My new and so called better life began to take a shape. It was'nt a totally unplesant shape. It had some nice sides but also some dark ones that constantly lurked in the shadows of every new day threatening to emerge at any time. My now ex partner took our leaving very badly and began to drink more and more. Although I had physically removed myself from the family home I could not remove myself mentally and continued to go back almost daily to cook him some dinner and see that things were alright. My new partner reacted very badly to my doing this and there was more and more strain on an over stretched and very new relationship. I was now paying rent on our new house and the mortgage on the family home was being neglected. It wasnt long before the vultures swooped and we had no choice but to put the "For Sale" sign up.
My days were divided between the old and the new. It would begin by getting Meggie ready for school. Once she had gone and depending on Jim's mood the rest of the day would take it's direction. If Jim was having a good day he often suggested going back to bed for a while. We usually made love which was always good. Then we would lie in each others arms and talk about our hopes and plans for a future together. Those times were my happiest and for the shortest while I would actually believe that things were going to be okay. Round lunchtime I would make my way to the old house. I remember real fear each time I turned the key in the lock. I never knew what I was going to find. I had a dread of my ex falling down the stairs in a drunken stupor where I would find him lying. If he wasn't around fear would grip my heart. I would imagine him lying cold and dead in what had been our bed. Thankfully neither of these senarios ever happened.
One morning about four months into our seperation I let myself in as uaual. The house had been deteriorating in appearance since my departure so I was not surprised by the stench of stale beer that greated me. I made my way through the still darkened hall and into the sitting room. He was lying on the floor bearly conscious
"Have you not been to bed" I asked
He muttered his drunken reply
"Your going to kill yourself you know" I told him for the hundreth time
He tried to get up but fell back onto the floor and groaned
"Are you hurt" I asked suddenly anxious
"My leg" he moaned "Somethings wrong"
The ambulance was there within minutes and we were blazing our way to the local hospital which was only a short drive. He was wheeled straight through and I was told to go to the desk and register name and address. When I got back he was hooked up to various machines. There were nurses around him poking needles into his arms and legs and drawing blood into viles.
"Whats wrong with him" I asked genuinely afraid
"He is very ill" a nurse told me gravely
That was an awful day. He was indeed very ill. He had developed blood clots in his legs and chest and for a while I thought he was going to die. While he was drunk he co opperated with the doctors but when his alcohol level started to fall he began to get really violent and wanted to leave. I did'nt recognise this man as my partner of twenty five years. He screamed and shouted at the nurses and tried to heave himself from the trolly. Two uniformed security men were brought in to hold him while the doctor injected sedative into his vein.
"That will relax him" he told me but it did'nt. He continued to push and shove everybody and anything that got into his way and eventually he was off the narrow hospital stretcher bed. I tried to hold on to him but he shoved me off and began to leave the room. At that point the sedative began to take hold and he staggered. One security guards leaped forward and steadied him
"Come on sir" he said kindly "lets get you back to bed"
He allowed himself be lead back and lay down without further argument. I was crying like my heart would break. This man had once lifted a car out of his way becuase it had parked in the space he had wanted. Slowly he turned his head towards me and in a voice bearly louder than a whisper he growled
"Are you happy. You have gotten your way now. I am finished"
"This is not down to me" I cried. "You have done this to yourself"
"Go away" he spat "I dont want you here"
I ran from his bedside and leaned against a wall in the corridor to keep myself from falling.My head was spinning and a cold finger of fear poked at my heart A nurse came out and gave me a glass of water
"Try not to be too upset love" she said kindly "It's the medication. He does not know what he is saying"
But I knew that he did.
Alhough he banished me from his bedside i was back the next day. Duty compelled me to return. Though I had left, my first loyalty was to him even at the expense of my new relationship. He was still heavily sedated and completely confused.
We had been through a similar experience a month before I left our relationship. He had been having very bad chest pain and was given a letter by our family doctor to attend the hospital. After a battery of tests he was diagnosed as having narrowing blood vessels. His blood was too thick, was clotting and not flowing properly. He was given medication to take daily and had to have weekly blood tests. Each time he had the test it showed elevaed alcohol levels and eventually the medication was withdrawn. The doctor was very kind when he spoke to us.
"Sometimes sir" he began "the cure can be as bad as the disease. In your case if you continue to drink while taking this particular medication it could cause worse problems than you are currently having"
"And if he doesnt take the medication" I asked
"Then he is putting his life at risk. A clot could travel to his lung, his heart or his brain".
"Oh well" my partner joined in "dead man walking I suppose"
I was shocked
"Oh my God" I cried "If you dont value your own life what about Meggie. Do you not want to see her grow up, be there for her, walk her down the aisle"
"Of course I do" he sighed
"I cant give up the drink" he said sadly "Its too late"
I decided then and there that I was leaving. I could not continue to watch him slowly commit suiside which is what he had decided to do. And as a sat there by his bedside I thought he had finally succeeded. In hindsight and if i had known the heartache the next six months were to bring I would have prayed God to take him, but he did'nt.
Day followed endless day each more hopeless than the one before. My old relationship was holding me prisioner while my new one was falling apart. Meggie tried to be brave but I knew she was terribly worried and left the hospital in tears almost every time she visited. The doctors told us that when he eventually "dried out" and all the alcohol was out of his system we would see some improvement and I longed for that day. At the same time the family home had sold and the new owners wanted to take possession. The hurt I felt as I cleared out what had been our home for twenty five years knows no name. Most of the furniture was too old be of any use but it held precious memories for me. I took what I could but since the house I was renting was already furnished most of it went to charity. I tried to explain the situation to my ex partner but he was still much too ill to realise that if and when he came out of the hospital he would not be going back to what he had known.
Now I have to admit that without the Jim's help over those weeks and the months I dont think I could have pulled through and for that I will be eternally in his debt. He helped me find an appartment for my ex. We moved all his things into it and made it look comfortable. Over the course of the month he had began to improve little by little. Since he was not drinking he was given the correct medication again and his condition stabilized. It was suggested that he go to a Rehabilitation Centre for a while so that he could continue to improve and also receive help to remain sober. At first he battled everybody on this one and said there was "no way" he was going any place except home "wherever the hell that was now". He was filled with anger for everything and everybody and especially me. In my heart I knew that the minute he left the hospital his first stop would be a bar or an off license so I desperately tried to persuade him to give the rehab a try. In the end he agreed to do it because Meggie got down onto her knees and begged.
The centre was about one hundred kilometers from where we lived so he was taken there by ambulance on a wet windy Thursday afternoon in late October. We had been told that the rules of the rehab were very strict. There was to be no contact for the first five days by phone or any other way and no visits for the first two weeks to give the patient a chance to settle into the routine and environment. I was not prepared for what I heard when my phone rang late that same Thursday night.
"Get me out of here" he growled
"What" I stammered "You've only just arrived"
"And I am leaving"
We were devasdated. I had hoped for a few weeks maybe even a month of normality to spend with Jim and Meggie knowing that he was being cared for but that was not to be. The staff in the centre told me my ex had no intention of staying sober and he was "wasting their time and his own and occupying a bed that could be used by somebody who cared". They told me to arrange to bring him home as soon as possible. We struggled over the weekend from one abusive phone call to the next, each worse than the last as I tried to arrange for somebody to travel the one hundred kilometers and bring him back. In the end and because I was hanging onto sanity by a thread Jim voluntered to go. He posed as a health board taxi driver and brought him back. I couldnt help asking if that was the begining of the end for Jim and I. It was more than any relationship could cope with especially one as paper thin as ours already was.
My ex moved into the apartment we had made ready for him and a new and if possible an even worse final chapter in our lives was to open. Sometimes I cant help asking what if............., what if i had left before he became so ill or when he was younger or stronger or before the alcohol had taken such a hold on his life. And the guilt goes on.