Publish Novellas 23 February 2022
EPISODE 6 – COMPROMISE
A wife negotiates a resolution with her husband while a psychotherapist offers multiple support avenues for overlapping physical and emotional illnesses.
Pam is the wife…
Marcus opens the door with a brown paper bag from a local liquor store in his hand. Pam tries to diffuse the situation. “Marcus, I love you and want to help you. Asking you to stop cold turkey is not reasonable. Can I make a deal with you?”
“Let me pour you a drink in a nice, clean, cold glass, just the way you like it.”
“Now you’re talking,” Marcus says as his face lights up.
“But the deal is this. You get two drinks per day,” reasons Pam.
“When do I get my booze?”
“Whenever you want. But it is better if you have a break between them.”
“So what are you going to do, hide my the bottle?”
“Well, yes. So I will need to serve you while sitting in your recliner.”
“You don’t think I can find it?” replies Marcus with a grin.
“I imagine you could if you tried. But I hope you don’t. Can we trust each other so you can get better?”
“All right, all right,” extending the bag to Pam, he continues, “I’ll have a double shot of whiskey now.”
Pam takes the bag to the kitchen and pours his drink over ice before bringing it out to him in his recliner. Then she searches for a place in the kitchen to hide the bottle. An hour later, Marcus asks for another drink.
“It has been too soon. You know you’ll want one with dinner. Can you wait until then?”
“All right, all right,” Marcus agrees for now.
A cat-and-mouse game continues for three days. Pam pours one drink and hides the bottle. Later, Marcus brings it to her and asks for a second drink. Sometimes he hides the bottle from her. She can only take his word that he is having just two drinks per day.
On Tuesday, Pam can’t wait to share a visit with Dr. Alison.
“Thank you both for coming. I feel we should establish some ground rules. One: when I direct a question to one of you, I don’t expect the mate to answer. Two: if each of you feel you prefer to discuss matters in private, we can split the session. Three: I will not share what the other party discloses in private. However, either of you may choose to bring up something you previously shared with me alone. Can we agree on this?”
The couple answers, “Yes,” in unison.
“Good, so Marcus has shared some things with me. I don’t know how much of it is familiar to you. But I do recognize that, as a wife, you have been experiencing the effects. Is there anything you wish to express to him?”
Pam has many pent-up emotions. “Oh, yes! How many hours can I talk? I have been more supportive than anyone could be throughout this marriage. And now I feel hurt to discover these horrible actions of the past are wrecking havoc on our emotions and finances. What makes it worse is that you seem to treat it like a game, Marcus.”
“Thank you, Pam. Marcus, would you care to respond to Pam?”
Feeling remorse, Marcus replies, “Yes, I am sorry for what I’ve done to you, to Aaron, and to other women. When I multiply our distress by the amount of families I have affected, it makes me want to curl up into a ball. With nowhere to retreat, I want to dull the emotional pain with alcohol. I try to convince myself that horrible past events are just bad dreams to suppress.”
“Thank you, Marcus.”
“I wanna add, without making excuses, that the things I did were because of sickness or emotional pain. If you can’t forgive me, I understand. But, tell me either way.”
“I am here to help heal, not to judge,” Dr. Alison reassures. “Pam, do you have a reply?”
Pam tries to make sense of recent events and emotions. “When past actions came to light, it felt as though my family was tied to a train track with the vibration from the approaching engine getting stronger.
“I tried to put my emotions on the back burner and go into family-survival mode. Us-against-them quickly became Marcus-against-Pam.
“Now, listening to Marcus, I empathize with other women whose lives were irreparably affected. Some may have had to raise children alone. Others may have spent money on therapy. More who need mental health assistance, perhaps could not afford it.
“Our son grew up as an only child under the impression that his extended family does not love him. I don’t know if we should maintain that barrier. What if one of his siblings or nephews just wants to meet him? My son discovered dozens of unknown family members. Should they be enemies or could we comfort one another?
“In my heart I forgive, you Marcus. But I think you will not fully heal until you have the forgiveness of the other lives you have affected.”
Dr. Alison extends a box of tissues to each of them as she interjects, “It appears we have reached an emotional breakthrough. This is the type of conversations you two should have with each other. You don’t need me to referee.
“Whether you open yourself for contact with other families is a personal decision that may have legal ramifications. So that is something you can discuss with legal counsel.
“A shallot can impart mellow flavors to food. But you must first remove the fibrous outer layers. Negative emotions like fear, suspicion, and self-preservation can mask true feelings. Inside, I see two people who love one another and family.
“I found a no-cost government-funded smoking cessation program. A nominal-cost weight management program is also available. There are several support groups and hotline services for addictions.”
“Cold turkey” is the abrupt cessation of a substance dependence and the resulting unpleasant experience, as opposed to gradually easing the process through reduction over time.
“Some people are able to overcome alcohol addiction cold turkey. But given the possible physical damage, it is best to have medical supervision. An in-patient facility can address both alcohol and cigarette addiction along with post-traumatic stress disorder most effectively.
“In-patient programs are not free, but I have some suggestions of places that charge according to what families can afford. Some of this might be covered by your health insurance. If you divert the price of alcohol and cigarettes that you purchase over the course of one year, it may cover the cost of treatment.”
Wiping her eyes, Pam says, “Thank you so much for all you have done and for inviting me here today. I really needed this. We must cut back on private visits to address the larger issue. But when the other things are resolved, perhaps we can sit down again with a progress report.”
“I would like that.” Dr. Alison replies. “The addiction support group works really well as a followup to in-patient programs. Remember, there is no cost for the support group.
“I am optimistic that your good, long talks with your son will resolve some of issues he may be internalizing. If there is a need for further therapy, give me a call.”
“Thank you,” Marcus says. “During each meeting with you, you’ve provided actionable advice. I will try to show my appreciation for its value.”
When the Alexanders arrive home, they find a letter in the mailbox from one of Marcus’ prior dalliances. Their picture-imperfect family has more obstacles to overcome. Hopefully, it works out well for all involved.