Gas lighting…

For three days all went well. Then the old familiar pattern of drinking returned. Liza found half-empty whiskey bottles under the bread in the bread box, under the corner of the mattress, tucked behind the cushion of the easy chair, and behind the side rafters in the garage. One night after closing the café, Clyde picked up the large meat knife, ran his fingers over the blade and with a mean gleam in his eyes lunged at her. “You can’t do it!” Liza yelled, and stood her ground. Clyde dropped the knife onto the table and backed out the door. Liza sat on the back step a long while that night, pondering her marriage.

He took most of the money from the café register and spent it in the taverns in the towns surrounding Wellsville, or bought whiskey to bring home. Liza knew how mean the whiskey made him – the few nights they spent together now were nightmares. He was never satiated, she could do no more than acquiesce, but she felt so reviled and dishonored. Liza could see no solution, ‘He can’t keep on living this way, and neither can I.’ She became frantic and confused. ‘I’ll put warfarin in his coffee, a little at a time. Maybe it will make him sick, maybe in time it will kill him…’ Liza took the can off the top shelf and spooned a little poison into his coffee. Clyde took a few sips, and then fell back on the bed, dead drunk. “I’m going mad!” Liza wailed, and pounded her fists against her head.

From page 154 of “Signs Along The Way”…

“Gas lighting” is an insidious ploy used by drug-damaged souls to gain control over those closest to them – by making their target think they’ve gone crazy. Whether intentional or just an ingrained personality trait of an addict, the relationship damage is severe and lasting. Gaslighters are usually not aware (or don’t care) that they are the problem, and Gaslightees are often the caretakers, so they are not accustomed to ask for, or even recognize, that they desperately need help in dealing with their addict.
It took several decades for Grandma Layton to contour draw her way out of that crazy rabbit hole, and she didn’t go that journey alone. Her parents tried their best to help, and eventually her children did what they could, going as far as committing their mother to electric shock therapy. Grandma finally took her mental health matters into her own hands, and went to counseling. Her sister Carolyn opened the door to healing when she suggested art classes, and Grandma jumped in with both feet – and, as they say, the rest is Herstory!
Mental health counselors are there and waiting for those who will seek them out. When loved ones are seeing changes in your behavior and personality and begging you to get help – get it. The only way out of that deep dark hole is by asking for assistance, you cannot go it alone, especially if the cause of the destruction is alcohol or drug related.

Elizabeth Layton’s drawing is: MY CRACK BABY – A BIT OF TRASH IN THE GUTTER
November 6, 1989

“A dog raises its leg against this street-corner fire hydrant. Part of his puddle trickled down on to the baby. A nerd on the curb relieves himself directly into the baby’s mouth. The baby lies in a gutter strewn with crack paraphernalia, beer cans, whiskey bottles, cigarette stubs, marijuana stubs, and a dead body whose hand has relinquished a blood-covered knife. Passersby on the sidewalk walk over the police’s chalk outline of a dead body, and amidst more guns, liquor bottles and paraphernalia. Not many rainbows here, but on the storefronts are signs – People Who Care, Foster Grandparents, NA, AA, and Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers.”

3 thoughts on “Gas lighting…

  1. At some point you just quit caring. I want to say, from personal experience, that it is a bittersweet moment, but it’s not. It’s freeing and there is no looking back. The fact that one was able to survive all those years and still be intact (mostly) speaks volume about the power of one’s ability to love. And to know when that’s not enough. Grandma’s story is startling when you realize how much she put up with, for so long. Clyde made a few futile attempts to get sober, but not for the right reasons, so those attempts were never successful. That is why Grandma wanted her story told, maybe it would help others to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.

  2. Seems so many know this from personal experiences – drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs all have the ability to alter a persons complete personality and ruin not only their life, but the lives of all their loved ones. And the drugs just keep getting more potent more readily available (or they make them themselves); alcohol is so accepted as part of everyday life; and prescriptions are handed out like candy that it’s a matter of your own life or death that you know your limitations and respect them. There are many people willing and waiting to help but NO-ONE can get thru this but you. Take advantage of the help that’s offered and available and get your life back.
    If you are in the Ottawa or Paola, KS area visit Elizabeth Layton Centers for Hope and Guidance. Knowing these centers are to help others who struggled as she did honor Grandma in a way she would live.

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