No More Ssshhh!

bottle.jpg  So, Captain Morgan drew my attention to a profile of our local guy, Chuck Hagel, in Esquire magazine. I’m not going to talk about Hagel’s politics here, but something about that interview struck home with me: 

 . . . like the moan of a train whistle, soft and distant at first, but with increasing power behind it, the way the trains come through all the small places where Chuck Hagel grew up in Nebraska. All the little towns, where everyone knew if your father was drunk and smashed up the car or lost his job, where every family kept secrets that every other family knew anyway but were too polite or kind to mention. Rushville and York and Ainsworth.

Oh, I know that scenario very well.  I was raised in a town of 860, where everybody knew my dad was a raving alcoholic, but not one person ever mentioned it to me in all the years.

I wish they had. I never thought people were being “kind” or “polite” with their silence. I just remember thinking they didn’t care enough about me to validate my feelings or even listen to them. It was like carrying around a deep, dark burden — a secret that was too terrible to bring into the light of day. It was unmentionable, unspeakable — yet everybody knew it.

The “secret” always made me feel ashamed. Some well-meaning adult should have told me it wasn’t my fault, that I couldn’t stop my dad from drinking, and that it didn’t reflect on me as a person. Kids are very ego-centric and sometimes assume they themselves cause all the family problems.  

I don’t mean to whine though. Things are different today. I’ve often thought that the internet can help kids now. They can google “alcoholism” or talk about their situation in chat rooms with anonymous friends — and get a better perspective on their “secrets.”

Blogging also helps. I can casually blog about the “secret” now, and the world won’t come to an end. What a relief!

Just more benefits of our beloved World Wide Web!


11 thoughts on “No More Ssshhh!

  1. Wow, either times have really changed or I’m a complete hermit. Our town is roughly 2,000, but I know little to nothing about my neighbors. Of course, I didn’t grow up here and we do live five miles from town.

    I was also a child of an alcoholic, but I grew up in the city and it seemed very anonymous. Nobody but me did know what was going on in my home unless I told them, which I wouldn’t. I think the internet would have been a blessing for me. Then again, as lonely and gullible as I was, I might have been an easy target for a predator. Hard to say.

  2. You know, Robin, I don’t worry much about internet predators. I know they’re out there, but it’s kind of like flying — millions of people fly every day, but it’s big news when a plane crashes. Maybe I’m naive, but I feel the internet’s benefits far outweigh its problems.

  3. I’m glad you’re able to find healing now, Betty. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to have an alcoholic father. My husband struggles with alcohol and it nearly ruined our marriage, but he’s been sober for probably a year now. It’s a very debilitating disease. My husband’s family has a long line of alcoholics, and I’m just hoping we stopped the “cycle” with my husband and my stepsons won’t take that path, even though they will be much more susceptible to it.

  4. The first time I met with my editor about most recent first draft of my first novel, she said, “I crossed out the first two chapters and Mitch (the main male character of 18 years) is a pussy. We need to toughen him up!”
    I laughed about that all the way home and still do two months later.”

  5. Melissa, I know — alcoholism is a heart-breaking disease. Until they start recovering, I don’t think alcoholics realize the pain they cause their families and friends.

    I’m glad your husband has you to help him. From experience, I do know that keeping “the secret” forces families to be codependent “enablers.” It really helps them to get it out in the open and talk about it.

  6. Ken — since I’m that editor you talked about, I don’t see what’s so gol-darned funny! I also don’t see what it has to do with the subject of this post — alcoholism. Oh well — I’m at least glad to see you comment on my blog. So write on! Hehe

  7. My comment barely made sense…because…I don’t proof read…and that’s why I pay you big bucks. You’re driving me to drink…but you’re pretty darn cute anyway!

  8. Gosh, now we know that you come from a small town, that your dad drank too much, that you go by several versions of “Elizabeth”, and guys think you’re cute.

    Very illuminating, Elizabeth/Betty/Liz!

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