Who is the patient?
Hi, I am Sally. I have had a man in my life for 20 years. He comes from a well off family, his father is a local celebrity in our town. I moved away to another city just to get away from him, but it just turned into a long distance relationship. In his youth, he was also a local celebrity, a film maker — he was good looking and everyone thought he would be highly successful. When he was about 25, after losing a job, his father set him up in a video business in their basement. His father kept putting more and more money into this business while this man was drinking excessively. Finally, his mother put her foot down and the money stopped. We tried intervention, unsuccessfully. He grew his hair very long and continued to drink and get picked up for drunk driving. This business was making nothing, but he could not admit it failed. He continued to drink and was very depressed. In the last few years, he has cut his hair and slowed his drinking and now he acts like everything is wonderful and the rest of us are screwed up even though he has no job, no bank account, no property, nothing and he is 46 years old. He lives off his parents and me.
This man floats between my house in and his parents in our old town. We feed him and cloth him, and yes, I know I am an enabler. He now drinks Thunderbird and Wild Irish Rose and when I scream at him to get help or get out, I am just ignored. I end up looking and acting like the girl in the exorcist, but he just stays goofy and calm. He is in no way an unpleasant drinker, he justs gets happy and even less in touch with reality. He lives in the glory days. Everything he talks about happened many, many years ago. Most people don’t have a clue what he means. He calls everyone he has met and leaves weird messages. He talks of nothing but video; he answers the phone with the word “video.” He’s like a 10-year-old child. No amount of begging, demanding, or any other method makes him realize he is nothing more than a bum. He blames his idleness on allergies. I don’t know how to explain this, he writes everything on index cards all day, cuts things out of magazines and also puts them on index cards. He makes video and audio tapes all day and mails them to everyone. He pretends he is a productive human being. When I am here, and he cannot get any alcohol, he becomes verbally abusive and extremely irritable and moody.
He does not get drunk and pass out, it’s only enough to get him flying. He lies about it and hides the bottles. Have you ever heard of anything like this? His father and I have tried every means to get him to seek help. He is a very lucky bum, his parents are very well off and would spend it all to get him well. I would appreciate any advice you can give me.
What a strange tale. And why do you stay with him? Are you unattractive? Why are your options so limited?
Your letter is so frank and understanding; it is different from anything else I receive. I am almost tempted to view your efforts as acts of mercy. I mean, at this point, is it realistic that he will develop a real life — not very!
The question entirely is the cost to you. You are my client. Is it painful to you? Is it keeping you from developing other relationships and alternatives in life? That would be a very large sacrifice to make. You elucidate your friend’s sickness, but say nothing of your condition. That must be our concern.