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Archive for the ‘Alcoholic’ Category

Life on Pine Ridge Reservation is very complicated.  I am thrilled that ABC News has followed through on their plans to spotlight life on Pine Ridge for the Lakota people.  But the 20/20 program they will air tonight (Friday, October 14, 2011) will only scratch the surface.

Yes, you will see the deplorable living conditions that most endure.  You will see the ideas and programs that are trying to bring hope to the people.  But there are stories that you won’t hear.

You won’t hear these stories because of “political correctness” and the fear of offending those in positions of authority on Pine Ridge.  I usually avoid those stories as well, because I have friends who live on Pine Ridge and I want them to be safe.

But after the 3 phone calls I have received from my Lakota friends this past 10 days, I’m stepping out of my gentle persona and allowing my passion and “righteous anger” to vent.  The volume may get a bit loud, so step back a bit if that will bother you and read from a distance.

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Call #1

When the phone rang 2 weeks ago, I was still recovering from organizing and conducting an event at my church which included a silent auction of Lakota arts & crafts, a video presentation about my Lakota friends’ housing search over 6 years and a “feed” that included buffalo stew.  It had been a huge undertaking the prior weekend and I was, quite honestly, feeling the energy drain.

My friend’s eldest daughter had moved to Rapid City to find work and build a home for her 2 little boys.  They are all my takojas (grandchildren), at least in my heart.  Her partner, the boys dad, was living with them.  Her daughter found work at a fast food restaurant, got an apartment and tried to make a home.  Her partner did not find employment.  He did find the time and money to drink with his friends, even when he was supposed to be caring for the boys.  He had the “energy” to beat her in front of his sons.  This latest call was because he’d slept with another woman.  All of this may sound like your garden-variety domestic drama — but not to my friend.

My friend and her husband got sober years ago.  No AA or other 12-step group; just a strong desire to put her children first.  They do not want the takojas, the boys, to live in those conditions.  So my friend was going to Rapid City to pick up her takojas.  She was going to bring them home to live with them while her daughter figured out what she wanted in her life.

Why did they call me in all this?  Gas money.  The most mundane things can complicate these domestic issues even more.  The first complication is they no longer have a car.  So in order to make the 2 hour trip to Rapid City, they have to borrow a relatives car.  Then they must fill the tank with gas so they have enough gas to get that “rez ride” to Rapid and back.  With no source of income and limited funds, gas money is a frequent request in times of emergency or stress.  I called the local gas station and authorized gas for my friends.

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Call #2

It was no more than a week later that I spoke with my Lakota friend again.  She was not feeling well, having severe pain in her abdomen and chest that was strong enough to cause her knees to buckle.  I told her she needed to be seen by a doctor.  She said she had been seen at the nearby clinic and the only thing they had found was that she had a significantly elevated platelet level in her blood tests.

I am fairly well versed in medical knowledge but I did not have much information about elevated platelet levels and if pain was a result or a cause of that finding.  So I did what any slightly tech-savvy nerd would do – I researched it on the internet.  I found that pain is not typically found when you have elevated platelet levels.  I discovered that there are many causes of elevated platelets, ranging from “benign – no obvious cause” to cancer with many options in between.  I could find nothing that made any sense based on the symptoms my friend had related.

She called a day later, in so much pain that I could hear it in her voice.  Since I was 2000 miles away, I could not say “Show me exactly where it hurts” or do any kind of touching to clarify what I was hearing from her.  But she sounded so frightened, she is newly diagnosed as diabetic, she has a family history of heart disease and the pain was lasting far longer than seemed okay to ignore.  So I made the suggestion that I would make to any friend:  go to the emergency room and have a doctor look at you.

I was aware that the nearest hospital was at least 45 minutes away, if she went to Pine Ridge Hospital.  There is a hospital in Martin, SD that she could go to if she wanted a bit longer drive and of course, there was Rapid City Regional, 2 hours away.  She decided to go to Pine Ridge Hospital, since the clinic was planning to have her check in there the following day for additional tests.

Pine Ridge Hospital is an Indian Health Services (IHS) facility.  The residents of the reservation have a standing joke about IHS:  “I sat in the emergency room for 6 hours and all I got was 2 Tylenol.”  It is a commentary on the quality of care received from IHS.

There were 2 physicians who examined my friend, one male and one female.  They did an x-ray of her abdomen which showed nothing.  [I cannot fathom how an x-ray of soft tissue with no contrast administered could be expected to show anything of significance.]  They did an EKG, which they said was find.  So the male doctor started to discuss what might be going on when the female doctor made a comment aloud, to no one in particular, that my friend’s problems were all in her head and she needed a psychiatrist.

My friend stopped the male doctor in mid-sentence to ask if the female doctor had spoken about her.  The male doctor was uncomfortable enough that my friend realized it was true.  She asked both doctors to leave so she could get dressed and she prepared to leave the hospital without treatment.

That was when she overheard a number of hospital staff, doctors, nurses, etc, making comments about “drunken Indians”.  They were laughing and mocking.  My friend and her husband, who were stone cold sober, were shocked.  They were even more shocked when one of the staffers made a comment to the effect that, if all the drunken Indians were shot, it would make their nights a whole lot easier and saner.

I know the anger that rose in me when my friend told me about those comments and the mocking.  I could barely speak, which was fine since I could not think of what to say that might possibly be appropriate in this situation.  I was embarrassed that those in the medical community would say such things.  I knew my anger, resentment and embarrassment couldn’t begin to approach what my friend and her husband felt.  She did file complaints through the proper channels.  But you and I both know that will not take away the sting of being mocked by those charged with your care.  It was so totally unprofessional.  Sadly, it was not particularly unusual.

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Call #3

The most recent call occurred 2 days ago.  Before I detail the call for you, I want to tell you about my Lakota friend’s husband.  Understanding this man is germane to understanding the event.  It is also important to understand a bit about rez life, so I will also go into that a bit in case you don’t know very much about it.

As I said at the beginning of this post, life on the rez is very complicated.  That statement might actually be an understatement.  There is the poverty the underpins almost everyone’s life, since 90% of the residents live at or below the poverty level.  There are divisions that tear at the fabric of the culture:  pure-blood vs mixed-blood, traditional vs contemporary, activist vs passivist, etc.  There are times when the true Lakota culture, its values and traditions, are ignored or perverted.  Elders, women and children are considered sacred yet domestic violence is rampant.  Based on the traditional clannishness of historical Lakota life, who your family is can be more important that who you are or what idea you may have.  Nepotism and corruption abound.  The tribal council has actually tolerated disrespect among its members. People who are elected do not have to meet any age or educational requirements.  Politics play a bigger part in who gets a job than does who is the best qualified.

My friend’s husband is a big man but he is not the kind of man who uses his size to intimidate.  He is quiet and funny.  He is very smart and currently working on his college degree in business.  He would like to see honesty and respect return to the tribe and the interactions of the people who live on Pine Ridge.  He is a man of integrity who married my friend when she was a single mother raising 4 teen-aged daughters.  That takes courage in any culture!

All of that information is what made the phone call I received from my friend 2 days ago even more unthinkable.  She called to tell me that her husband was going to be arrested and she could find no one on the rez who could loan them $125 for bail money!

If it had not been for the panic in her voice, I’d have thought it was a joke.  I have always told her that, if the girls got into trouble, there was no money available for bail money.  Just not going to happen.  But the panic was there.

Here is the story that I pieced together:  They had submitted, to the proper person, a voucher for gas to go to a health appointment for her daughter.  Somehow, it had disappeared (mistakenly thrown out, intentionally “misplaced”, who knew?); they resubmitted it.  The check was supposed to be ready that day but wasn’t.  My friend’s husband called the office and the clerk told him she had seen the check in the official’s office.  So my friend’s husband called the official and, as he stated, “in a voice of authority” told the official that he would come down to the office “to straighten things out.”  The official decided that was a threat and called the police to arrest my friend’s husband for threatening a tribal official.

This had been on the phone.  My friend’s husband did not assault anyone nor did he go into the office and create a scene.  [I must say it is probably a good thing I don’t live on the rez; I’m not sure I could keep my temper in the face of all the “crap” that goes on.  I’d probably be a “regular” with the jailer under that criteria.]  If she could not bail him out, he would be suspended from college and lose his scholarship money.  It would destroy everything he has worked so hard to achieve thus far.

I was really torn because I had always said there would be no bail money.  But this man has worked hard.  He makes really good grades.  He is honest and straightforward.  I have always respected him.  I wired the bail money.  They plan to wire it back to me when they receive his educational stipend for the semester in another week.  I plan to let them send the money back to me.

After all, there is no gift of bail money, even if there is a loan of it.

And life on Pine Ridge Reservation is complicated, even for those of us who don’t live there.

 

 

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I got back from my recent trip to Pine Ridge Reservation last Wednesday and have spent the past couple of days recovering from travel fatigue and a pesky stomach virus that I must have picked up on the trip home.  I think I was also recovering from some of the stories I heard while I was visiting with my dear Lakota friends.

The occasion for the trip was a happy one – after 10 years of waiting, they had finally obtained a house of their own and had decided to have it blessed.  When I think about the hard times and sadness they have endured over the past 6 years that we’ve known each other (search the category “Lakota friends” for past stories), I think having the house blessed was a really good idea.  I had gone expecting a Lakota holy man to bless the house, but apparently summer, with its powwows and other gatherings, was not a good time to “book” one.  The task and privilege fell to one of the local Episcopal priests, who had also conducted the funeral for my friend’s daughter a couple of years ago.

As an Episcopalian who had also had my own house blessed (some 30+ years ago), I was familiar with the ritual.  I was also pleased to see that the priest, with his Lakota beaded stole, had made slight adaptations in the rite to align it a bit more with Lakota culture.

Much of the rest of the time I was on the reservation was spent sharing stories.  I have often thought that a book should be written about my Lakota friend’s life.  Although it may be somewhat common to the lives of many on the reservation, it is the story of a woman who has already, in her 30’s, overcome more obstacles in her life than most of us will face in a lifetime.  I tell her that if she gives me the stories, I will put them together in a book and the money will be hers since the story is hers.  She laughs, but I think she has been considering it more seriously of late.

While we were sitting at her dining room table sharing coffee and conversation, I asked her what her earliest memory was.  Personally, the early memories I have center around holidays and playing with my younger sister.  So I was not prepared for the story she told me.  As you read her story, I ask you to ask yourself:  What does it do to a person to have this as his/her earliest memory?  Can you put yourself in this picture?

Her earliest memory is an event that occurred when she was about 3 and her sister about 5.  They were at home in their mother’s trailer.  The extended family had gathered there – aunts, uncles and some she does not recall.  Her mother was 8 months pregnant with her next sister.

The adults were all drinking heavily.  Apparently that was typical at that time in her mother’s life.  Suddenly, and for no reason that a 3 year old could recall, her uncle picked up a huge, old-fashioned butcher knife and stabbed her mother in the back.  The knife, which had about a 10 inch blade, had been “slammed about halfway” into the left side of her mother’s back as she and her sister watched.

An aunt quickly pushed the 2 girls into a closet to protect them and locked the door from the outside.  However, since the trailer was in poor condition as are many rez homes, the closet door was not a snug fit.  There was plenty of space between the door and the frame to allow the 2 children to watch what was unfolding in the hallway outside the closet.

The girls could see the knife still protruding from their mother’s back as she lay on the floor only feet away.  They could see the huge pool of blood forming around their mother.  She turned her head and looked straight at them, forming the words “help me” as best she could.  My friend clearly remembers her eyes connecting with her mother’s eyes.

She also recalls that all of the adults who had been there left, without helping her mother or calling for help.  The 2 little girls, who were terrified, threw themselves at the closet door.  The door, which was not well made or in good condition, as I noted before, gave way.  My friend’s older sister ran and tried to pull the knife out of her mother’s back – but she was too small and the knife was too deep.  The girls ran to get a neighbor to help.

The neighbor pulled out the knife and called for help.  When the police arrived, they arrested the neighbor for the stabbing, in spite of the stories told by both the girls.  Although the neighbor was eventually cleared, the uncle was never arrested.  The police refused to believe the girls’ story.

My friend’s mother was taken to the hospital, where they delivered her baby a month early and worked to save both lives.  The baby survived.  So did her mother, although it took a long time for her to recover.

My friend has had a stressful, tumultuous relationship with her mother over the years, for reasons that still remain unclear to me.  However, part of the difficulty seems to stem from the fact that her mother has never accepted and validated the trauma that it was for her 3 year old daughter to observe the stabbing.

My friend told me that she once asked her mother to stop wearing tops with thin straps so much.  Her mother told her she would wear whatever she wanted to.  She didn’t understand that my friend had a reason for asking that of her mother.  You see, every time she saw her mother in a tank top or camisole, she could clearly see the huge scar on her mother’s back when her mother turned away.  The sight of that scar would tear open the scar on her psyche every time, bringing her back to the night she was a terrified 3 year old.

When I think about this story – the alcohol driven chaos, the violent violation of a child’s mother, the abandonment by relatives who were meant to care for family, the adults who would not believe a child’s story and the emotional scars left on an innocent little girl – I can understand much of the rest of my friend’s life.

It makes me feel so protective of that child and so angry at the adults when I think about this story.  It makes me sad beyond words that this is my friend’s first memory.

So let’s go back to my questions now.

What does it do to a person to have this as his/her earliest memory?  I suspect a psychologist could write a book on that.  In all likelihood, in layman’s terms, it would scar the person for life.

Can you put yourself in this picture?  In all honesty, I cannot.  I gratefully grew up in a home where peace was the rule and verbal arguments the infrequent exception.  There was no physical violence.  Some of you may have had more experiences with violence as a child.  I pray that your first childhood memory is not something this traumatic.

But that was rezlife as a child for my friend.  I sadly suspect she was not the only one.

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I spoke with my Lakota friend today – the one we met when we began to sponsor her then 10 year old daughter.  Her daughter is now 15 and some months.  We have been friends for all these years now.

We are visiting the reservation in early June and hope to travel to Utah with our friends to visit the young lady who has been quite a challenge for her mother to raise.  If you are a regular reader, you know the many dramatic adventures she has put herself in.  She is now in a resident program in Utah that I believe has some hope of helping her with the issues she now has.  Traveling from the part of Pine Ridge Reservation in which her parents reside to the institute in Utah takes about 12 hours of driving.  That is not exactly convenient for folks on the rez who have unreliable vehicles and no gas money.  So we suggested the trip as out treat – stopping overnight so we can be refreshed for the return trip.  It ought to be an interesting drive.  One of the reasons I called my friend was to ask her to make sure that her daughter can have visitors once we arrive.  It would be very upsetting to arrive and be turned away.

I asked about other family members I have gotten to know many over the years.  My friend’s sister, with whom she has not had a smooth relationship, is now living with my friend and her husband.  My friend’s mother, who owns the trailer in which my friend now resides, is still a thorn in her side.  Her middle daughter, 19 years old, has moved out to live with her boyfriend (whom my friend dislikes).  She told her mother she was of age and could do whatever she wanted.  Her mother agreed, but said not in her house.  So daughter and boyfriend moved out.

My friend’s eldest daughter is the mother of 2 toddlers.  They live with her also.  So does the father of the children.  That young man had been kicked out at Christmas time after he came home drunk and started beating the children’s mom while she was asleep.  But he is back and behaving – so far.  That’s good for those children.

My friend’s other sister died last year.  Her children were mostly teens and young adults.  She also had grandchildren.  Apparently one of her children has abandoned her children, whom my friend has taken in.  The woman, my friend’s niece, was seeing a man who didn’t like children.  So she made a choice.  She took off with the guy and left her children behind.

According to my friend, the children had not been well taken care of before she left.  They are in need of serious dental work and other care.  I know she will see to it that they get what they need if she can.

Of all the drama, this is the event that has really bothered my friend the most.  I don’t mean to say the drama with her own children hasn’t been upsetting.  But she truly cannot understand a woman just abandoning her children to run off with a guy.  I had to agree with her on this.  There were certainly times, when I was the mother of young or teen-aged children, when I felt like just packing up and leaving.  Parenting is strenuous work!  But most of us ultimately put the needs of our children before our own needs.  This woman did not and it really has upset my friend.

I suspect this is not really uncommon in a population where many of the adults grew up without adequate parenting and thus have a need to be the center of someone’s world.  If you add in the alcohol problems many have, it becomes even more understandable.  It is far easier to do hurtful things when you have anesthetized yourself to the pain others will feel.

Still, I look at this from the perspective of the children who have been neglected and abandoned.  What issues will they have as they get older which will stem directly from this event?  Will they become promiscuous, looking for affection and love?  Will they have illness and poor health as a result of receiving poor health and dental care as children?  Will they become diabetic and/or obese because they’ve learned to drink soda pop instead of water and juice?  Will they take up smoking to calm frayed nerves – or do drugs to self medicate?  Perhaps they, too, will turn to alcohol as a form of recreation or self medication.  Will the suffer from PTSD as a result of the abandonment?  Will they grow up without hope, perhaps adding to the statistics of the reservation youth who have lost hope and attempted or succeeded in committing suicide?  I think my friends sees all these possibilities.  I think that is why it weighs on her so heavily.

But I think the hardest part facing my friend is when she has to find an answer for the questions the children will bring to her:

Where’s Mom?

Why did she leave me?

Did she love me?

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Again.  AGAIN!!

This time a 12 year old boy.

This is the note that the boy’s sponsor sent to One Spirit, the group I work for.

I am writing to ask ONESpirit Sponsors to please pray, each in the way of their own spiritual path, for my family at Pine Ridge Reservation. My heart is broken right now. The boy I have sponsored for about 5 years turned 12 a week ago. Yesterday he hung himself in the basement of his Grandmother’s home. No one knows why.

He was wonderful with horses and was an amazing horseman.
Ride Little Warrior, Ride. Ride like the Wind.
Take those reservation ponies to places they have never been.
Your big smile and the spark in your eye,
I’ll think of them as I look to the sky.
I feel you never knew.
How many people loved you.
Ride Little Warrior, Ride

It breaks my heart that a 12 year old boy would hang himself in his grandmother’s basement.  How can you have so little hope for the future at the age of 12?  Even when my father died when I was 12 years old, I did not consider suicide.

Yet children – especially teens – are committing  suicide on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in numbers that even the Oglala Sioux Tribe calls an epidemic.

I know why these things happen – not the specific reasons for each individual suicide, but the reasons that are the fertile soil for such devastating events.

Poverty. It is extreme.  Children go hungry.  Mothers and grandmothers call One Spirit for food because the food stamps and money run out before the days of the month do.  There are not enough places to live.  People can’t afford a home.  You can have 10 to 12 people or more living in one 3 bedroom house, sharing a single bathroom.  The houses are substandard – no insulation, holes, mold – and there is no money for upkeep.

Alcoholism. The reservation is “dry” – alcohol possession and use is illegal.  But that does not stop people from drinking.  The small town of White Clay, NE (pop. about 14) is about 2 miles from the reservation border.  Walking distance.  It is more than 25 miles from anything else in Nebraska.  Yet the 4 package stores sell an average of 4 million cans of beer a year.  You read that right – 4 million.  I used the word so you wouldn’t have to count zeros.  The reservation has a population of about 50,000.  The alcohol, in addition to the problems that addiction brings, also raises the rates of diabetes, fetal alcohol syndrome, liver disease and premature death.

Dysfunctional families. This is another repercussion of the alcohol issue.  Parents, who are alcoholic, leave their children in the care of elderly grandparents so that they can go off to drink.  Children start to drink early.  Rates of domestic abuse are higher than any other population in the country.  The poverty creates issues of theft within families – even the stealing of food to sell for alcohol money.  You can imagine the ill will that results.

Education. Or perhaps I should say the lack of education.  The drop out rate is over 50%.  Teacher retention is difficult – keeping a good teacher in the middle of nowhere when you can’t afford to pay them what they can make elsewhere is nearly impossible.  Besides, who is there to stress education or supervise homework?  Who has the money for higher education?  And what is there to study for?  If a child goes on to higher education, he/she will have to leave home and family to find a job.

Jobs. Again, it would be more correct to say NO jobs.  Unemployment on the reservation is about 80%.  Think about that.  80%!!  I realize that unemployment rates are higher than usual everywhere in this country right now.  But that 80% rate is the NORM on the rez.  You can’t work when there are no jobs to work at.  You can’t work when you have no transportation to travel the 50 miles to the nearest job.

We ought to be ashamed of ourselves as a nation. We stole the land from the original owners.  We corralled them on reservations, giving them the most useless land.  We pamper and spoil our children, giving them their own credit cards and every thing they ask for, while there are children who are hungry, who have to beg for clothes that fit as they grow and who have to sleep on the floor.

We ought to be ashamed!  We ought to do something to help the tribe come up with solutions to the problems.  Teach them to fish, don’t just give them the government leftovers.  If we can do this for countries in other parts of the world, we sure as hell can do it here!

How many more youth suicides will it take before someone listens???

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I just spent 4 days away from home without a computer.  It was enlightening.  There was a time when that would not have effected me in the least.  This trip, however, revealed that I have changed . . . evolved.  I have become more dependent on my computer and the contacts it allows me than I realized.  I now have pages on social networking sites, this blog, and a Twitter address.  I have old friends that I am now in contact with on a far more regular basis and new friends who keep me entertained and informed.

This is new for both me and my husband.  He doesn’t participate in all these things.  Sometimes, it actually bothers him that I do.  I told him he has only himself to blame for that, which puzzled him greatly.  I explained that I have always been a rather gregarious person, but that in middle age the fibromyalgia had begun to wear me down.  I was too tired to have contact with friends.  After I married him, my health improved enough that I do enjoy these things again.  Now he wonders if I’ve changed and I have to explain.  It’s a bit frustrating.  I think he resents the time I spend engaged with other folks — sort of “time jealousy.”

This past weekend we took a short trip to Tampa, FL.  We left on Thursday afternoon.  Our seats on the right side of the plane gave us an astounding view of rainbows in the clouds.  It brought to mind a John Denver song which has the line, “Chasing  rainbows in the setting sun.”  I understood it now.

My stepdad, who had been battling esophageal cancer, was not doing well.  I told my husband that, if we did go on this trip that was already paid for, I would have a message waiting for me when we got off the plane to tell us he had passed away.  Sure enough, that is exactly what happened.  And based on the time of the call, he passed just as the plane landed.  Fortunately, the calling hours were not planned until Tuesday of the following week.  We would be home Sunday night, so other than making the minimal plans necessary for someone who did not want a funeral, we wouldn’t miss anything.

It was lovely weather when we landed in Tampa and we decided to go to an extra Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game.  They played the NY Islanders.  The first period was awful, especially for the Lightning, which is my favorite team.  I was tempted to start feeling depressed.  But the next two periods were far better.  My favorite player, Martin St Louis, had a goal and an assist.  They played with energy and won the game.  We went to check in to the Homewood Suites in Clearwater, just outside Tampa, after the game.

The next day dawned sunny and fairly warm, but the meteorologists had predicted a downhill trend.  We decided to head up to Tarpon Springs for some Greek food for lunch.  The drive was nice.  It has just started to rain lightly as we ducked into the restaurant.  By the time we finished our tasty and filling meal, the light rain had turned to a tropical deluge.  We got out the umbrella and continued to walk through some of the shops.  By the time we got back to the car, our pant legs and shoes were soaked.  It was a relief that the car heater worked well.  We dried off as we continued to drive around.

One of the things we were looking for was a place we’d like to stay when my husband retires.  Yes, we have decided to become “snowbirds.”  I said it would never happen but I was wrong.  I woke up one day this winter and knew I could not take these cold winters any longer than I have to.  When I told my husband, he surprisingly agreed!  I had not expected that.  Since my husband is only 52, we still have a bit of a wait for his retirement.  I hope I make it!!  We finally got so tired of the rain, we went back to the hotel and worked out in their exercise room.  I checked my email on the computer in the hotel’s business center, then went upstairs to read.

Saturday dawned sunny but cool and breezy.  No problem!  It was still warmer at 59 degrees than it was in Massachusetts.  However, there was a slight issue with the day.  Apparently the transformers for electricity to the hotel needed to be replaced and the power company had chosen that Saturday as the best time to do it.  The hotel would have no power between 11 am and 3 pm.  No problem, we thought!  We decided to take a drive down the Gulf Coast on the barrier islands.  There is one park we are particularly fond of and we headed to Sand Key first.  We walked the beach and collected a few shells.  My husband practiced with his new camera.  I even let him take a picture of me.  When the wind picked up and it got chillier, we headed back to the car.  We drove south as far as St Petersburg and checked the map for something to do.  We discovered an incredible park – Veteran’s Memorial Park.  Aside from the tank we found in its midst, it was just a beautiful place to spend time out of doors.  Again my husband went to see what he could photograph.  I, however, decided to read in the car.  The sun was warm and relaxing.

We located a place that I could send a book to a friend.  This did not make my husband happy (he is worried that the friend is going to hurt me – my husband is very protective!) but I insisted.  You may have read about my friend if you’ve read my recent posts.  He’s an active alcoholic and has been very mean lately.  I try not to take it personally though in all honesty, it does hurt.  Still, he is my friend and I will do what I can.  I really thought he would enjoy the book.  My husband had refused to drive me the hour to his house (probably wisely), so I wanted to mail the book.  It really got him off my mind once I did.

We stopped at a local eatery, the Crab Shack on Gandy Blvd, on our way back to the hotel to change.  Wonderful food, diner-like efficiency and creative local ambience.  Great meal!  When we got back to the hotel about 3:15 pm, there was still no power.  Okay, no shower now.  No treadmill.  No email check.  4 hours til the game.  What to do?

We decided to park on the causeway that we would take over to the game.  It has a beach along one side.  Again I watched the bay and read.  My husband walked the beach with his camera.  He found some fascinating birds, great waves and sky and best of all, seven eggs on the shore.  They must have been sea turtle eggs.  We finally left for the game.

The plaza outside the St Pete Times-Forum, where the Lightning play their games, is the most rocking place in the NHL.  Since we’ve been to 19 different arenas, we do have some basis for comparison.  There is always great music, food and an energy that is difficult to leave when it is game time!  Tonight  the Lightning were playing the Calgary Flames, a rematch of the 2004 Stanley Cup finals (which the Lightning won due to the incredible play of Martin St Louis!).  The game really started out badly again.  However, the Lightning pulled out a win in the end.  Two wins in two games.  I think that was a record for us.  By the time we got back to the hotel, the power was on.

The flight home was uneventful aeronautical.  The events centered on my husband, who became very sad as we flew home.  At first I thought it was because he wanted more time in Florida and wished he could retire immediately.  But when I asked, I found out that it was due to the fact that I am changing and evolving — and he feels like he isn’t.  He feels bad that I have other friends and my life doesn’t center around him all the time anymore.  We talked — or more correctly I talked as a result of God’s grace pouring through me.  I knew all the words weren’t coming from my consciousness.  By the time we landed in Hartford, he was in a much better place.  And so was I.

We will get to Florida for the winter eventually.  Until then, we’ll enjoy wherever we are.

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I usually don’t chat or do mentally stimulating tasks after about 10 pm.  My fibromyalgia has a sleep disorder “attached” to it that prevents me from falling asleep.  I also have a CPAP mask to wear when I sleep.  So I take medication to help me fall asleep.  It works pretty well unless I do something that really wakes up my brain.  If I do, then I might as well not have taken the meds.  I won’t even feel them.

Last night I made an exception to my rule because I was having a pleasant, interesting conversation with a new friend.  I really like this woman and wish we lived closer.  But that’s another story, already written, about how my friends are never close by.  We were, among other things, talking about an old friend of mine whom she knows as well.  You may remember him because I recently wrote about him – the alcoholic/drunk.

To digress for just a second, someone made a comment to me about those two terms.  He/she said, “Have you ever noticed that when we’re feeling sorry for them, they’re alcoholics and when we’re hurt or angry, they’re drunks?”  It’s a point to ponder, the meanings behind the words we choose.

I had learned some new information about the old friend yesterday and we were trying to decide how 2 gals, both many miles away, could get this old friend to seek the help he needs.  Short of flying to FL and shaking him to rattle things around in his brilliant mind, hoping those things would settle into the proper slots like a child’s game, we came up empty.  Perhaps it was too late to think seriously.

After we closed off our chat, it was time to get some sleep.  At least that’s what the clock was telling me at 11:30 pm.  I have an uncommonly busy social weekend and, with fibromyalgia, sleep will be crucial in staying well enough to enjoy it.  But my brain was now uncooperative.  My brain was awake!

So I played computer games and mulled over what the state of affairs is for my old friend.  Definitely it’s a sad state of affairs.

My old friend, as I’ve said before, is brilliant.  He has a PhD.  He was married for 26 years and has 2 adult sons.  He has had successful businesses.  He has worked for successful businesses, even briefly as the CEO of one large one.  So, you’re thinking, what’s the problem?  What’s to think about?

He drinks – alcohol – a lot.  Too much.  And when he does, it shows.

He once told me he’d been drinking since he was a kid (though I don’t know an exact age).  He said that he believes everyone has a “personal tolerance” for alcohol and his is quite high.  I’ve learned that his father, while a really nice guy, was a big drinker.  When he is sober, people are drawn to him – he is charismatic, sincere, caring.  When he drinks, he becomes angry, mean and verbally hurtful.  My concern is that he does these things in public, online.  Those things never go away and I fear they will haunt him for the rest of his life.  I fear they will prevent him from regaining the things he desperately desires:  love, employment, respect.

You see, he has lost a lot due to the drinking, although he won’t admit it was due to the drinking at this point.  There is always an alternate explanation.  Alcoholics become very good liars, even able to deceive themselves at times.

He lost his job as CEO.  Was that due solely to the drinking?  No, the economy was beginning its downward spiral at that time too, not a good thing in the building industry.  But the rumors in the company about his drinking were certainly not going to help. When there is actual substance to back the rumors, it means poor decision making is likely part of the equation.

He lost his 26 year marriage to alcohol.  He won’t admit that, at least to me.  But having seen alcohol turn this man from Jekyll to Hyde before my eyes online, I can imagine living in a marriage like that.  26 years is a long time to last in that marriage.  I can understand (though not condone) a woman seeking out support, sympathy and love that she needed outside the home.

He has not lost his twin, young adult sons — yet.  They are still 20-somethings, just starting out in their careers, so staying at the house with dad is great.  Dad cooks, cleans and generally allows them to do what they want to, in his house.  The house is a left-over from the happy family, CEO days – huge and expensive.  Tough to keep the bills paid when you are underemployed now.  A lot of pressure, right?  And what’s the relief, the mechanism to release the steam from the pressure cooker — alcohol, of course.

My friend has now fallen in love like a teenager.  He often waxes poetic and now the poetry has a focus.  A “friend with benefits” that he liked very much has indicated that she would like to take the relationship further – “go steady.”  It sounds good on the surface.  But . . . I wonder if she knows the extent of his drinking.  She was not around last night, so he was on the social network page with the rest of us.  Wait, we weren’t there when he was.  So what did my friend do?  Started drinking and got really, really drunk by the time some of us did show up!  His first posts had been about the new woman in his life.  They were rather intimate and private, but perhaps she likes that sort of thing posted for all the world to see.  She does not belong to the site, but some of her friends do, I hear.  So I am sure she’ll find out.  I fear for my friend, should this relationship fail.  I fear it will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

As time went on, my friend’s posts went from love to lust, focusing on young, nubile singers along with links to songs.  Then the mood began to sour.  My friend seems unable to be happy when he is alone.  The melancholy and self-pity take over.  If you track his posts through the night, you can see the pattern every time he goes on a bender.  One of his last comments noted how hung over he would be today.  He knows the effects.  But he doesn’t or can’t stop.  That sounds like addiction to me.

I spoke with a man I know who has 20+ years of sobriety with AA.  He told me my friend is a classic addict.  He added that, with the length of time he’s been drinking and the amount he consumes, he would need rehab to be able to truly stop drinking.  Withdrawal from alcohol can really be bad at that point.  But, of course, he has to want to.  You and I might think he’s lost enough and been through enough to want to kick the habit.  Addicts don’t think that way.  It’s partly feeling better, self medication.  It’s partly ego.  He has plenty of that on the outside.

So what is an old friend half a country away to do.  My instinct for self-preservation tells me to run in the opposite direction.  My values and my faith tell me to keep trying to get through to his brilliant mind.  My heart aches when I watch him self-destruct.

I have never watched anyone kill themselves before.  It is a very painful thing to do.  But that is the truth that keeps repeating itself in my mind.  Without help, he will soon be dead, drowned in alcohol by the demons he is unable to face without it.

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I called my Lakota friends this morning and finally reached them after several unsuccessful tries over the weekend.  I wanted to find out what had resulted from the school evaluation, the school suspension of my “godchild” and the court date my “godchild” had been scheduled for (all on the same day).

First the update on those events.  The school evaluation went fine.  My 14-year-old “godchild” is awaiting a date to go to alcohol rehab.  The school suspension (as a result of an altercation with another student) has resulted in a “behavior contract” for my “godchild.”  They have clearly spelled out what is expected of her and what the consequences of a violation will be.  The court date was rescheduled – after they had gone over there, spending the money for gas.

Now, on to the new stuff.  The van that someone had given my friends has conked out.  It needs a new alternator, at a cost of about 200 non-existent dollars!  I can’t afford to help with that one.

My “godchild” comes home from school every weekend.  During the week, she lives in the dorm at the school.  Somehow, whether due to theft or carelessness, she comes home with fewer pieces of underwear and socks than she went to school with.  My friend asked if I could help with some new underwear and socks for her, so she will have some to take with her when she goes to rehab (in a town 3 hours away).  That I could do, and this afternoon I will be doing some online shopping for those items.  I will have to see how much I have saved from my weekly household money before I know how much I can buy.  (Saving from that weekly money is the only way I can afford to send the things I do.)

My friend is very concerned about her older daughter.  She turned 18 this fall and is getting into things that are not very good.  She still lives at home but takes off for days/weeks at a time.  It drives my friend crazy.  I told her that there really isn’t much she can do about it, since her daughter is legally an adult.  Apparently the daughter has been drinking and getting drunk quite a bit.  She calls my friend to tell her she was in a fight and got beaten up.  Of course, my friend worries.  I asked my friend if she listened to her mother when she was 18.  She replied, “Nope, cause I ran away and got married.”  There you go.  I asked her if she listened to her mother when she was 14 (like my “godchild”).  Her reply was negative.  I told her that’s because 14 year olds don’t listen to anyone. I told her we all have to learn our own lessons.  Some of us learn them the easy way; others insist on the hard way.  She had gone the hard way and it appeared her children were doing the same.  It is hard because my friend stopped drinking for her daughters and has been clean and sober for some time.

My friend is still depressed but afraid to take medication due to the side effects that drug advertising has to include.  I told her side effects are unlikely – they have to put those in there to cover their butts.  I do wish she would do something.  She is still suffering from depression after the death of her 16-year-old daughter last March, very likely PTSD.

I mentioned to my friend that I had heard the domestic violence shelter on the rez had been undergoing a financial audit.  (Domestic violence is very common on the rez.)  She told me that her sister is on a local committee and had said the same thing.  Her sister, however, was privy to information I had not known.  Apparently the shelter was a million dollars in the red for some reason.  She also informed me that the tribal casino (not to be confused with the fantastically successful Connecticut Indian casinos!) was apparently having (more) financial trouble.  They were not paying their vendors, resulting in shops that had very little in them, not even cigarettes.  They were not repaying the loan they received from another tribe.  No one knows where the money they glean from the locals spending their social security checks playing penny slots has gone.  Ahh, rez life – the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I spoke to another woman on the rez today who related how the Christmas blizzard had left them snowed in from December 24th to December 29th.  No one on the rez owns snow blowers, of course.  The only snow blower is the wind, which left up to 8 foot drifts!  The National Guard had to be called in with heavy equipment to get people out.

I’ve got to go back to my “work” of calling people on the rez to see how things are going.  I got in requests for sponsors from 2 new families today.  I don’t have any sponsors available right now.  One of the requests really got to me in its simplicity.  A 30-year-old dad and 26-year-old mom with 6 children aged 9,8,6,4,2 years and a 2 month old need help.  The dad wrote, under Family Resources, “no income   Just TNAF (sic; TANF) for my kids  not a nouth”.  I would say I know where my next sponsor is going, but the truth is, I say that every time I get a new family or speak with one that has been on the list for a while.

After a few more calls, I guess I’ll go underwear shopping.

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