Alcoholism is a disease. There is no vaccine, chemotherapy treatment, or radiation that will cure or try to deter the disease. It is not a disease that can be found with an MRI or an x-ray. The disease can be deadly.
My brother died from alcoholism last week. This will not be the cause of death written on his death certificate. He died from the effects of alcoholism which included poison building up in his stomach, irregular breathing, and lack of air which required the use of a ventilator, and liver malfunction.
He spent three months in the hospital for treatment and two weeks in hospice. We were not allowed to visit him because of COVID19 until the last three days of his life. He was able to communicate with a limited amount of vocabulary. He knew we were there and could tell us our names. His body wasn’t functioning and neither was his brain. He was fifty-three years old.
He was the youngest brother of four. We were five and I was the oldest and the only girl. He was born the night before my twelfth birthday. He was the last thing I wanted for my birthday. My mom was in the hospital and I had to cancel my birthday party. My grandmother was staying with us and she had bought a pink and white sheet cake with pink ballerinas dancing on the top. Two days after my birthday, my mom brings a baby wrapped in a blue blanket. I wanted a baby sister.
Robbie was the last child in the family. My mom was tired of taking care of children. I was the one who changed Robbie’s diapers, took him for a walk, fed him, and rocked him to sleep. I wasn’t happy with the new role I had as a babysitter to this child who cried all the time.
I left home when Robbie was five years old. I was on my way out of the home. I was looking for a new future. I didn’t see Robbie again until he was ten years old. My boyfriend who later became my husband took Robbie and another brother Tom to the Grand Canyon. We never communicated because we didn’t know each other.
My parents divorced when Robbie was six. He lived with my father for two years and they got along well. My father married and his wife didn’t want a teenager living in the house. She kicked him out. He was sixteen years old. He went to live with my mother in California. He completed High School and went to plumbing school. After completing plumbing school, my mother got him a job in the apartment complex where she was the manager. He was given an apartment to live in for free. My second brother Mike decided he wanted to live with Robbie. Mike didn’t have a job. Robbie said he could live with him but he needed to pay him rent. Mike refused. They got into a fight and Mike beat him up. Robbie moved out and went to live with my mother and her new husband.
Robbie didn’t feel that he belonged anywhere and no one really cared about him. He got married and has two very mature and responsible daughters. He was married five years and left the marriage. There was no official divorce because they couldn’t afford a lawyer. Twenty four years later they are still married.
Robbie fell on hard times in California. He lost his job and had nowhere to live. He called me and asked if he could live with me. I said “no”. He went to live with my mother. He was doing odd jobs for her and her friends. He never found a job because of his drinking. If a doctor did an Xray on my brother he would find so many demons hanging out in his body. He was not willing to tell my parents how they had screwed up his life.
Robbie and I became friends when he moved in with my mother. We would get together for lunch and talk. He got help with his alcoholism by going to rehab. They put a lock on his truck so he couldn’t drive. The family talked about his disease, but they weren’t willing to face the fact that they contributed to the problem.
Alcoholism is a disease that is hard to treat. My nieces mourn that their father will not be there to walk them down the aisle or hold his grandchildren and play with them. Robbie liked children. He would have been an engaged grandfather.