‘The Exorcist,’ My Father and Me

So often, we hear stories of people who get help just in time. They hit rock bottom and manage to climb back up. At Electric Literature, Adam Sturtevant has written “That Thing: A True Story Based on ‘The Exorcist.'” It is a terrifying yet beautiful meditation on the impotence of love in the face of an all-too-real demon—alcoholism:

Before performing an exorcism, it must be determined by a qualified priest whether or not the possession is authentic. There are a few ways to do this. A victim speaking fluently in a language he or she has never studied, for example, serves as proof that an outside spirit is at work, as opposed to a disorder of the mind.

One evening, as my mother and I were serving ourselves dinner, the old man staggered into the kitchen. In a stained, wrinkled T-shirt and sweatpants, his hair plastered to his head with sweat, every part of his body swollen and mottled, he looked about eighty years old, though he was only fifty-eight. Wearing that dazed, content look on his face, he opened the freezer and refilled his glass, then slowly shuffled back to his throne.

I had to do something, but there was a question standing in the way. Was it was a conscious act, destroying himself like this, or was he powerless against the booze? If he was powerless, that meant we could help him. We could call an ambulance, get him to a hospital, check him into rehab. But what if he didn’t want our help? What if he wanted to die? 

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