Saturday, July 20th, 2024

B Book Excerpts by Jean Loxley-Barnard
The Hope Trap -- The Bottle


The following is an excerpt from The Hope Trap, Jean Loxley-Barnard's forthcoming book.

I set about the business of divorce.

 It was a relief to feel no real animosity, no need to hurl accusations. I seemed to be going through it mechanically, even lovingly.

I went to my sister's home for the weekend, feeling more like a free spirit than a fleeing rabbit, the way I used to feel when I went during previous separations from Rob.

When returning home, I had begun to unload some trash and, when lifting the can's lid, I had noticed one paper bag, alone in the bottom of the otherwise empty can.

Rob had not had a drink in almost three years...
Now I was staring at an empty bottle in a paper bag
at the bottom of our trash can.

I found myself picking up that lone bag and peering inside. I just stared. Inside the bag was an empty champagne bottle.

As far as I knew, Rob had not had a drink in almost three years, since the intervention and his month in Tucson for the therapy that had led to sobriety. Now I was staring at an empty bottle in a paper bag at the bottom of our trash can. I knew instantly why it was there and, at the same moment, was trying to rationalize why it was there.

Maybe Rob took it over to Kitty's parents- a little gift, the Pollyanna in me suggested. My saner self said sarcastically, Why is the empty bottle back here, in a bag?

Despite Pollyanna's desperate efforts, I knew what I had not suspected, what I wanted least to find out. Rob was drinking again.

I knew where the bottle came from. Rob had held his office Christmas party at our home and had purchased eight bottles of Champagne for eight people coming for a few hours. A little more than two bottles had sufficed. Five remained in our spare refrigerator. I went to look. Four.

I looked again the next morning, and there were three bottles remaining. I had not seen Rob drink one drop in three years, and still wished there was some other explanation. This new discovery meant danger was at hand. The road downhill can be very swift for an alcoholic surgeon off the wagon.

Bottled Up Feelings

I talked to my writer friend, Jo, about the missing champagne bottles. Jo had been married to an alcoholic and had become something of an expert on the subject. She had referred me three years earlier to Dr. Townsend, the director of the impaired physicians' program. She had begun again to caution me about the dangers if Rob had really tumbled off the wagon. 

Jo had been encouraging me to seek individual therapy. She did public relations for a local psychiatrist who had had some phenomenal success with a technique with a long name - Intensive Short Term Psychodynamic Therapy- ISTD for short. 

I knew the psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Eastern, and had found him very unassuming and intense at the same time. I had been impressed with what I had learned about his therapy's relatively quick results. His central approach was to get to the core of feelings and pull them out by the roots. I could use some of that.

In the wake of finding the empty bottles, deciding to get a divorce, and learning that our minister and his wife both thought I was in physical danger from Rob, I decided Jo was right. It was time for me to get some individual therapy.

Suddenly, I felt something I had not felt much of- anger.  Maybe it was because I knew that I was going to go for therapy and felt safe enough to feel that anger. Whatever the reason, I was feeling it, and feeling it strongly.

Everyone had asked me, "Where is your anger?" I hadn't been able to find any anger. Now, it found me.

It began with a feeling of disgust. I felt disgusted at Rob's behavior. I wanted to slap his face, that arrogant posture, jaw jutting forward in that determined, "I'm fine; what's your problem?" attitude, so characteristic of Rob's Mr Hyde persona. I wanted to slap that look off his face.