Finding Yourself Through Writing
Vivian are you writing :)? Keep strong 🙂
Always. It’s what I do.
It’s been some time and I hope you are well. I wanted to follow up and connect with you since you’ve read my book previously and we had a good conversation afterward. I don’t have your e-mail, but if you could send me one, I’ll reply and share the info.
All the best,
Thank you for your reply. I remembered when we talked you had mentioned you had concerns I believe with your daughter (it may have been another family member) and one thing we discovered with my wife Alicia was that the doctors ended up diagnosing her as bi-polar and they felt the alcohol was used as a form of “self medication”. We thought we were on the right track in this way with use of meds – that was quite a process to find the “correct” ones – but she remained sober for about two years.
Unfortunately she began drinking in early 2011 again, overdosed on a combination of her medicines and alcohol, and was hospitalized in February for a few days. It felt like we were at ground-zero once more. I constantly battled with the “What can I do to make this better?” versus the belief that “I can’t do anything – she must choose”. On April 10, she overdosed again after a drinking binge and this time passed away. She was just 35.
After two days of me and my daughters being in shock (and having to have the same difficult and painful phone conversations with friends and family), I wrote a letter which I also used in tribute at her memorial. I’ll share this with you below.
It’s now been over a year and a half and my daughters and I are healing. We’ve gone through therapy and I try to maintain a sense of open communication with both of them. They know they are loved and I will always be here for them. Time is helping us. With regard to any of your family who may be struggling, I don’t know what the answers could be – but I fought personally with a feeling that I had failed Alicia even though I had learned through recovery that it’s not my fault or responsibility. It was still a struggle at times because I fought with many, “what could I have done?” scenarios.
What helps us now is knowing that she’s no longer in pain. It seemed like no matter what, joy was elusive to her for much of her life. She always fought a demon of some kind – and that was difficult for us (meaning myself and our two daughters) to see and try and understand.
As I’m now in place where I’m reflecting a bit more, I went online to look up your review on the book from SF Book Review and noticed that all reviews prior to 2011 are no longer online. Do you happen to have it either in Word .doc or could copy and paste it in e-mail? I’d be interested in reading it again if you have it.
I don’t plan on writing any more on that subject, but I still think of her and all that has happened. Instead, my next project actually involves childhood memories of a family pet who was very special to me – and just explores the relationship between people and pets – a much more light, fun and easygoing topic.
Anyhow, just wanted to share all of this as well as my tribute to her below. I again appreciated your kind words and our talk a couple years ago so I thought I’d connect with you on everything here once more.
Hope all is well on your end.
April 12, 2011
It is with deep sadness that I write this. On Sunday April 10, 2011, Alicia Szabados, my wife and the mother of our two children, passed away. Alicia faced many challenges in her life including a lengthy battle with alcoholism, bipolar condition, prescription drug and recent narcotic abuse. This took a toll on her and the family, and while I am acknowledging and disclosing this, there was also another side to her – a good, caring and loving side – and that is how I will choose to remember her.
Alicia and I had been together for fourteen years. We had two children together, Samantha (13) and Emily (9). They are the greatest gifts as children a family could ever ask for. These wonderful girls share warm, compassionate hearts, and are engaged in the joys of life. As they’ve grown, we’ve felt our roles were, in part, to be guides as parents to introduce them to new experiences, and help them find passions – to grow and learn. Samantha is an artist, loves to sing, play the keyboard, and loves her animals. She would like to become a veterinarian. Emily also shares a talent at visual arts, and recently began playing softball in our local league. She adores our family pets and really looks up to her big sister. Emily is interested in becoming a teacher someday.
All three of us are grieving and we plan to spend more time with family and friends moving forward, in addition to seeking outside counseling/therapy. The kind words and thoughts that we’ve received from friends and loved ones so far has been very moving, to say the least. I’ve been sharing this with the girls as well and they appreciate knowing that so many are thinking about them.
Alicia and I had our ups and downs as many couples do during a marriage. But one thing that we shared was a genuine love for our kids and wanting to do the best for them. In Alicia’s best times, I knew her as a mother who wanted to help and give to her children whatever she could. It was in her nature to always want to help others. When there have been crisis moments with people in our lives in the past, as soon as she knew, she wanted to get involved right away – to do what she could to help and relieve any situation.
She took special pride in working as a caregiver to the elderly or disabled who needed assistance. It was not always an easy job, but it was her way of wanting to make a difference. To help others, I truly believe was her calling and purpose in life. Her personal challenges unfortunately prevented her from taking on too much, and blossoming in that role to her fullest potential, but she did the best she could over the years.
Her desire to help others extended into her sharing the details of her struggles openly with others. They say that alcoholism is a family disease and certainly I experienced tremendous pain and a roller coaster of emotions which I wrote about as a journal for personal relief. As Alicia continued through recovery, she encouraged me to put these thoughts and stories out to the world. It was in part with her support that I released that very personal work. The thinking was simply if it could help others, then that is what ultimately mattered. I have mixed feelings about that work now, not only because Alicia has now passed, but also because it focuses on the stories and experiences of life during her and our family’s most difficult struggles. Her personality, whether as an alcoholic or a sober person, was dramatically different.
Alicia’s innate love for children began at an early age, as she gave birth to two boys, Jeremy and Samuel, while still a teenager herself. She recognized even then, that the best thing she could do was to give the children to loving homes who could take better care of them than she could. Still, it caused years of tremendous personal guilt and anxiety for her in doing that – I believe a part of her never forgave herself or found peace in those decisions – even though she knew it was the correct decision to give those boys the best opportunity and chance at a good life.
I met her after this time, when I was nearly finishing my university studies. We both shared our lives and experiences together, good and bad. But I know that while on this Earth, she experienced happiness and love through our family and close friends. All she really ever wanted was to feel loved and to help others. Through that love, and through her side of kindness and compassion for others, is how I will choose to remember her.
To Alicia: you are missed dearly. I can only find comfort in knowing that you are no longer in pain. I know that you tried and put in a good fight. May you rest in peace.
To all others, thank you for your continued support and love. It means so very much to me and our two girls.
Vivian, Thank you for your kind words and for keeping us in prayer. As far as sharing anything I sent you here in e-mail, I really don’t mind at all – especially if it potentially can help someone.
I am responding to your email. You can contact me at this email, and I will respond. I did not publish your comment because I thought it was your way of getting my attention privately. If you’d like to leave a comment, I gladly accept it. Just let me know.
I hope everything is going well for you and your family.
My heart goes out to you and your family, and I will keep you in prayer. I know she was a good person. Sometimes, life just takes a toll. I do not have the actual paper that the review appeared in, but it was the February 2011 edition. I do have the copy:
The Happiness Mask: Life and Recovery with an Alcoholic//is David Szabados’ much-needed debut memoir. His father, an alcoholic whom he dearly loved, traumatized him during his childhood. His mother eventually left her husband, but not soon enough. The drunken episodes had subconsciously twisted the author’s life. He vowed to never drink, but said, “I do,” to an alcoholic wife. Did he ruin his life and that of the children they would later parent?
The author wants the world to fully understand the subject. Alcoholics are not bad people. They simply can’t drink. Our society caters to this disease unknowingly. “And what will you be drinking this evening?” the waiter inquires. Can we deny that we live in an “at your service” alcoholic society?
In //The Happiness Mask//, the author allows readers to travel vicariously on the scenic route of alcoholism in a traffic jam. Szabados honestly explains a subject that he knows better than most professionals who only studied it and hold high degrees.
Some may not understand the beginning or the end of this book. If you read to understand the disease, you may experience the freedom of release.
Reviewed by Vivian Dixon Sober
I hope this helps you. It is all I have. I do not really know what to say. I am shocked, and I am not a doctor. I wish I could share this information, but I am sure it personal. How did the book do saleswise? Your children need you so. I am happy to know that all of you are together.
People are in pain today. Too many things going on inside that can’t be explained. We turn to vices to help us, but they don’t. They only make our problems bigger. I know about this too. I’ve done it, and I am not alone. I am just not afraid to talk about it and neither is David. As he says, “He hopes this will help you.”
For all who understand the power of prayer, please pray for David and his family. Death Stings!
I don’t use this site for my religious beliefs, but I am a BELIEVER TO THE FIRST DEGREE.
I’m sorry to hear about your loss. David, you write incredibly well. I hope you and your children recover from this Tragedy. Carmi.
David and I have kept in touch. He and his girls are doing well. He is very kind and a good father.
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