Friday, March 18, 2005


I've been avoiding this for a bit now. Trying not to think about it. But two nights ago it really went to a new level, so it's time.

Where to start...? I guess in chronological order...

Rewind 12 years.

I was roaming the country with The Juanabees Comic Theatre Company. It was fun. Good for a 20 something to go out and play rock-star for a bit. I recognize now that the lifestyle can be a real trap though. Nothing revolutionary about that. Lot's of drinking and drugs... never harder than LSD and frankly, I didn't even find that (acid) very much fun. Late nights... often into the morning... and sleeping well into the day. Passing time on tour is a bitch. I never saw so many bad movies in my life... just to pass the time. Otherwise I'd have spent a lot more time drinking and doing drugs. It's a slippery slope.

One July in Winnipeg, I was hanging out after a show at a bar that we regularly hung out at - Mother Tucker's (sadly no longer there). I had just found a new woman to hang out with... Bhama. My God, she was hot. I knew there was a lot of jealousy surrounding my being with her. Lot's of guys thought it was pretty unfair that the goofy guy in the comedy troupe got the hottest chick. But that's peripheral to the story.
Bhama and I were hanging out. And there was this young girl - certainly too young to legally be in the bar - making rounds. Every five minutes she'd be back at my table cooing and being all groupie-ish.
Eventually Bhama whispered to me... "I am going to make that little girl cry." If she was successful, I never heard about it.

Fast forward about 10 years. I am engaged. But it's not going well. My fiancee is an alcoholic - although I hadn't figured it out yet (denial is an amazingly destructive defensive tool.) And who should re-appear into my life? ...That 'little girl' who Bhama wanted to make cry. We have a mutual friend... and they are doing a show together. (It actually took months for us to figure out that we knew each other from way back then, but it came.) She was still living in Winnipeg, with her husband... but now it was her turn to be on tour and my turn to be audience.

Half a year later, my relationship with Mia (my fiancee) is essentially over. She's a drunk, I'm not having any of it. She's in denial. And my negative attitude to her drinking has pushed her into the arms of another man.

I have to give thanks to a pair of friends of mine, Husband and Wife, who are among the most genuine people I know. I kind of suspected that they had a similar issue in their life. But I knew that they had survived it. The day I attended my first Al-Anon meeting, my fellow lover of an alcoholic supported me with excellent insight and kind words. The next day, the recovering alcoholic, did the same - the perspective was very welcome and enlightening. Sadly it was too little to late for my marriage.

(Although this is a largely separate issue - I need to say that my friend, the alcoholic, proves to me everytime I see him that "alcoholism" is not an epithet. I wish Mia had understood that. That I wasn't calling her an evil person. I was trying to help.)

And then that "little girl" (and she's still a fairly small person) reappears in Vancouver... in my circle of friends. Go figure. Her marriage is over too. We start hanging out. Regularly. Nothing sexual. Just two people who have similar issues to deal with, similar interests and who happened upon each other at just the right time. Angela and I.

Oddly, we found that a number of people we knew all left their spouses around the same time. We, as a joke, formed a 'support group' - which was really more of a social club. It didn't last long. I ended up sleeping with two other members... that kinda killed it. The good thing is that I am still with the second one. But you could just as easily argue that we got together because we worked on a show together. Angela was involved in that show too. She and Eden became close during that time as well.

In the year since then Ang and I have done three shows together, as well as a few one-night gigs. We've hung out, we've drunk, we've smoked-up together. It's all been good.

About two months ago Angela and a few other ex-pat Winnipegers mounted a show at a small local theatre. Included in the group was my friend the wife of my friend the recovering alcoholic. They asked me if I'd be in the show. I had to turn it down. I had just completed practically six-months of constant theatre work. I had promised Eden that I wouldn't take anything new until something else was off my plate. That and that I've boycotted the theatre they were working in, caused me to say 'no.' My friend and co-worker Jonny took the part instead.

With little more than a week until opening, Jonny informed me that Angela was dropping out - actually they'd asked her to do so - and they were pushing the show back. I refused to get into the gossip mill to find out what was up, but inevitably pieces floated my way.

Eventually, my friend the recovering alcoholic who had had direct involvement in things via his wife, told me the tale as close to first hand as I knew I'd ever get it.

Angela had been behaving erratically. Not showing up for rehearsals. Showing up late. Sleeping in the middle of rehearsal. Not coming prepared.
They had to have a talk with her - sort of a shape-up or ship-out chat.
Then, in the middle of a rehearsal at Angela's apartment, some strung-out junkie practically breaks into the apartment and crashes out on the kitchen floor. Jonny was there - apparently this fellow - a 'friend' of hers was 'accidentally injected with heroin' and just needed a place to come down.

Of course the question is "how the fuck does someone get 'accidentally injected with heroin'?"
This was about when I first started hearing about things. It was immediately after that that they decided that they needed to cut their losses and replace Angela. They cancelled the first week of the show and recast her.
I was starting to feel very pleased that I had turned down the offer.

Around the same time - without really knowing the exact sequence of events - a few other things happened...

Theatre Terrific - a local company that does theatre with special needs people - was looking for a new Artistic Director. I noticed this posting and sent it to Ang. She's worked with special needs folk for practically all her life, and she's in theatre. The only thing working against her was her relatively young age. She applied. She did the first interview and got short-listed down to three candidates... obviously I wasn't too off in thinking that she's be a good candidate. When the second set of interviews occurred some one (I'm not clear on who.) asked her how it went. Ang replied that the date of the interview had been changed... pushed back. Well, unfortunately for Ang, another friend of both of ours works with someone who is on the Theatre Terrific B.o.D. The dates did NOT change. Ang never showed.
Another mutual friend set Ang up with a fairly low functionality joe-job at his office. She quit showing up for that one almost immediately.
And (big time rumour here as far as I can tell, but it fits all the other events) she's been seen with the aforementioned junkie.... er, guy who was 'accidentally injected with heroin'... arm in arm and otherwise acting all boy-girl-friendy.

An intervention was staged. Ang's Mom came from Winnipeg. Ang's best friend came from Toronto. Ang promised that it was all going to get better.

One of the small honours in my life is that a group of friends from Winnipeg (a place I have never lived) who have all gradually migrated to Vancouver, have somewhere along the line decided to count me as one of their own. There must be close to a dozen of them in the core group, and at least as many peripheral 'Peggers. And somehow, I have been accepted as a part of the core of that circle of friends.

One of the things that that core do, is have a quarterly (probably more) birthday dinner for those of us in the group whose birthday happens to fall close to it. It's actually a fairly new thing - not quite a year now. And others are welcome - usually based upon who the guests of honour are. It's actually new enough that we've only recently realised that it's a 'thing.'

This past Wednesday was the birthday dinner for Angela and one other ex-pat-'Pegger. We all arrived, except Ang.
We all ordered. Ang phoned Karen's cell. (Karen directed the play I turned down.) She was waiting for a cab and would be there shortly.
Our dinner arrived. Ang phoned again. Her cab hadn't arrived yet and now she was 'waiting for her landlord' - why? We don't know.
We finished dinner and dessert and were waiting on the cheque. Ang phoned again. We all listened as Karen, rather impassively went through a conversation that we could all fill in the blanks of. From our end we could practically tell the leading question that preceeded Karen's response of "You're right, we will all be gone by the time you're here. Yes, you're right, you shouldn't bother coming." Apparently she was calling from Burnaby (a suburb nowhere near where she lives). So much for waiting for the landlord and/or a cab. I assume she was looking to score. We all assume that.

It was odd. Sitting around that table together. All of us knowing that our friend, while still alive, is gone. We've done what we can. If she wasn't going to respond to an intervention, she's not going to respond to anything except her own decisions. She will only seek help when she's ready to get help for herself.
I experienced this with Mia's alcohol addiction. (Somewhat ironic that I lived through it with Ang's friendship as a major crutch.) And of course our friend's, husband and wife*, have gone through it together as well - and he was ready to help himself. He knows best of all. We, as a group, know what we know largely because of his personal insight.
No one actually directly addressed it. There was nothing to say. We all knew.
It was sad, but yet no one was willing to let it ruin an otherwise pleasant evening. There was no point in wasting more energy and effort on something that is out of our hands. I feel confident that if Angela came to any one of us asking for help - genuine help - we'd all be happy to do so. But no one is willing to hurt ourselves any further. No one is going to give her the opportunity to take advantage of us for her own sickness.

I had a friend - about a decade ago - back in Victoria, who had a cocaine problem. I watched as he took advantage of one after another of our friends. Through a combination of luck (he never came to me in a fashion that could be exploited, until I had witnessed the way he treated other friends he did that to) and observation I never let him close enough to me to take advantage of me. We haven't heard from him for close to a decade.
I do miss him in small ways from time to time. But I'm glad to be free of the hassle of being his friend.

I expect I'll feel the same about Ang in time too.

*I'm avoiding using their names for a modicum of privacy. They don't really make it a big secret. But they don't advertise it. I only figured it out through observation and comparison to my own experience. All of us in that group do know. If you know me and are reading this and you know of whom I speak, then there is nothing lost. If you know me and don't know of whom I speak, please try to turn your mind from it in the name of discretion. If you know me, don't know of whom I speak, but what I've said makes the proverbial penny drop, please do exert the same level of discretion. If you don't know me, then it doesn't matter at all.

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