Telling Not Showing

Telling Not Showing

The above link is to an article on alcoholism written by Dick Cavett. I don’t agree with all Dick writes, e.g. Dick implies that he sees nothing wrong with some people taking a small drink as a means of coping with stage fright. In my opinion, using alcohol to self medicate for any reason is unhealthy. Addiction in all forms is a subject I have strong feelings about. Both stories in the link are compassionately written (there’s a link to a second story contained in the intro of this one, you just click on the word ‘here’.). They touched me deeply. My father was an alcoholic and I have battled various addictions during my life. Addiction and mental illness run like a winding river through my family.

I loved my dad and miss him very much. He had 10 years sober (bliss) when a chronic illness (not alcohol related) forced his early retirement from a job he loved, a job he’d held since he stopped drinking. He’d found his niche, took pride in his promotion to manager, I think he discovered his self respect in this job. Not long after his retirement he began drinking again, telling us (and himself) he could now be a social drinker. It only took a few months for my loving, gentle, delightful dad to once again become an alcohol obsessed, often morose stranger. He died just after his 67th birthday. We were all with him, and we all loved him.

My son adored his Poppa Thomas, and was devastated by his death. He wrote the poem, Thomas, after dad’s funeral. After years of battling depression then drug addiction, Ken , ‘followed’ his Thomas, 8 years after he wrote the poem. As many of you know, Ken died by his own hand.

I’m reposting Ken’s poem, Thomas, because I believe his words show far better than I can tell, what it’s like to love a person who suffers from any addiction. Ken’s words also show that it’s possible to see past the addiction to the heart of the person.

Tricia 1/2014


A picture is all I have
To remind me of your life
This emotion runs so deep
Oh why can’t I follow you

Your wisdom and your heart
Greater than your legacy
Of the ones you left behind
Oh why can’t I follow you

I long for the time
When your smile meet mine
Tucked gently inside a bottle
Oh why can’t I follow you

I weep at the reflection
In the eyes of your wife
For since you said goodbye…
O why can’t I follow you

A soul so weightless
The wind took you from me
I never got to show you
Just who you were to me

This lid is sealed so tight
On your final kiss
Tasting death on your lips
Please wait for me

Kenneth Bertram

About triciabertram

I have written all my life. Writing helps me to make sense of a world I often don’t understand. Poetry is my supreme solace, closely followed by literature and music. When my son ended his life in 1999 I embarked on the most difficult journey of my life, my grief journey. To survive in this unknown, harsh landscape I had to write. It was for me, the only way I could even begin to move forward. Then in 2009 my darling husband died suddenly and so my journey continues. I write about other issues but because of my life experience, grief and death are continuing themes in my writing life. In our culture I believe there is a fear of death, an inability to accept the inevitability of our mortality, and this creates enormous difficulties for the bereaved and those around them. I have begun this blog in the hope I will create a small ripple in the pond of fear that is currently drowning the reality of death and grief. I will continue to skim the stones of my truth, watch them bounce, and see how many ripples I can make.

Posted on January 12, 2014, in Pieces of prose, Poetry of others and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Wow Tricia, this brought things banging loudly at the front door of my mind which is no bad thing. I need a reminder by reading something like this, that for me, a) one drink is too many and twenty aren’t enough and b) that alcoholism is a prgressive illness and seems to progress even though we have stopped drinking. If we drink again (which I did many times), our bodies just seem to revert to the stage they were at before we stopped and we become very ill very quickly. It makes me shudder.

    And I am surrounded by a group of MS friends who are able to have the odd drink after a very painful day and get a little welcome relief from this bastard monster, while I have a cup of tea. And if I am to be totally honest I sometimes resent this and wish and wish I could. But I am well enough from an alcoholic point of view to know where that would take me.

    Ken’s poem is heartwrenching. It is so hard for the family; alcoholism is a very selfish disease and it kills physically and emotionally.

    Im pleased you have posted this well needed reminder. I feel as though Ive been to a really good AA meeting and had some sanity restored in the face of my “wishing I could”.

    Love you to bits my treasured friend ❤ xxx

    • Addiction, of any kind, is a theiving, merciless bastard. I’m so proud that you just celebrated 12 years of sobriety. It must be so difficult to not be able to have a drink with your MS friends, but it’s good you understand there’s no such thing as just one drink. Life can be so freakin unfair.
      Ken loved my dad so much, and had his own horrendous battle with addiction. I think he understood dad better than any of us.
      I’m pleased the post resonates with you but on another level I so wish that it didn’t.
      Much love my dear friend. xxx

  2. Your boy was a gifted poet too? The more I learn about this boy, the more my heart aches for your loss. It feels like he was so special. Had so much to give… Life is cruel.

    This is a powerful, powerful post Tricia, it may take me some time to digest. I drink a little. I enjoy it but in nearly 11 years my husband has never seen me drunk.

    My father is teetoal these days and like your father he is a far kinder and gentler man as a result. He’s mad as a box of frogs of course, but kind.

    • Ken was one of life’s sensitives, Pooky. He was a graphic artist and while working in our family business, setting up and keeping our computer system chugging along, he was also studying animation when he died. The people he was studying with wanted to put on an exhibition of his art, but sadly he destroyed most of it before he died. And yes he had a wonderful way with words. All three of us would write poems to each other.
      I think I’ve told you before, Ken first contemplated suicide when he was only 11 years old because in his words ‘sometimes I just get so sad, mummy’. Even though I took him to various doctors and psychologists he didn’t begin to get the help he needed until he was and adult and by then he was also addicted to drugs.
      The waste of such a precious, valuable life, breaks my heart every day. The only thing the comforts me is I know he is no longer suffering. Your right, Pooks, life is cruel sometimes.
      Love you my friend
      Tricia xx

      • Why did he destroy his art?

      • Pooky, when someone is suicidal there sense of self is so terribly skewed. I can’t ever know exactly why Ken did this, only he knows what motivated him, but I suspect it was because in that moment he felt his art was a reminder of what ‘might have been’ and in his despair he couldn’t see a future for his art or himself.

        I remember holding him while he talked the day after he’d survived a previous suicide attempt and he was filled with pain, anger at his survival, and a sense of worthlessness. He could see no value in himself or anything he did.

        I’ve had to accept that for some questions there will never be any answers. Having said that I believe one of the most important things in life is to question. When we question we promote discussion and we begin a process of understanding, even if our specific questions don’t always have answers.

        Sorry to go on but your question is one I asked myself repeatedly in the beginning (actually I screamed it at the top of my voice) and although on an intellectual level I accept I’ll not get an answer, on an emotional level I wish I could understand more.

      • I can’t begin to imagine how you must have felt. Sorry I probably shouldn’t have asked. I think that perhaps I supposed there was a less painful answer, but on reflection, that was unlikely. I’m sorry Tricia. I’m so sorry xxx

      • Dear Pooky, never apologise for asking a question. Nothing is ‘off limits’ on my blog. If you read my Who Am I intro, I write about skimming the stones of my truth and seeing how many ripples I can make. I will always give you an honest answer because I respect you too much to give an easy answer.

        One of the things I love about you, Pooky, is that you care enough to question. I believe this is a part of how your wonderful work came into being. And you will help so many people by your authentic, caring questions. Not everyone will answer your questions, but I believe strongly they will be moved and made more aware by being asked. Often questions can be a catalyst for change, they can take us to that deep place where the first step becomes possible.

        As for the pain, it’s always with me. The degree of suffering may vary, but the pain never truly leaves. Having people care enough to ask questions, then being able to respond is one of the things that eases the pain, so thank you Pooky.
        Love you
        Tricia xxx

      • Thank you Tricia. You are a friend indeed. And thank you for being tolerant of and honest in your response to my questions. I can’t help it. I ask questions all day every day. It’s how I operate but I have no filter. It means that despite the fact I don’t consider myself to be the most emotionally intelligent person that I often end up with people confiding in / disclosing to me.

        I should probably learn when to stop asking questions but it’s very much a part of what makes me me.

        Love you too x

  3. For your courage, I thank you Tricia..xx

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