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April 12, 2016

The letter I

If we are lucky, we find one special person in our lives, who makes us feel as if life makes sense…the person to whom we are so strongly attracted where right becomes confused with wrong and even if we could find a way to unravel the confusion, we might not choose to do so. Our feelings override logic. Something pulls us, draws us to a point where being with this other person, pretty much is all that matters…all we can think about. We are in love…head over heels in love.

I met Lee when I was at a very low point in my life…a stranger in a strange land, not knowing or caring where life was heading. I had managed to leave a very negative relationship and although the method in which I left may not have been acclaimed by the grownups in my life, my father in particular, as the wisest and most mature or responsible way to break away; for me, it felt nothing short of necessity. Methodology was secondary to what felt like my very existence…my ability to survive.

I left my 1 year old townhouse in suburban New Jersey for the oversized living room couch in my cousin’s apartment in the heart of Forest Hills Queens and watched the view outside the window that I stood and stared out of most often morph from spacious, open fields of corn and soy beans to a world of red-brown brick high-rise apartment buildings as far as the eye could see.

My only income came from working long hours waiting on the endless stream of customers, winding and twisting around the corner bagel store just on the end of the block, like a python slithering toward its pray. It was the very first Sunday as I stood paralyzed by fear, behind the counter of that bagel store, trying to even imagine how I would begin to handle serving the endless stream of bagel-seeking New Yorkers…

“How about you just bring me what I need when I ask for it,” Lee eased me to an out-of-the-way spot, a few feet behind him as he made his way up to the counter.

That much, I could handle. And that is how Lee and I spent our first ‘date’ together. We began dating exclusively after that and I remember feeling the types of emotions I had only read about in Harlequin Romances up until that point.

Alcoholism is the only disease that tries to convince you that you don't have it

A month later I moved in with Lee and his mother. That is when I realized his drinking wasn’t just a casual, sometime thing.

Lee wasn’t the first alcoholic I had ever met, not by a long shot. But he was the only one I knew close to my age. Actually, Lee bounced back and forth from alcohol to pot, depending on what was easier to come by…I don’t think he preferred one over the other, really. But alcohol usually was less expensive and less of a hassle to obtain.

I was going to change his life for the better. I was sure of it. I would give him a reason not to need to keep drinking or getting high. I convinced myself…since after all…. I could fix all his problems….carry all his burdens and make everything in his life fine again.

Lee killed died at 35… His death certificate as deep in denial as both of us were. There are not many who will ever know the real cause of his death, although a handful may have been suspicious. Like an awful prison sentence, alcoholism keeps people whose lives it overruns with what most often is a long and slow type of torture. Lee drank an awful lot. In his case, it wasn’t long-term. I include myself when I saw just a few more victims to fall prey to the horrific insidiousness of the disease of alcoholism.

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