“Alcohol makes you feel better and then makes you feel worse and then remorselessly very bad indeed, but then alcohol will make you feel better again. It is the cure for the dog that bit you, and how easily you forget it is also the dog.”
Ever since Valerie Bertinelli wrote her memoir “Losing It- And Gaining My Life Back One Pound At A Time” I have wanted to read it.
Finally, my opportunity came. I found the book at the Goodwill and grabbed it up for a dollar.
In high school I became a huge Van Halen fan. I was particularly fond of Eddie Van Halen thinking he was very cute. I remember going to see them in concert in Charleston, West Virginia. It was a blast. I was closest to the side of the stage Eddie was on. I was thrilled! He was indeed very cute and had a very nice smile. He also smoked like a fiend. He had a cigarette lit and positioned in his fret the whole time he was playing. Sammy Hagar was now the lead singer. I remember him running around high above on the catwalks and leaning out over them perilously, to my distress. He was a great showman, but he scared the heck out of me.
So I have to admit my interest in reading the book was primarily: What was it LIKE to be married to EDDIE VAN HALEN? I came away feeling respect for Bertinelli, thinking I could easily be her friend, and really rooting for her happiness. What was it really like to be married to Eddie Van Halen? Primarily hell. That is what it is like to be married to any addict.
In Cornelius Plantinga’s book, “Not The Way It Is Supposed To Be: A Breviary Of Sin” he talks about the relationship of sin and addiction. He defines addiction as “A complex, progressive, injurious, and often disabling attachment to a substance (alcohol, heroin, barbituates) or behavior (sex, work, gambling) in which a person compulsively seeks a change of mood.” He points out that “what drives addiction is longing….. a longing of the heart.”
He explains, “Addicts long for wholeness, for fulfillment, for the final good that believers call God. Like all idolatries, addiction taps this vital spiritual force and draws off its energies to objects and processes that drain the addict instead of filling him.
Accordingly the addict longs not for God but for transcendence, not for joy, but only for pleasure- and sometimes escape from pain.”
However as he soberly enjoins: “No matter how they start, addictions eventually center in distress and in the self-defeating choice of an agent to relieve the distress. In fact, trying to cure the distress with the same thing that caused it is typically the mechanism that closes the gap on the addict- a trap that might be baited on anything from whiskey to wool.” This fact is cleverly illustrated in the above quote from Roger Ebert, who himself was an alcoholic.
In truth Eddie Van Halen was an addict from the day Bertinelli met him.
It took her twenty years to come to grip with this fact and to divorce him. One really agonizes with her about this in reading the book. It makes you realize just how terrible it is to marry someone who is already in the grip of addiction.
It was clear that she really loved him and truly tried to save him, despite making her own mistakes in the marriage. At first she admits that she partied with him, and that was a way to be a part of his world. But this lifestyle got old and hard to maintain. So she pursued her acting career and he immersed himself in creating music and drinking and doing drugs.
Despite the birth of their child, Ed was not able to pull himself out of his living hell. Plantiga notes: “An addict makes and repeatedly breaks contracts with himself; who finds his longings narrowing and hardening into an obsession with things he knows will devastate his work, self-respect, relationships and bank account and who yet seeks compulsively to satisfy those longings; who thus finds his will split between wanting to banish an addictive substance from the earth and wanting to protect his private cache of it; whose addiction, as it moves through mild and moderate stages, first enthralls him in one sense of the word and then in the other-an addict like this often comes to believe that his “struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood, but against……spiritual forces of evil.” (Ephesians 6:12)
He points out that the “Big Book” of Alcoholic Anonymous says “addiction is cunning, baffling, powerful and patient.” These words could describe the devil himself.
He offers the human being a powerful substitute for God, an idol called “addiction.” This substitute provides immediate pleasure. One does not have to wait for heaven, nor restrain the senses, nor worry about morality. Just take the drink, sniff the coke, smoke the weed and you are in paradise now.
At first it seems like a good trade, until you get hooked. Then you just live for the next time you can get drunk or high. You lose all for the addiction and you don’t even care. You become a shell of yourself. You live in your own isolated living hell, just you and the addiction. It must be so very terrible.
You can just look in the book and see the photos of Eddie as a young man and then when he is older. He looks horrible. The effects of the alcohol and drugs have ravaged him.
For Bertinelli the straw that broke the camel’s back was when Ed refused to quit smoking after getting tongue cancer and having a portion of his tongue removed. She finally admitted to herself then that he was not going to help himself. After finding cocaine in a wallet, she confronted him one last time before she left.
The book also chronicles her own battles with food addiction. In her efforts to cope with Ed and his addiction, she fought her own private hell with her weight. Being an actress only made that issue a million times harder as she had to constantly battle to slim down for roles.
One reads the book and gets the sense of two people who connected and were really wanting to reach out to the other, but the tragedy of addiction kept them apart. All sin isolates, but addiction isolates in a particularly pernicious and destructive way.
“You don’t have to die and go to heaven
Or hang around to be born again,
Just tune in to what this place has to offer,
Because we may never be here again.
I want the best of both worlds,
And honey I know what it’s worth,
I want the best of both worlds,
A little heaven right here on earth.”
Every honest saint will tell you that this is not heaven and the pleasures this world offers pale in comparison to what heaven will be like. That’s the irony. To have the best of the next world you have to let go of the temporal pleasures that may be found here. As martyr Jim Elliot put it, ‘He is no fool, to give up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
Christ said is another way, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?” The truly wise live for eternity.