This is Chapter 12 of my memoir: “The Imperfect Logic of the Heart.” The book is available on Amazon. I am reprinting it here chapter by chapter.
Your driver’s license is considered in law a privilege that can be revoked by the state that granted it if you refuse to be tested when suspected of driving “not quite all there.” It used to be called driving while intoxicated (DWI). Now it’s driving under the influence (DUI) to cover all our new ways of altering our consciousness.
The laws are pretty much uniform in all the states. If stopped, and you agree to be tested (blow or blood test) and flunk the test, that’s strong evidence that you have committed a crime, which can be punished in a number of ways that may include imprisonment but almost always a substantial increase in your insurance rates. If you’ve been drinking it’s usually a better bet not to blow.
Tamma usually drove under the influence of something or other. If not illegal drugs or alcohol, then prescribed drugs that impair your ability to drive. She was also a very bad driver on her best day often driving a hot sports car with the top down. But she only received one DUI in her long career and never suffered an insurance rate increase. For this I am to blame. Tamma kept her Ohio license and the “points” earned for a DUI for reasons unknown never transferred to Ohio. All Florida wanted was their punishment and fine. They apparently didn’t care about Ohio. My insurance rates were never increased.
I was at home wondering where the hell she was since she was only going to the drug store to buy something related to her nails. All she needed was polish and some kind of number something file. But over two hours had passed. For anyone else this would be cause for concern but for Tamma every turn of the aisle was another adventure that could delay her. She was always shamelessly late.
She could have called me on her cell phone or returned my calls to her cell phone but that would require her hearing the ring of the phone, which was usually swallowed underneath her seat along with diet soda cans and mystery tissues. So when she finally answered my fifth or sixth call I was relieved until she responded by saying: “I’m lost.” This was a surprise since the Walgreen was less than three quarters of a mile from the house. She said she was near the car wash so I immediately knew where she was and started to tell her she was only a few blocks away. But then her only response was “Oh shit!” and then the cell phone relayed a “capture and arrest” scene as Tamma was pulled over.
I could hear the officer ask for her license and registration and her slurred response: “I don’t know where the fuck it is.” That was the signal to turn off the TV and throw on the jeans and drive over to the intersection where I suspected she was being stopped. Approximately eight minutes later my suspicions were confirmed as I watched her stand on the corner of the street with her hands behind her back tied with the new plastic restraints that have replaced handcuffs.
Seeing her on the corner in handcuffs was not the shock for me it would have been for a normal husband. It was just another adventure in the world of aberrant behavior. So my response was not: “Hey, I’m an attorney. Let me speak to my client.” It was instead:
“Officer, that’s my wife. Can I speak to you for a moment?”
“Listen sir, he responds, “She’s gone. You’ll have to talk to her tomorrow. We can hold her 12 hours before we have to book her for DUI.”
Now innocent, I forget the lawyer crap which I know won’t work and respond:
“Oh no you misunderstand. I don’t know anything about that. I just want to make sure she has her medicine.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’d like not to shout at you. Can you come a little closer? It’s a bit embarrassing.”
“Listen, you can take her in and have her blow that thing you use all day but she isn’t drunk. She’s just on some crazy prescription drugs. She isn’t the best driver on a good day.”
“What do you mean? If she’s impaired SHE SHOULDN’T BE DRIVING.”
“I cannot argue with that. I don’t know if she’s legally impaired. Her drugs are legally prescribed and she forgot them earlier and so if you are taking her in she MUST have them. I only live around the corner. Just please let me get them for her.”
Tamma is now sitting down on the sidewalk looking like she couldn’t care less and, in fact, is trying to scratch her nose with her shoulder with her arms behind her back and finding her failed attempts amusing.
The cop says: “What do you mean she MUST have them? What happens when she doesn’t take her meds?”
“The truth, officer, which I didn’t want to shout, is: SHE IS SEVERELY MENTALLY ILL and those drugs keep her from flying out of control.”
He looks at her again, now even more involved in the nose scratch attempt.
“What exactly do you mean by flying out of control?”
“Well for openers” I say “she may try to bite you.”
Now in my defense, I don’t like to lie to the police, although they of course lie all the time, but actually she was a little nuts and didn’t people do that kind of thing if they were crazy enough? So I exaggerated a little.
The officer who I was talking to was obviously the older senior guy and he shouted to his younger partner. “Henry; Cut her loose.”
“Alright”, he began, “here’s the deal. Get her out of here. Take her home. And then get her car out of here within the hour. If I see her in the car in the next 12 hours she goes to jail, meds or not.”
And so Tamma gets in the car and looks at me and says:
“Walgreens didn’t have the fucking right nail files. Can you take me to CVS?”
A powerful hurricane swept from the east coast to the west and our power went out and stayed out. We had a friend in South Beach whose girlfriend was traveling out of the country. He said we could stay in her apartment for at least two weeks while she traveled. The power was not affected in South Beach and so we took advantage of the offer. Tamma seemed more relaxed and happier than I had seen her since we moved to Florida. But it was clear to me that she was now a full-fledged alcoholic. In my confused balance of evils I considered alcohol a welcome departure from drug use. And it certainly was cheaper.
When we returned to Boca her doctor suggested that Tamma go to the hospital for rehab, but she was resistant and refused. She had now been formally diagnosed with “bipolar affective disorder, mixed type”. In the doc’s words: “She has wide mood swings ranging from severe depression to severe excitement and elation.” He added that there was a strong genetic component to this disorder. Tamma’s mother and grandmother had both been schizophrenic. Tamma was inching in that direction.
Once her behavior was described in medical terms, for some reason I became less affected with displeasure by her worst behaviors. Knowing a physical condition was the catalyst for her bad behavior transferred my response from reprimanding a bad child to encouraging an adult to follow her doctor’s advice. This new formal diagnosis fed into my codependent tendencies. It excused my insufferable desire to shield and parent her.
I was financially secure for now, many months ahead of the game, and so directed more attention to Tamma and “caring for her.” So when she smashed her new car in the first of many fender benders, instead of anger there was “understanding.” I was excusing things that needed not to be excused. And when I finally felt she was on a more even track, I went back to work. Accommodating bad behavior in the business world instead of at home, behavior I should have run from. My ability to overlook obvious character flaws made me an attractive target for business pros specializing in bad behavior.
Two bad characters had approached me while I was working at June Fourth and now sought me out again. They knew that I did private placements and was sometimes capable of raising equity funds. The first character had an airplane parts business where he was able to buy surplus parts from inventories no longer needed at large companies and then remarket them on the internet. This was actually a very good business. I did legal work for him and helped him raise a little money. Somehow, although his business was active and growing, he was funneling the profits into another entity and showing little gains or actual losses. In other words, he was a crook. When I discovered what he was doing, I went after him and he filed bankruptcy. He had an excellent attorney he obviously had used many times before and beat the rap. They were serial experts at screwing investors.
My next disaster association was with a nice Jewish guy from Jersey who said once too often
“To be perfectly honest……”
If you have to say “to be perfectly honest” you probably are not. This was another potentially good business involving rural health clinics that would have been very successful if my Jewish guy was not a crook. The details are irrelevant.
But if these failed starts deterred me from ever finding the right people to work, with something changed with people David had introduced to me. David knew a father son real estate business in Detroit specializing in buying properties leased to the federal government. They were looking for a guy with my credentials. They needed an attorney who had a Series 7 license who knew real estate to sit on their board in anticipation of forming a private REIT.
That private REIT was to grow into Government Properties Trust and be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
While I was working for this new venture Tamma continued her drinking. I believed mental illness was actually mostly a physical disease and that Tamma’s only cure would be a magic pill not yet developed. This was not a popular view in the United States, originating with early influences like Jonathan Edwards who preached about “sinners before an angry God.” We have a long tradition of believing that all behavior off the norm is a result of sin or at the least failed discipline. My brain was tossed between two approaches. Hold out for science or lock her up somewhere.
The first time it happened she almost bled-out. It was terrifying.
Serious liver diseases such as cirrhosis can cause a number of complications, including esophageal varices: abnormally enlarged veins in the lower part of the esophagus, the tube that connects your throat and stomach. Esophageal varices develop when normal blood flow to the liver is blocked. The blood then backs up into smaller, more fragile blood vessels in the esophagus, and sometimes in the stomach or rectum, causing the vessels to swell.
Esophageal varices don’t produce symptoms unless they rupture and bleed. Esophageal bleeding can be fatal.
Normally, blood from your intestine, spleen and pancreas enters your liver through a large blood vessel called the portal vein. But if scar tissue blocks circulation through the liver, the blood backs up, leading to increased pressure within the portal vein (portal hypertension). This forces blood into smaller veins in your esophagus, stomach and occasionally your rectum. The excess blood causes these fragile, thin-walled veins to balloon outward and sometimes to rupture and bleed. Once varices develop, they continue to grow larger.
To stop bleeding, the doctor uses an endoscope to snare the varices with an elastic band, which essentially “strangles” the veins, or a shunt where a small tube is placed between the portal vein and the hepatic vein, which carries blood from the liver back to your heart. The tube is kept open with a metal stent. The shunt is used when all other treatments have failed or as a temporary measure in people awaiting a liver transplant.
Doctor Cohen the gastroenterologist would use an endoscope to tie and bind her varices.
I had heard her vomit and then yell at about 3 am. She was in the bathroom and I could see a toilet bowl full of blood.
“I’m okay.” She says.
“I’m not going to the emergency room. I promise if I bleed again I’ll go to the hospital in the morning. Go back to bed.”
Minutes later, it happens again. This time she does not make it to the bathroom and does the exorcist thing on the floor. I pick her up and throw her in the car and speed to the hospital emergency room. The waiting room is packed, and I am now screaming “Bleeder!” Where did I hear this, a TV rerun of ER?
She is immediately wheeled away from the stunned waiting room while I sign papers and answer legal questions as to whether or not I am empowered in various ways and of course whether or not the hospital has any hope of payment.
Once in the small internal waiting room Tamma vomits blood into the sink in huge globs of red congealed matter. In my shock I use my hand to force these unwanted discharges down the sink hole. Not a wise move for the health of the community. Now all Tamma wants is water and a clonazepam, two things she definitely cannot have. I discover from her confession that she swallowed four pills before she was admitted to calm herself.
The hospital resident who visits us first has attitude. He has branded her one more drug infected alcoholic who has ruined herself and he treats her accordingly. Maybe that was the truth but you want more for your loved ones and expect more from the hired help. And then since Tamma has uttered obscenities at a decibel level that could disturb even Zen like nurses, she is suddenly visited by Dr. Harvey Cohen, chief gastroenterologist of the hospital who essentially breaks it all down for the happy couple he is seeing for the first time.
She needs surgery (the endoscope procedure) which he would normally do immediately but he needs a little more history on her, so she will remain in the hospital overnight with, of course, no water (so he can do the tests he needs) and no fun drugs.
Tamma can live without food or drink for several days but not without drugs or alcohol which (without another entire long narrative description) ultimately results in her being physically restrained and “Baker Acted” once again by her psychiatrist also on the staff of the hospital. She is to be treated against her will.
She does get scoped, banded up and ultimately sent home after much screaming, mostly at me for being such a wimp. A follow up is scheduled for four months later.
The first time I saw Tamma take another drink, I moved out.
Tamma really didn’t protest.
Even a sick codependent had his limits.
I found another rental a few blocks from the beach in Delray.
I left Tamma alone in the apartment after calling her family for help. None was forthcoming so I prayed that Tamma would sort things out on her own. The new place I rented had a great kitchen and, of course in the back of my mind, I was thinking Tamma would love this place and maybe start cooking again. When I rented I told the landlord my wife was very sick in the hospital and I wasn’t sure when she would be joining me so she would not be signing the lease.
I had a few trips to Detroit and a lot of roller skating on the streets near the beach, Steven visited with his new girlfriend, and then eventually Tamma moved in. Hopefully more self-aware. She was sober or at least not drunk. Her drinking had slowed way down.
There was a gay bar a block away that captured her afternoons on more than one occasion. I actually loved their cocktail hour and the piano player who took us back to the 40’s. I think what was missing in her booze repertoire was now replaced with cocaine. I wasn’t buying it for her. Probably her attorney friend, Rhonda’s brother, was getting it for her. He visited the same bar. Although she had not worked for years, Tamma managed to have her own credit card with a large limit. She would always manage to get me to pay the minimum. When I stopped paying somehow she found the money for the minimum. Probably a cash advance from another credit card. She was good at the game.
Our new landlord hated Tamma and not necessarily for her behavior. She insisted on his actually doing the things landlords are supposed to do, and after our one year he was not willing to renew our lease and so off we went one mile away to the edge of Delray in a gated community and another two story townhouse.
Our new landlord, an attorney, called our old landlord for references and heard a torrent of expletives about Tamma, but he ignored the comments. He was impressed with my REIT story, fancied himself a real estate entrepreneur and rented to us anyway.
Tamma stayed home most of the time and seemed to become more depressed. She started drinking again. Now she was drinking the liquor chain’s ABC house brand of vodka with lots of cranberry juice. I heard about a rehab place in Delray that was supposedly one of the best in the country. The downside was that it was very expensive and did not take insurance.
I decided to visit the place anyway since I could almost walk there. I found the place oddly in the “crackhead” part of Delray. Its front door was locked. Apparently the staff was on a break or in a conference or maybe it was just lunch time.
I sat outside on a bench near the door and watched a woman walk towards me lighting a cigarette from the end of the old one. She looked like she had been up all night. I assumed she was a patient. She sat on the bench near me and breathed out a half yawn and sigh. I said hello and asked her if she was a patient.
“Nope I just work here.”
I told her I was hoping to check it out.
We exchanged the normal pleasantries and then she asked me if I was thinking about rehab for myself. I said no and then told her about Tamma and that I was just hoping to get some advice or ideas.
ˇThere is no way I could afford this place.”
We talked about the whole cycle I had been through with Tamma and about her diagnosis, her doctor, all of it. She seemed genuinely interested in my story. I got up to leave and thanked her for the talk. Only then did she tell me that she was the boss, the administrator.
“Go get your wife right now and let’s see if we can get her some help. Don’t worry about the cost. I’ll try and sneak her through the cracks for a while.”
I literally ran home to find Tamma asleep in bed.
I woke her up.
“Tamma, you can’t keep doing this to yourself. You are going to die.”
I told her about the place.
“Do you want to finally get some help? Please, you have to go right now.”
She sat up and made direct eye contact and said. “Okay, I’ll go.”
“Just throw on some jeans, I’ll get what you need later. We have to go right now.”
Tamma seemed to know of the place and didn’t put up an argument in the car. My friend remained in her office at the facility but I could see her at her desk and she gave me a little nod of acknowledgement when I walked in with Tamma. The intake process began immediately but did not go well.
Knowing Tamma, she probably managed to eat at least three clonazepam’s before getting in the car. That should have kept her calm, but when the intake person told Tamma the basics, her first response was I am not giving up my meds. I need them.
“Tamma, we will give you something to stabilize you tonight but we need you clean for 24 hours before we can start recovery.”
“Well that doesn’t work for me. Call my psychiatrist. He’s the head of the department at the Delray Hospital. I’m not giving up anything until he’s involved.”
“Of course we will be happy to get his input tomorrow but for now we need all your meds so we can evaluate you.”
“I get it. I’m out of here.”
Tamma walked out and headed for the car. My friend who heard it all now had her arm around my shoulder and just said, “She’s not ready.”
The following week we had a follow up appointment with her gastro doc, who confirmed that her liver was badly damaged and that if she didn’t stop drinking she would be dead. He didn’t say how long it would take to completely destroy her liver.
I attended Tamma’s psychiatrist appointment a few days later and left in disgust. He was more afraid of Tamma than I was.
Meanwhile her mom was coming to visit and I hoped maybe she could take Tamma home with her and the combination of family and friends might help.
What happened instead was Tamma’s mother found her lounge chair in my living room and waited to be waited on. Each morning during her two week stay she screamed at her daughter to take her to get her methadone. Each morning Tamma would refuse and I would transport her mother to the methadone clinic and wait in line for her until it was almost her turn. I actually didn’t mind the wait since I met the regulars. I was surprised to see so many high school kids who had become hooked on prescription drugs. Methadone is no picnic. It’s a narcotic without the high and a money maker for the state. Ironically you have to withdraw from methadone as well.
So mom’s main gift was 10 or 12 more holes in the carpet and more ashtrays to empty.
After she left, Tamma’s sister and brother-in-law’s showed up as enforcers to get money from Tamma they said she owed for drugs. They threatened me with a baseball bat but were too high to properly swing it. I was not seriously frightened, just disgusted.
We had once again worn out our welcome with our latest landlord. He did not take kindly to the destroyed carpet and extensive cigarette smoke. Our deposit would not cover the carpet and painting. He was an attorney and didn’t need to hire one so he sued me for free to recover the more extensive damage. I decided to settle after he overwhelmed my time with interrogatories and legal annoyances.
I dragged Tamma to our last apartment together in Delray Beach.