to be avoided? How do I protect my children from having any bit more of their souls marred by this sick and diseased version of their father? The answer to that is I can’t. Even less than I could when we lived together.
But the take-away, of course, is the appreciation of peace. Just as a dying man can sit in wonder at the ordinary every-day things that we take for granted; I can marvel in a life that doesn’t involve volatile drunk. I can appreciate the peace and the ease and yes, take a bit of comfort in the balance that can give my children against the chaos and difficulty of having PC as a father.
The mistakes I made are only mistakes if I repeat them, and my half-joking mantra for future romances is no alcoholics, no psychopaths, no ugly people. I cannot and will not deal with someone with a drinking problem. As for the other two stipulations, hey…we’re all a little crazy and 40 seems to be the age when your body starts deteriorating so…I can be lenient on those two.
And the lesson? I suppose there is no lesson. I certainly didn’t enter into my entangled relationship with PC knowing his college-level binge drinking would not taper off like the rest of us. I didn’t expect that he wouldn’t change…and that’s just youth. I suppose the only lesson would be to never, ever choose to silence my inner voice. Because I did that, in so many ways. I ignored my gut that said this isn’t right and you deserve better. I let PC corrupt that voice, not just in what it wanted to tell me.
But also, in what I have to say. For years, I let PC convince me that what I had to say was not important. Whether it was an opinion about what to have for dinner or my beliefs in the universe or my writing. Everything was bigger than my voice, and his alcoholism encroached every aspect of me but this is no more. Of all the blessings that have come out of divorcing a narcissistic alcoholic, this one is a quiet one, often unnoticed, but immeasurably powerful.