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Grapevine : August 2010
ATMYfam- ily reunion two sum- mers ago, my hus- band and I were the only sober ones in the crowd. My uncle had planned a beautiful walk through the woods, accompanied by a sweating bagpipe player, to a stream on beautiful Bowen Island, where he promptly cracked open plastic glass- es and scotch and made a toast to his long dead and alcoholic parents. e smell of the alcohol alone was enough to send me packing. Later that night, my uncle "fell" out of the sec- ond story window of his bedroom. Sleepwalking or suicide? It depends on how you look at it, I guess. Oh, by the way, welcome to my family. If you go back through my fam- ily tree, my dad's side is lined with geniuses and alcoholics: a boy who didn't speak a word until he was 4 and then spouted full sentences. He later earned a full scholarship to col- lege. His brother committed suicide. My dad was in remedial reading, then went on to Yale, but then got kicked out (cock- tails, anyone?). My mom's side is lined with candidates for Al- Anon mostly. ey are depressed, overweight, anxious, blind to the truth and worried, worried, worried. ese two family trees came together in me, an anxiety-fueled alcoholic, driven by worry, regret and shame. A er 28 years of living in fear and not under- standing what was wrong with me, I finally had a mo- ment of grace and entered the doors of AA. I had just finished a master's degree, but I had a marriage that was crumbling and I drank six days a week to ease the pain. (I usu- ally couldn't drink one day a week because I was just too damned hungover.) My first sponsor was like a sister to times when he needed mine. At one point, he moved into a nursing home nearby. Helping him move in, get- ting his furniture there and picking up his groceries got me through the first summer my children spent away from me. That summer, I even found a way to get him to a real AA meeting at my home group and we went out to breakfast with some of my friends afterward. He'd thank me for help- ing him. I don't think he really knew how much he helped me. Walter died a year ago, and I GENIUSES AND ALCOHOLICS 26 August 2010