In 1995 I was painting a hundred hearts, and in the middle of that series, my brother Patrick called from Seattle with hiccups that would not end, terrified, and said he was on his way to my house, hundreds of miles away in Southern Oregon. No cell phones in 1995, and I knew he was badly drunk, needed to get sober, needed to detox. I could not make him wait for me to fly to get him. He drove drunk with the hiccups, endangering himself and everyone else on the road.
It’s a life-long story, but when he arrived, he was not his usual immaculate self. He was a mess, his trailer was filthy, and he was drunk. We parked his trailer and truck on our property, and I drove him to a good center in the Rogue Valley. I was not able to visit him for the first few days. For one thing, he was dependent upon me, and he needed to move away from that dependency and into the life of rehab (understand this is a good thing for alcoholics.) The second reason is he was first to be hospitalized for two to three days. Many people don’t know this, but it is easier to die as you detox from alcohol than many serious drugs. You may THINK you are going to die from heroin withdrawal, you may WISH you were dead during withdrawal from cocaine, but alcohol withdrawal is much more likely to KILL you. This was the first time of many times he detoxed at my home or near me.
I continued to paint hearts, but also was overcome by emotions and painted into the mini series below called “Detox.” The series will probably never be shown, but it is a snapshot of feelings and fears and sorrows and hopes during the first few days of his detox.
Some of the hearts became about him.
And some were sketches of him as he arrived, or in rehab.
He went through detox three times on my watch, and once on our older brother’s. Patrick would not remain sober, always insisted he didn’t really have a drinking problem, and would never work the 12 Step Program. He was loved, and when he was sober he was maybe the sweetest sibling in our family. When he was drinking he became verbally abusive and mean. He was bright, funny, creative, and good with his hands as a fix-it man. When he drank he was just another drunk, wallowing in the past, letting go of all creative possibilities. If challenged he would choose beer over a human relationship, even one close such as myself, his children, or a woman for whom he cared. The story of his inability to stop drinking will remain with his family members, and the legacy of his drinking has passed to his children and stepchildren, who now get to decide how they will deal with it in themselves and their children and their children’s children.
These originals are not for sale because they are so personal; I’d love to see them in a show about alcoholism just once. Maybe this is my show.
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A version of this was originally published in my blog zenkatwrites.