This is not a story with a happy ending
This is a true story about how I loved and lost an alcoholic. This feels like a great failure in my life. After all, my mission is to help alcoholics find recovery. However, I failed to help my own partner recover. When I work with families in recovery, I wonder if this makes me a better interventionist. Does going through the ultimate pain create empathy or does it make me disingenuous? I assume that everyone and anyone CAN recover from an addiction. I have seen people from all walks of life and any age recover. But I also know that some people won’t recover.
We drank like alcoholics together
Our relationship started in our late 20s, I was an airline pilot and he was a medical doctor. We lived in downtown Cleveland, and in our small gay scene, we were an it couple. I didn’t know it, but I was drinking alcoholically at that time. I drank socially, but I socially drank often with the mission to get drunk. I didn’t see Mark as an alcoholic, he was a doctor, after all.
Three years into our relationship, I was miserable. We were living together, fighting almost daily and at the same time that my career was going sideways. I felt trapped in the relationship, our finances were bundled together and I didn’t see an easy way out. I began to drink harder just so that I could be in the same room with him. This started a cycle, we drank together as this was the only activity that we shared. We would than get argumentative, and need to get more drunk so that we could both pass out.
We did everything to cover up our unhappiness
As our relationship sank into a deeper and darker pit, we did everything we could to cover up our unhappiness. We got a golden retriever, bought an apartment, talked about having kids, and unbelievably, started a business together.
The business that we started became successful. We had three locations and 85 employees, but our relationship was making me very sick. I knew that I had to get sober, but the relationship kept triggering me to drink again and again. For me to recover from my addiction, I had to leave. I finally got a few months of sobriety together and was able to get my own apartment, leaving the toxicity of our relationship. The day after I left, we both had to go to work and run our company.
He would call me late at night, drunk as usual
Over the next few years, Mark’s drinking got worse and worse. He blamed it on me for leaving him. He became a very difficult business partner, not showing up for work and showing up under the influence. As his addiction accelerated, he would call me drunk night after night. I would always answer, I was always there for him. He would miss work and I was forced to cover for him. We had a lot of employees that depended on us and I refused to let our fractured relationship and his addiction affect their lives.
During this time, I did everything that I could to get help for Mark. As he got more and more sick, he regularly ended up in the emergency room. For several years, there was a cycle of his mom calling me from Pennsylvania to tell me that he was in the hospital. I would dutifully race off to the ER to comfort him. I am sure I went to different ER’s a dozen times, always brining a blanket, pillows and a phone charger. I would drop what ever I was doing to go help him out.
I tried over and over to get him help
He would brush these emergency visits off, telling me that this was his last time drinking and that he would get better. We would have a few uneventful months, and then the ER cycle would repeat.
Mark would call me at any time, often when I was at dinner with someone new that I was dating. He would throw my life upside down. When he drank, he was actively suicidal and I would leave dinner to attend to his emergency. How could I not? I was caught in his cycle of addiction, and I was co-dependent.
Finally, I had to walk away. Mark’s addiction was affecting my mental well-being. After going to meet him in the ER one last time, I called Mark’s mom and told her, “I am sorry, I just can’t do this anymore.” I was strong in my recovery, but I was still being sucked into the insanity of his situation. I know that Mark wanted to die, but I was standing in his way and trying to stop his death by pure force.
I knew he wanted to die and I couldn’t do anything about it
Three years ago, Mark passed away, early in the COVID pandemic. He was young enough that he should have been able to weather the disease, but his body was compromised from his years of heavy use.
I sent Mark to rehab three times. Three times we intervened, paid for, and sent him to treatment. All three times he walked out the door several days after entering the treatment facility. I introduced him to sponsors and took him to AA meetings. We sent him to expensive psychologists. I did everything I could to show him the happy life that I had made for myself in recovery.
Looking back without regret
As I look back, I know that I did everything in my power to help Mark. I have no regrets in how hard I tried to help him. I do know that if I hadn’t tried everything that I could to help him, I would have an empty space in my heart today.
I think conducting a formal intervention is a very important part of dealing with a loved one’s addiction. We don’t know if they are going to recover, but by doing an intervention and by sticking with the intervention process for several months, families can be assured that they tried everything they could to help.
I want everyone to recover, but as Mark showed me, not everyone will. It is important to me that I hired an interventionist for him and that I paid for rehab for him. I wanted recovery for Mark, but ultimately, I couldn’t work harder for his recovery than he was willing to work.
About Adam Banks
Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and the owner of Adam Banks Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.
Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long-term sobriety. His work has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach.
Adam has authored four books on addiction. His recent work, Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery, educates families on the entire intervention process. He also offers a free video course for families considering an intervention for a loved one.
Adam is available for alcohol and drug intervention services in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally.