I wrote this in 2003 about our next-door neighbor, who, for years struggled with an addiction so solid and deep that few around him believed he would ever get sober. I stopped counting the suicide attempts--that is what they are when your blood alcohol level climbs to .4 and your doctor tells your waiting family that you should be dead this time, but for some reason you're not.
My heart leaps and falls when they come to take him, me the first one to ever call 911 on his behalf after his frightened 12-year-old daughter clued me in, after a phone call in which he expressed to me his wishes to be left alone to die. I didn't let him. There have been times, in seeing the toll his living takes on his child, parents, ex-wives, that I think maybe I was wrong to call.
After a time of this going and coming, the neighborhood heaves a collective sigh when they come for him. We see him home from work. One day turns into two, then three. We see his parents stop by. We read their expressions. We see them leave without him. We ring the bell in our collective heads: ding ding, round 8.
Last month when the ambulance came for him was unlike any other time: they brought him out on a stretcher. I watched from the window as his head rolled to and fro with the bump bump bump down his front steps. I watched them lift him in. I thought to myself, I wonder if he's coming home this time.
He hit bottom in 2003. We've remained cordial as neighbors, but not close, and I've watched him, like a turtle settled on making the treacherous journey across a highway, make reluctant, and then fast friends with sobriety, a friendship that's always on the ropes, but one he seems committed to holding on to.
His journey to the bottom was marked by a divorce from a woman he loved--one who had had enough lying, hiding, and deceit. Over the last three years they've somehow remained friends, allies in this war on relationship terror.
As I write this post, our family is getting ready to go see our neighbor and his ex-wife, to go see them walk down the isle together and take new vows as they re-marry one another.
I expect to be bringing plenty of kleenex.