Friday, April 14, 2006

Still Standing

I was washing the dishes earlier and listening to a CD I hadn't played in a while - Lyle Lovett & His Large Band. Track number 8 is Stand By Your Man, the song originally made famous by Tammy Wynette. I first heard Lovett's heartfelt version when I saw the movie The Crying Game. Hearing it again today got me thinking about loyalty and love and one of my ex-boyfriends, Scotty. I met Scotty at the end of 2001 in the infamous Judgement Bar at Taylor Square's Courthouse Hotel, a one time favourite watering hole of mine here in Sydney. Scotty came up to me and my drinking companion and asked if either of us would buy him a drink. I suggested he buy me one instead. My drinking companion, Carole, suggested he go away and leave us alone. But I was intrigued (and a lil bit pissed) and I wanted him to stick around. He joined us for a drink or two before Carole got fed up and went home. Moments after Carole's departure Scotty and I stumbled arm in arm up the road back to my place. At one point we crashed to the footpath with me grazing my hands, but up we got and off we stumbled some more until we eventually found we'd stumbled into a relationship.

From the beginning it was easy to be with Scotty. There was an instant familiarity and I felt comfortable having him around. Physically I didn't think he was 'my type' at first, but the sex was fun and we'd remembered each other's names that first morning after our drunken night. Scotty was also honest with me from the start. He told me he was an alcoholic. Fine by me. I wasn't about to judge him. At least he could admit he had a battle with the demon drink and I didn't see any problems. I guess I never really understood. I was also lonely. I'd moved to Sydney from Melbourne and after being here 18 months I was ready to share my life with someone I cared about, someone I loved.

He moved into my place maybe three months after we met. I had a spare room in my share house and it seemed like a good idea at the time. We had separate bedrooms if we needed space and we had company the rest of the time. He got a job and went to AA.

I actually had a theory that declaring oneself to be "an alcoholic" was a bit of a cop out. It meant you could hide behind the label and not actually deal with the problem. I believed the problem was not the drinking, but whatever caused the drinking in the first place. And trying to figure that bit out was no easy task. Well, for me it was, it all went back to childhood, but for Scotty, it wasn’t, even though he’d been a regular member of AA and had been in rehab twice before I met him. I’ve always been a happy drunk. If I drink to excess I laugh and dance and have a good time. It was different for Scotty. He could laugh and dance for a while, but then he’d turn black and ugly and unreasonable and irrational. And he'd disappear.

I went to a couple of AA meetings with him to try and understand his alcoholism better. I also attended an Al-Anon meeting, a support group for friends and family of alcoholics. That was a mind-altering experience. I felt so empowered after just one meeting where I met people who had been through similar experiences to me that I was scared to go back. It’s ridiculous, but I was on such a high after that Al-Anon meeting I knew that I would leave Scotty if I went to another one. I could’ve found the strength to leave my man, but I decided to stand by him.

I stood by him all those nights he was just having one bottle of beer and when that ran out he’d sneak off to the pub and buy more and the more he drank the more morose he became, the more boorish he got and the more aggressive he became. I stood by him all those mornings when I woke up and he’d disappeared. At first I’d go looking for him all over town – the pubs, the beats, the streets – getting angrier and angrier. What if he’s lying in a gutter somewhere, what if he’s been hurt, what if he’s late for work, what if he’s in someone else’s bed. I didn’t know how to leave him to his own devices and wait until he came home, which he always did when the beer money ran out.

I stood by him because in between those drinking bouts he was an angel. My friends and family couldn’t believe he was an abusive drunk. They’d seen him sober and gentle. He was artistic, funny, intelligent, handsome and loving. But it was always up and down, good and bad, sober and pissed. It got to the point where he was so pissed one night he hit me. I called the cops. They warned him. I didn’t press charges. I stood by my man. It’s true what people say about the great sex you have when making up after a fight. And of course he was sorry. He'd never hit me again.

But he did hit me again. Only this time I hit back. I’d never hit anyone in my life before and I was surprised how much force I had. I’d been drinking too and I’d had enough. The cops were called. He disappeared. They found him. I pressed charges. I let him come back home. The next morning I couldn’t believe what I had done. His face was swollen. I felt ashamed for hurting him. How did we ever get to this point? We broke up. He moved out, got into rehab again.

We continued having sex for about a year after we broke up. Even after he'd met someone else. When that relationship ended he met someone else again. When his current boyfriend took him to court I stood by him once again and went along to offer him some moral support. I know I made the right decision to end our relationship. We have rules now. He still drinks, but doesn’t come to visit me if he’s drunk. He hasn’t been here for a while. We no longer have sex with each other. Sometimes we go swimming or to galleries, but we mostly speak on the phone. In fact I called him earlier today to wish him happy birthday. Sometimes I'm surprised he's still standing


Blogger Sheila said...

That is such an honest account of your feelings Nash. Its hard to know when to stand by someone in this situation or finally let them stand alone.

April 16, 2006 1:52 PM  

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