My Friend Ian

My friend Ian passed away yesterday, but he died a long time ago, a victim of the great god alcohol. While I honor him for the wonderful person he was, my thoughts are more with the people he harmed terribly, recklessly and needlessly.

That would include his wonderful children and their wonderful moms, his wonderful mother and father, and many others. I say this because I know that Ian in his right mind would want me to speak the truth.

He was my friend since the sixth grade. We spent hours playing pool on a warped table with a single record: Highway 61 Revisited: “They’re selling postcards of the hanging. They’re painting the passports brown…”

We were both in the Peter Pan generation, so I guess you could say we failed to grow up together. I guess we knew each other about as well as any two people ever did.

He was brilliant and superbly fit and beautiful. Women said he looked like a Greek god. On top of that, he was rich. And his sense of humor was exquisite. You know those people you want to send a really good joke to? Ian was one of those people. We had many a great laugh.

I’ll put the rest of this together somewhere else, but fast forward many years — kids, marriages, etc. and I get a call from Ian.

How’s it going, I ask, and he says not so good. How’s Spence, I say — his wife — and he says she keeps forty-fiving him.

I say well sixty-nining is good, but forty-fiving sounds bad, and he says yea, that means getting committed for 45 days.

Prior to this, I should say, Ian had drunk himself into the hospital when his liver got so enlarged that it was rubbing against… never mind. I had said to Spence, with whom Ian had just had a son, that if Ian were in his right mind he would say what I was saying and that was that the marriage vows do not include sticking around with someone drinking himself to death.

So back to the phone call. Ian says, “My mother was here.”

I say, “Oh, Yeah?”

He says, “Yeah. She said I love drinking more than I love my wife. More than I love my kids.”

“mmmm” I say.

So he continues “I said, ‘Why don’t you die? You’re seventy-six years old. Why don’t you die?'”

That’s what he said to his mother. I realized I wasn’t talking to Ian, but to the great god alcohol, who had conquered his soul. Ian went through a lot of incarceration and a lot of treatment after that. Whenever he got arrested he always added an assault and battery on a police officer. He just couldn’t help it.

He would call me from time to time, and I hope to tell you all about that somewhere else as well, if you’re interested. It twisted me around some just hearing about it. But right up to the end, for him it was, “Why are they doing this to me?” He was just so proud and so stubborn that he couldn’t be cured.

The lesson I hope anyone who reads this will take away is this: Alcohol is an enormous, demonic force that no one — not even a mighty, brilliant force of nature like Ian — can deal with by themselves. Whether it’s you or someone near you, you need help from people who know how to help, and they are all around you. All you have to do is reach out.

But you have to reach out. If you tackle it yourself, you’ll just find yourself circling the drain. My friend couldn’t be helped because he refused to believe that he was just like everyone else.

Ian is one of many millions of beautiful souls destroyed by alcohol. Don’t be one. And don’t let anyone else be one. And if you’re dealing with this enormous, demonic force, don’t be so stubborn and pigheaded that you can’t get help.