Three years later, it’s easy to gloss over the excruciating unknowns that were my life for a number of weeks. In fact, I hardly ever think of the weeks that went by in the hospital and rehab because the outcome has been so incredible. But it’s important for people who only see the trips to Europe and the romantic, playful posts Dr Marry and I share back and forth on Facebook to understand the true gravity of what we went through to get to where we are today.
The storm before the calm
I won’t go into all of the gory details of Dr Marry’s fall into delirium tremors because that can only be likened to watching a trapped wild animal fighting for its very existence. I will just say this: two days after Dr Marry was admitted to the hospital, I was with him extremely early in the morning because he had a liver biopsy scheduled for 7:30 a.m. That biopsy got pushed to 9 a.m. and then to 11a.m. and then 5 p.m.
I knew he was nervous about the procedure, so I suggested that we go for a walk in the hallway. Dr Marry and I walked 10,000 steps that morning up and down the hall of his hospital floor. I remember I was wearing high heeled boots, and people in other rooms kept asking us if we were training for a marathon, to which we laughed and just kept walking back and forth down that one long hallway.
I had to go to a meeting and said I would be back after it was over. He kissed me goodbye on my forehead and I left without another thought. He had been subdued that morning but, all in all, I felt like he was in a good place considering we were waiting for this biopsy.
You can imagine my surprise when I returned 90 minutes later to find an absolute madman in his room. He was pacing and yelling and more agitated than I had ever seen a human being before, and most alarmingly, he had absolutely no idea who I was. There were nurses in the room with him, and I watched him for a minute before saying, “Mazz. What’s going on?”
He stopped his angry pacing and gave me a look that literally made me physically shrink back.
But then I got angry. Who the hell did this man think he was? And more importantly, who had I become that this was my life?
I got up close to him, and I pointed my finger in his face and said, “You stop this right now!”
He grabbed my hand and twisted my arm –hard – and immediately three male nurses stepped in. After a tremendous physical struggle, also something I had never seen in person, he was strapped to a bed, all the while screaming at the top of his lungs about nonsensical things.
I watched all of this with little emotion
I didn’t recognize this man. But in actuality, I hadn’t recognized this man for years. This day was just part of a dark, unhappy journey that felt like it had no bottom.
Hours later, Mazz was put in to a medically-induced coma and taken up to the ICU. Before we left the floor we had been on, a traveling nurse and perhaps a physical guardian angel, Susan, pulled me aside and said, “This is going to be harder than you know. You need to keep a journal, and I have this one for you.”
I took it and put it in my bag. I didn’t start writing immediately, but once I did, it poured out of me:
Saturday, February 4, 2017 (excerpts from my first entry)
So I am sitting here in a chair in the ICU watching you sleep. Actually, you’re sedated and have been since Thursday at 1 p.m. when I came back from a meeting to find you completely out of your mind. … I got up in your face and told you to stop it right now, you grabbed my arm and said, “I will kill you with my belt.”
I’ve never seen hatred like that. You were like a wild animal, and I was scared. It was the first time I truly understood what this is. You are an alcoholic. A high functioning, but absolute alcoholic, and I am watching you fall apart right in front of my eyes.
Finally, the Ativan worked and you fell into a shaky, deep sleep. I checked email. I am a finalist for a Bush Fellowship, but you still don’t know that. You stole my joy at making it to the final round. It’s hard not to resent you for that. It’s hard to know that you have no idea, two days later, that that happened.
On Thursday, the doctor questioned my lifestyle and firmly told me that I will have to make changes. I was so ashamed that I am suspect, too.
Thursday night, in the waiting room of the ICU, I cried and cried. I’m exhausted, I’m alone, I’m heartbroken, I’m furious, I’m stupid.
The rational part of me understands this is a disease, but this is not leukemia. You chose this. You brought this in to our home. You foisted this on to me.
HOW did I not know?
I knew. I tried to bully you into stopping, but you’re a good drunk. You did everything right. You convinced me that I was overreacting; except I wasn’t, and I knew I wasn’t. I hate that you made me question what I knew to be true.
I wonder who’s going to wake up in your bed? I wonder if I have ever known you sober? I wonder what else isn’t true?
I’ve always said that I believed I could get over one affair because I would know that I probably contributed to it.
Easy to say.
You’ve absolutely been having an affair with alcohol. You’ve been living two lives, and I don’t know for how long.
Have I mentioned that I feel stupid?
So now what?
Now our trip to England and Ireland is off (we were scheduled to finally go in March that year after not having been there since 2003).
Now I don’t know who will wake up.
Now I don’t know how I can ever trust you about anything.
Now I feel this enormous burden to “watch” over you, and I already resent it.
Now I wonder how we will ever pay for this hospital stay.
Now I wonder what comes next.
What comes next?
What comes next?
What is next?
Sandi Skalicky Mcdougall
My heart is breaking for both of you as I read this. You are amazing Dayna and I’m sure you will say it’s what anyone would do. But I don’t believe it for a minute as many would shut the door and leave. After meeting the two of you with Jeff & Jeff, the saying “no one knows what burden people carry”, holds so true.
Dayna Del Val
What a lovely response, Sandi. Thank you for reading and for writing. Keep reading—I promise, the story (as you have witnessed) does get better. 😁
Wow! Tears for the writer make tears for the reader. You are so strong and express so well the experience many people connected to alcoholics experience. Feeling like you are overreacting, feeling betrayed, feeling numb.
Dayna Del Val
Thanks for reading and writing Julie!
I have to comment with so much caring and emotion. I was married to an alcoholic for many years and then he died of suicide. Still hurts to this day for me, but what I can hardly get over is the hurt that my children feel. Alcoholism is hard. The things you write about are so real. Feelings rhat are hard to write down.
Dayna Del Val
Oh I am so sorry to read this Annita! Thanks for sharing, for reading and for writing.
Dayna, I have not commented and I don’t know when I will be able to. It does not sound like the two people I know, yet it is. My heart is overwhelmed and my mind is having a difficult time coming to terms with it. So sorry you had to go through this alone. Thank you for sharing.
Dayna Del Val
Thank you for this note, DeLayne. You and so many others are struggling with the same challenge. That’s partly why we did this series in the first place. We wanted people to see that they are not alone in their challenges–nobody is above that. Thanks for reading and writing. And for being lovely neighbors.
Dayna, this is all so heartbreaking and beautiful. Thank you both for sharing your story. It is so important. Your honesty is respected and admired.
Dayna Del Val
Thank you Sara!
Reading this has brought me to tears. I am an alcoholic and feel a lot of shame. I keep trying to give up but if I have one drink I want more
Dayna Del Val
I won’t speak for Mazz, but I’ll just encourage you to face your shame and take the steps necessary to stop drinking. You won’t regret it once you get past it. We’re cheering for you!
I think you’ve done one of the hardest initial steps by typing this in the first place. I can just bottom line this and not sugar coat it and suggest that you can, if you feel like it, walk into an AA meeting and sit and listen. You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to introduce yourself if you don’t want to. And take it in the moment. You will be in a room of people who won’t judge you, who have the same disease as you and will be 100% supportive if you ask for help. Just going into a room like that will make you feel like you are not alone with this disease. That is honestly the next step you can take, and I sincerely hope that you can find it in you to take that step. The other steps will follow.
My thoughts are with you. Good luck with your steps. Please let me know how you are doing.