About Me

My photo

Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Forget the chick flicks

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you will know that I have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. In my opinion, the best part is that on the 15th of Feb, all the Valentine candy will be half price. That’s a decent reward for enduring all the syrupy sweet advertising and romantic chick flicks.

It’s really isn’t that I’m not romantic because I truly am a romantic at heart. But, I don’t need a specific day to remember that I should be romantic to the people I love. Well… I know it’s not just about the romance; it’s really about expressing your feelings for those you love. I like to send little cards to my grandchildren and others who have a place in my heart. It’s fun for them to receive a little something in the mail.

Would I like to get a bouquet of peonies today? Well, of course I would. They are my favorite flower and I’d love to get them ANY day of the year. Although it would be nice, it is not a requirement for me to receive anything on this day. I would really rather just not look at today as anything special. However, if you want to send me peonies, please send them because you like me and not because some greeting card company has declared this as being the day dedicated to “love.”

Back in my younger day, I would be all ga-ga over whatever my man would give me or do for me on this day. In fact, Riley was an awesomely romantic guy. He would make dinner reservations and have a single red rose at my place at the table. He would send flowers to my office. Of course, as our marriage sank into that alcoholic abyss, he never even noticed it was February; let alone what day it was. Valentine’s Day lost any importance to me.

Over the years, I treated today just like any other day. I ignored the love birds swooning over one another and tried to find a direction for my eyes that didn’t include any lovers. I confess that it was difficult. But I had the kids to focus on and they were always excited for the day when they would receive little cards from school mates. For them, the best part of the day was the cupcakes and punch during their class party.

Now that Riley is gone and I’m now unmarried, I still don’t long for all the Valentine Day hoop-la. I’m still thinking, “Oh wouldn’t it be nice to get flowers,” but not really caring if I do or not. Valentine’s Day is still a day that I stay home, draw the curtains, and stay in my jammies. I won’t watch any chick flicks on TV, but will do a marathon viewing of any and all Arnold, Segal, Sylvester, and Willis movies that I can find.

I know… I know… you’re thinking that I’m jealous of all those people who are popping open that heart shaped box and inhaling the lovely aroma of chocolate. Maybe you think I’m secretly crying in my coffee because no one realizes that I’m essentially alone on this day of love. You could be right. But while I might be missing that chocolate essence and the attention from a man who cares about me, I don’t begrudge anyone else’s experience.

I suppose it’s a part of my philosophy of living until you die. If you can’t have everything you love, then love what you can have. Life is too short to sit around and mope over not having the sweet stuff of your dreams. Do what you enjoy and enjoy doing it. How productive is it, in the grand scheme of things, to wring your hands and cry buckets of tears because you can’t always have what you want?

You are probably asking… “What about Sam?” Sam and I have a very long distance relationship. We are not your typical couple. I don’t need him to fawn over me and shower me with gifts. He gives me what I need by engaging in conversations that have more to do with each of our activities, plans and interests. We don’t judge our relationship by other people’s standards and we don’t adhere to rules made up by whoever it is that makes up rules. Things are good and that’s the best Valentine’s Day gift I could have.

Valentine’s Day can be tough for those of you who are in an alcoholic relationship. My suggestion is to make yourself your own Valentine and do what feels best for you. Make yourself happy because you are the best Valentine that you’ll ever have.  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Six words equal Survival

When I first started writing the blog, I had already done months’ worth of research in order to get answers that were written in a format that I could understand. It didn’t happen overnight. I recall how I came upon each subject for research in The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife.

However, there was a topic that I just couldn’t get my head around. The idea of recovery for the people who care about the alcoholic seemed to escape me. In my mind the only way for a spouse to recover from all that nonsense was to just get a divorce – leave him/her – kick ‘em to the curb! But there are also parents and children and friends and partners and co-works… the list goes on. What would be the answer to recovery for everyone?

As time went on, I discovered that the families and friends may need recovery just as much as the alcoholic. That’s why Al-Anon was created. It was to provide courage, strength and hope to the families and friends of alcoholics. There are 12 steps and 12 traditions that provide the handrails up the recovery ladder. Al-Anon provides a wonderful place for those just starting out in the realization and acceptance of being involved with an alcoholic.

But for me, the concept of recovery goes far deeper. There are so many of us that cannot or will not dump the alcoholic for some reason or another. Often when the alcoholic becomes end-stage separating from the alcoholic becomes just as problematic as the drinking itself. Everyone must make their own decision on leaving, staying, or whatever. For those people – the caretakers of end-stage alcoholics – recovery is most important. Maybe even not just the end-stagers, but all-stagers remaining in the situation.

Instead of the word “recovery” I like the word “survival”. How does the family or friend SURVIVE when in this impossible, nonsensical, frustrating situation? I sum it up with several words. KNOWLEDGE. SUPPORT. HEALTH. PASSION. LAUGHTER. SMILE.

KNOWLEDGE – As the alcoholic succumbs to different illnesses and conditions through the stages of the disease, do your research and learn everything you can about the physical biology that going on inside that alcoholic body. Also, learn about your legal standing, the workings of the hospital and hospice, know absolutely everything about your health insurance. Don’t just depend on an answer from a friend of a friend who once shook hands with someone who may have drank too much at a party… Find out for yourself through internet research, the library, speaking with a professional. Knowledge is the key to survival – I’ve said it a million times. Make all decisions based on knowledge that you know to be a fact.

SUPPORT – No matter how much research you do, there’s nothing like confirmation from someone who has been in your shoes. An exchange of ideas and experiences can be a life preserver in the midst of a super storm. Don’t just stick with only one support program because there are many out there. So if one doesn’t work, check it off your list and move on. Something will fit and you will be grateful to have found it. I offer OARS F&F Group on Facebook. You must e-mail me to be sent an invitation to the group.

I offer inexpensive ($10/hour) coaching sessions via the telephone. Send an e-mail to ImmortalAlcoholic@gmail.com and I'll provide you the telephone number.

Sometimes insurance will cover a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in substance abuse.  

HEALTH – While you may be consumed with the health issues of the alcoholic, don’t forget that you may have your own health issues that need attending. You can’t take care of anyone else if you are too run down to take care of yourself. Get your check-ups. Take your medication and stay as physically fit as you possibly can. You will need all your strength to survive the chaos.

PASSION – Find your passion in life. Do you like bird-watching? Are you a writer? Is cooking your thing? Whatever it is, find it and do it. Don’t let anything the alcoholic is currently messing with stop you from enjoying the satisfaction of doing something you really want to do. While being involved in the activity you will most likely meet other people who also enjoy your passion. Having friends who are uninvolved with alcoholism is often a breath of fresh air when you feel your head is surrounded by the smog of drunkenness. Don’t deny yourself some normalcy. Those who are really – I mean REALLY – lucky can turn their passion into a new money-making venture. I’ve heard that if you make money doing what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. How awesome would that be?

LAUGHTER – Laughter truly is often the very best medicine. So you’ve been crying for days and the depression hole is so deep that you can’t even see the light from the top. STOP whatever it is you are doing and just laugh. Laugh at a comedy on TV; the squirrels playing in the yard; the crazy thought you just had; something some uninformed know-it-all said to you yesterday; the outfit you threw on this morning. It doesn’t matter what you laugh at or even if it is funny or not, just laugh anyway. Laughing fills your lungs with oxygen which makes your brain function in a clearer manner. It makes you feel physically more refreshed. It’s not just about attitude – it’s an exercise for good health.

SMILE – I have found that I smile at everyone I possibly can and I feel a bit calmer inside. I like to believe that I’m helping someone else by sharing that smile. When I wake up in the morning, no matter how I feel about another day, I always say “Gooood Morning!” and I say it with a giant smile. Even though my day may go rapidly downhill, I have started out on a good note. My mother used to tell me that if you smile, people will either think you are a happy person or wonder what you have been up to. I like both of those reactions.

I think we can all benefit from surviving whatever it is that is causing stress. Survive from being a caretaker of an alcoholic. Survive from the stress of having an alcoholic boss. And when you are on the survival road… don’t forget to smile!

There are books out there that may help. The following may be found on Amazon.com by clicking on the title:

The following titles were written by me (Linda Bartee Doyne):

     Workbook for Caretakers of End-Stage Alcoholics
     The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife
     Surviving the Chaos

You may also be interested in:

     The Alcoholic Husband Primer (Survival Tips for the Alcoholic Wife) by Wren Waters
     Living with a Functioning Alcoholic by Neill Neill
     The Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome by Wayne Kritsberg

Sunday, February 4, 2018

One path, two directions

This post is dedicated to Annette.

Our backgrounds are very similar even though you are much younger. Our timelines would follow the same path up to the age that you are right now. The two paths, yours and mine, do NOT have to continue in the same direction. You can go a different direction than I did and avoid much of the chaos that I experienced.

You told me that you can see your future in my past. That’s good because if you can see it then you have the ability to change it. One of the reasons I write these posts and my books is to give people an idea of what it’s like if they do as I do. I hope they read what I write and say “I’m not going to be that person.” I want people to have a better life than the one I choose.

I’m not saying you can’t have a life if you stay with your alcoholic. You, most certainly can have a very fulfilling and happy existence in spite of the obstacles that the alcoholic may throw up as road blocks. It’s not easy. It takes work, time, and planning to get to all come out good – but it is possible.

Annette, you are a young woman without children and NOT married to your alcoholic. I know you love him. I know you want what is best for him. I know you think that if you do just the right thing he will stop and go back to being that guy you met ten years ago. I know you’ve invested time, money and, more importantly, your heart to this relationship and to him. But, “him” isn’t, at this time, the person you fell in love with.

Alcoholism changes a person. Someone who was gentle and considerate can become a mean and unfeeling louse. Angry confrontations that would normally end with a reasonable conversation may end with a black eye. Life with an alcoholic is unpredictable, nonsensical, and irrational. As a non-alcoholic, partnering with an alcoholic is like mixing oil and water. It doesn’t work.

Get out. Get out now. Don’t wait for some miracle to happen. No miracles are coming no matter how hard you pray. Don’t wait for him to see the light. He’s blinded. The longer you stay the more difficult it will be to become free.

It’s not going to be easy. You must have a plan for where you will live and who will be your support system. I suggest you have your own residence before you make an exit from the alcoholic’s home. Establish yourself as an individual and show that you are looking forward to a life on your own.

Housing is simply logistics. There will be emotional challenges. You will wake up in the middle of the night and realize you are alone in your bed. And you will cry. You will carry the groceries in my yourself and curse him for not being considerate enough to save your relationship just for the purpose of carrying in the 50 pound bag of dog food. You will call him names. And you will cry. When you unpack your photos of the good times you two shared you will examine each one as though you are seeing it for the first time. And you will cry. You’ll stop sitting the table for dinner as often opting for plate in front of the TV. And you will cry.  

Eventually the crying will happen less often until those tears turn into irritation, disappointment, and anger. That’s when you will start to have a life again. That’s when you will become open to possibly having a relationship with someone new. You will find yourself being cautious as to the person you date. It will take you longer to commit.

You may look over your shoulder often to see if the alcoholic has miraculously appeared as a responsible sober person. While it is possible, it is NOT likely to happen. I could tell you to stop looking, but you will not. He will probably come to you at some point. It will be difficult to prevent him from entering your world because, after all, you love him. You know now what it is like to be with him as an alcoholic. You know now that he is an alcoholic and alcoholic’s get drunk, stay drunk, and will put the drunkenness as a priority above you. So if you let him back in, you know what to expect.

Sometimes a person must leave the alcoholic multiple times before finding a way to stay out of his life. Don’t beat yourself up for following your heart. The heart always wants what it wants. It is not practical or logical or reasonable. It is what it is.

Annette, don’t be me. Go live your life and do good things for yourself

Friday, January 26, 2018

Would I do it again?

Wow! I looked at my calendar and we’re almost done with January! I’ve been very busy working on the sequel to Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife and my new book, “Huh?” ABCs of Understanding Women, that I have been amiss at keeping up with the blog posting. I do apologize for that.

I’ve also been plotting out my book tour and adding all the new locations onto the map. I have a nifty little program that plans the best route for hitting all my stops in an organized manner. It’s the coolest thing. So far, it has me going to Florida then coming back to Virginia for a break and then going north as far as Maine. I can’t wait for that fresh lobster.

I’m going to be including some mini-seminars along the way. There will be free admission with the purchase of two books. More details and a calendar will be posted when the plans are finalized.
Topics for the mini-seminars are going to be what is suggested by you, my readers. If you have a topic you would like covered, please post it in the comments. Also make sure you add your nearest city and state and I will plan that topic for your area.

It has only been four months since Riley’s passing and I have visited friends and family as well as going to the gym and library. The freedom I’m experiencing has been wonderful. There is life after caregiving an alcoholic.

There are a million reasons for people to stay with an alcoholic and just as many for leaving. But now that I’m not under the day to day stresses of taking care of Riley, I can say without hesitation, having my freedom is very nice. If I had it to do over, I would probably have done the very same thing. Remember that it wasn’t for Riley that I took him back, but rather for my daughter.

Riley was fortunate that he had a place to go and a person to take care of him. Most alcoholics have driven away most people who once cared about them. Although Riley had a large social circle, he did not have friends who were willing to deal with the complications of end-stage alcoholism.

I have been invited to participate in a program on “unconditional love.” While I can see no possible way to give unconditional love to an alcoholic, I believe we can give that to ourselves. In doing so, we can forgive ourselves for whatever is haunting us, and begin to live a life of hope instead of despair. Watch for details, here on this blog about this up-coming program.

A new book came on the market today thru Amazon.com. It’s my latest creation which was inspired by the man in my life, Sam. One day, after explaining my point of view, he wrinkled up his eyebrows and say “Huh?” I responded with something about him not understanding woman in the least. His response was “Write me a book.” Never tell a writer to write a book unless you’re serious. I wrote a book. “Huh?” ABCs of Understanding Women is a simple read with an alphabetical listing of words defining explanations of what women mean.

There is an explanation of what it means when she says she wants an “honest” man. There’s a reason why she never has anything to wear when her closet is packed. Definitions of an open relationship and monogamy are included. There’s also a handy little guide to gift giving and the five days of the year that always required a gift.

The book was written purely as an entertainment piece and not to be construed as dyed-in-the-wool exact explanations. Although, I believe, there is some good advice between those pages. It’s really only a book of common-sense. But, hey, I’m a woman… so the explanations might be a bit slanted.

Let me be clear, Sam has not read the book and is hesitant to do so. I believe he thinks the book is filled with “man-bashing”, but that is not the case. In fact, I believe women will be more offended by the book than men. So, if you do read the book, please send me a comment so I can pass it on to Sam. Since I wrote the book for him, or at least was inspired by him, maybe he will change his mind and read it after all.

Just a reminder for all of you who need help with your taxes. Gina Mewes is available to help with all your tax needs, especially if you believe you may be in “tax-trouble.” See the note on the side of this blog for contact info.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Banquet of life...

Live, Live, Live…

When you are growing up you think of your life as being “normal.” But when you get older, you realize that the standards and attitudes of those around you have shaped how you see the world and how you live your life. My mother was a firm believer of living each day as though it were your last. Of course, she meant that I shouldn’t wear dirty socks because I might not have a chance to change them if today were my last day. The words I still have in my head go something like… “Don’t waste time, these are minutes you will never be able to live over again.” I don’t think I really appreciated that sentiment until recently.

There are people in this world, people who read my blog, who wouldn’t do well in my mother’s world. They believe that they are living each day if they can simply get through the day without conflict. I see that as putting one foot in front of the other without looking at the path. I guess that’s what I’ve been doing over the past few years. I’ve just been getting through.

Basically, I’m not a “getting though” kinda person. It’s not enough for me to drive by the ocean, I have to have my feet in the water and sand in my toes. I don’t want to just see the color of the fall leaves in Vermont. I want to create syrup from the sap. It’s the world from my perspective.

In March I’m packing up my house, putting it all in storage, and taking my dog and my show on the road. I’ll be stopping at every wide spot in the raod and visiting the largest ball of twine. In reality it will be termed as a “book tour” so I can write it off on my taxes. I’ll be promoting my books, and possibly holding “mini-seminars”, in any city, town, and/or cross-road where I may be summoned by YOU, my readers.

So far, I’m going to Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington. If your state isn’t listed, send me an e-mail and tell me where you are… I’ll come to you.

I will have with me copies of my new book (yet un-named) which will be the story of Riley’s life and journey through alcoholism. ALSO, my new romance novel may be out by that time as well. The only place you will be able to get those books is through ME, while I’m on tour. They will not be available on Amazon until my trip is completed.

While this is a book tour, technically, my purpose of travelling is to start really living again. I’ve been chained to Riley for so long that my new freedom calls me to be mobile. Now’s my chance to see all those things I’ve never seen in this amazing country. Oh… I’ve driven across country many times, but always to get from point A to point B. This time I’ll have more points than there are letters in the alphabet. I want to dance in the rain in an open meadow. I want to see what Niagara Falls looks like from the back of the fall. I want to take pictures from the top of Hatteras Lighthouse. I want to ride in a horse-drawn carriage in Savannah. I want to eat lobster fresh from the docks in Maine. I want to spend the night in a teepee. In short – I want to live, live, live.

There is a scene in the movie “Auntie Mame” where Lucille Ball (as Mame) “Life is a banquet and most sons-a-bitches are starving to death.” Although I prefer Rosalind Russell in the starring role, I like Lucille’s version of that particular line much better.

I don’t want to starve anymore. I want to get out there and live my life. Funny thing though, I didn’t know I was starving until my friend, Sam mentioned that he might want to buy a motor home and travel around the country. Sam lives a quiet life and I think his idea of travelling would be following some pre-destined route on a set schedule without any deviation. I like to have a general idea of my direction and then make up the schedule as I go. I want plenty of time to eat the largest pancake on this side of the Mississippi or to take a tour through Bellingraph Gardens.

I would love to take Sam on MY trip with me and show him what it’s like to be an adventurer. I don’t need a motor home or a fancy RV. I just need a list of places to go and see, my dog and my car. I’m simple like that.

My intention is to feast on the banquet of life as long there’s life to feast upon. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

To hospice or not to hospice...

There comes a time in most alcoholic’s journey when they get sick and it appears that the end is near. Questions come up about liver function, brain atrophy, and other such ailments. Usually the alcoholic is hospitalized and sometimes, comatose. Eventually, the question will come up that goes something like this, “Would you like to have hospice step in with his care?” What they are asking is do you want to prolong this life no matter what that life may be? Or, do you want to remove yourself from the life cycle and let nature take its course?

It’s hard to say “Just let him/her die” no matter what the situation or who the alcoholic is in relationship to you. No one wants to feel that they’ve turned a blind eye and essentially killed a person as a result. Our basic instinct is to survive at all costs. Prolonging life is an inherent part of our being. To go against that can sometimes be impossible.

I believe there are several questions that must be answered before making such a life-altering decision.

First, what does the patient want? Do you know? Can he tell you and if he can, is he in a clear frame of mind when answering? Has this person ever stated what his wishes would be if the situation was to present itself?

Riley often said that he should have been left to die long ago. In fact, he was angry with me because he was still alive. While I did nothing to prevent him from leaving earth, I would not simply ignore his screams for help. Because he survived so many near-death experiences (I believe the count was up to nine.) he believed I was responsible for taking care of him – managing his life. I, on the other hand, didn’t buy into his theory that I had kept him from dying.

Riley didn’t really want to die. He wanted to live, but only if he could stay drunk all the days of his life. He never believed that drinking would end his life. In his eyes, there was no danger inside that bottle of vodka. He vowed he would be shot by a jealous husband as he jumped over a fence at the age of 103. Well… I suppose we all have our fantasies.

Second, has the medical community done everything they can to restore the patient to good health. Along with that is the question of is the life restorable to a point of quality living? If a life can be saved and the patient is able to care for himself in a fairly independent manner, maybe now would not be the time to call in hospice. But, if even a drastic surgically procedure will not change the current condition, then is when to talk to your doctor about hospice services.

The liver can regenerate itself if there are enough healthy cells from which to draw the regeneration. By the time the question of hospice comes up, there are most likely not enough healthy cells to regenerate. Once the liver stops functioning properly, a series of other organ shut-downs occur and there is no “do-over” button to be pushed.

Liver and other organ transplants are not viewed favorably when the recipient is an alcoholic. I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just saying that those instances are rare. The criterion that must be met is very difficult for an alcoholic to achieve. Most don’t have enough time on the life cycle to reach the goal. In reality, transplantation is not a very viable option. Riley told me that he wanted to get well enough to go on the transplant list, get a new liver, and then…. Start drinking again!

Third, is there anything more that you, as a caregiver, can do for the patient to prolong a quality life? Of course the answer is always, YES. It’s true, you can bring the alcoholic home, spoon feed his meals, change his soiled diaper, turn him in the bed so not to get bed sores, read to him, and do all those other things that will destroy any possibility of having a life of your own. How long do you think it will take before you burn out and start looking for help? I’d say the normal person can hang in there for about two to six months. When you start looking for help, where will you look? Believe me, when I say help is very expensive. It is worth it, but you may have to live without lights for a while. Or you could give up your car – after all, you won’t be using it because you’ll be chained his hospital bed.

Please remember I’m not a professional medical, therapist, doctor, lawyer or Indian chief, I’m just a woman who has been there. When it gets that close to the end, hospice will save your life and make the passing of the patient far easier. Their goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible as his life reaches its conclusion. They are also there for the caregiver providing support in every possible way.

If I should ever get to the place where my quality of life will be dependent on someone else giving up their quality of life, I want to have things end as quickly and peacefully as possible. There’s no point in my hanging around waiting for a miracle cure. Rip off the bandage and just let nature take its course

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

When I say I love you...

I turned 69 years old yesterday. I got up, showered, and dressed as though I was going to a party. The party was at my house and I had only a few internet and telephone guests. Physically, I was the only one in attendance and it was an awesome day. The best birthday I’ve had in many, many years.
At the end of the day, I sat back and thought “How did I get so lucky?” I have three beautiful great-grandchildren, a grandson and his wife, a daughter, brothers, nieces and nephews, sisters-in-law and a variety of other family and friends.

I also have a man in my life that makes me smile. I never realized that I could be in love at this stage of my life. I always said “When my husband is gone, I never want to be involved with another man.” My life with Riley was so painfully heart-breaking that I couldn’t fathom the idea of putting myself into a position of vulnerability again. But… here I am… I must be crazy out of my mind.

Riley’s first love priority was his booze du jour. So each time he told me he loved me, I doubted his sincerity. He said it all the time. Every night before I “tucked” him into bed, he told me he loved me. It got so that I hated hearing the words “I love you.” Hmpf… meaningless waste of the air with which the words came from his mouth. I felt cruel for my disbelief and inability to return the phrase.

I once asked Riley what he meant when he told me he loved me. His explanation was that it meant he loved the way he could depend on me. He loved that I would always be there for him. I would take care of him. However, he didn’t trust me and he made that clear. Love has nothing to do with trust, says Riley. Not once did he say anything about HIS feelings. He never said that he says “I love you” because he cared more about me than any other woman. He never claimed that I was the most important woman in his life. He told me, that he loved me and wasn’t “in love” with me. He claims that he loves many women but he loves them all differently. In fact, he made it a point to tell me that in many ways I was inadequate as a woman and lover. He preferred his mistresses and his vodka. He would not have chosen me to be his end-of-life companion but I was the last one standing.

The words of love for Riley from me were non-existent. The phrase stopped having meaning for me and I only want to tell someone I love them when I could truly mean what I say. There are many different levels of love and I once had given Riley every bit of my heart, but after a while I couldn’t give any to him at all.

I love my grandchildren, family, and friends. I love chocolate mousse. I love my pets. That kind of love means I’ll protect you and care for you. But it’s totally different for the love I feel for the man in my life. I will call him Sam, but that’s not his real name.

When I tell Sam I love him, it means that I want him to be happy above all else. It means that I will give myself only to him. The biggest thing is that it means I trust him and he can trust me. I will be his best friend, confidant, care giver and will put him above any other man who may venture into my life. I want the best for him even if it means that we don’t end up together. I’m happy when he laughs. He can tell a white lie and I’ll swear it’s the truth. My love for him is unconditional. I don’t want to change him even though he is not perfect.

I believe an important part of loving a person is being comfortable with being a part of that person’s life. A person is not just a single entity, but rather a compilation of all people he cares about. It’s the things that interest him like his hobbies and work. For me, loving a person is not just about “oh, baby, baby, you’re so beautiful, blah, blah”. I don’t love Sam for his looks, although he is handsome. I don’t love him because he is financially secure, although it helps to know he won’t be dependent on me for his next meal. I love him for who he really is as a person. I love him because I feel incredibly good, happy, beautiful because of the way he treats me even when we are fighting. People in love DO fight and it’s not the end of the world. I learned that from Sam.

In my opinion, being in love with an alcoholic is not a healthy kind of love. It is very conditional. I always loved Riley more when he was sober and not so much when he was drunk. Eventually there was no love but was replaced with obligation. I spent years believing I was OK – happy – content with the way things were. But I realize now that I was in denial. We were married for fifty years and I think I was only “in love” for a total of 10 years. However, I made a commitment to Riley and to my children to take care of him and I did just that. I was morally and legally bound to Riley for what was the rest of his life.

Being loved by an alcoholic does not incite a satisfying feeling of mutual respect and concern. In fact, loving an alcoholic is always work without reward. It is a one-way street where the love is always from the non-alcoholic partner to the alcoholic. There is no true affection returned. While being in a healthy, loving relationship is a give and take of affection from each partner. It isn’t a forced exchange. It generates happiness. It just happens and is accepted by each other.

We are all a work in progress. My relationship with Sam is just that. I don’t know where it will go. We may not sit in rockers next to each other as the rest of the world moves around us. Our love may not be a “happily ever after” or “everlasting”. But, it is here and now. It may not be conventional. Sam and I are a bit of a different breed. We are both opposite and alike. We are seldom in the same room at the same time. We’ve known each other for 20 years but are just now learning who we are. But, I will always have that unforced “deep abiding affection” for him no matter what happens for us in the future.

Does Sam love me? For him it’s all about actions and not words. He has said it and I treasure the moment of that confession. But… he doesn’t easily trust and I understand that. This post isn’t about how much he loves or doesn’t love me. It’s about how different it is to love a man who doesn’t put alcohol as a priority over people.

I didn’t know that I could be this happy. I didn’t know that love could feel so good. At the age of 69, I have discovered what it truly means when I say “I love you.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Remembering to forget

I was looking at Riley’s death certificate and saw that the cause of death was cirrhosis. I stared at those words and thought about the pride with which Riley always said his liver regenerated and was not the cause of any of his ailments. In fact, even at the end, he would not admit that alcohol had anything to do with his inability to be an independent person. In his mind he believed he was getting better and would soon be able to move into an apartment in town and away from my nagging and spying. I always wished him luck with meeting his goal.

The liver is a miraculous organ. It is also deceptive. As long as the liver has any healthy cells it can regenerate new cells. But if the percentage of bad cells out-numbers the percentage of good cells… the liver will continue to die through hardening of all the cells. One day the patient can display all the typical symptoms of liver failure complete with extreme jaundice as to make the person appear iridescent and the next day, have almost no symptoms at all.

Over the past year, Riley had no visible symptoms of cirrhosis. It seems he was having more problems with his kidneys shutting down rather than his liver failing. The constant urinary tract infections were what caused the most concern for me. That was probably because they became very difficult to treat.

I’ve learned a lot about UTI’s over the past couple of years. This infection can send a sane man into a world that only he can understand. Riley hallucinated the minute an infection hit his system. He imagined he was back on board one of his submarines and often refused to let me into the room. “Women aren’t allowed in here! Get out! Get out!” he would yell. He regained so much strength that he was able to sweep me away from the bed and throw me against the wall. He insisted I was the enemy and must be shot. His hallucinations were almost always about his navy service.

It was difficult for me, Riley’s wife and caregiver of so many years, to listen to him and console him as he was telling whoever I was in his mind that I was not to be trusted. He told one imaginary ex-girlfriend that he had never loved me nor wanted me in his life. He said he didn’t like his kids and that the only family he had was his brother and the son who hadn’t wanted contact with him in more than 20 years. When an aide came in to help care for him, he insisted that she cook his meal because I was poisoning him. Eventually, I had to leave most of his care to aides.

I thought all of that insanity was due to UTI’s. Now I know that the UTI simply exacerbated the results of his failing liver. Both conditions can cause the brain to go wokky, but to have both problems is… well… impossible to deal with. To make matters worse, a UTI can linger or even become dormant within the patient revealing only minor symptoms over a long period of time. Then when it becomes active, it raises hell to make up for the time it was quiet.

I recently discovered that a friend may be likely to develop Alzheimer’s and he believes he is having early symptoms. There is a heredity issue. However, after doing some research, I discovered that something as simple as a UTI can mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Knowing that a UTI can create memory loss even if it is a minor infection is in some ways a blessing. A UTI can be cured if the patient is generally healthy. I am confident that his memory issues will fade and he will regain a healthy lifestyle and attitude.

There is no specific test to determine if one has Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia. That test can only be done during an autopsy. To determine the source of memory loss requires a process of eliminating any other cause. It can take a long time to come up with a definitive yes or no that a person has dementia. The waiting and testing is frustrating.

Alcoholic dementia can also cause memory loss. Of course, alcoholics are most likely NOT going to give up alcohol because they forget a few things every once in a while. Forgetting to pay the electric bill or turn the stove burners off are usually of no concern to the alcoholic. It is left to the people around him to monitor his life. That’s not so good for those around him because they should be worrying about their own lives and not so much the alcoholics.

From early on in our relationship, Riley had selective memory disease. Every wife knows that disease. If he didn’t want to take the trash out he would “forget.” If he didn’t want to confess to something, he would “forget” why he did something or when or how. It was infuriating. I mean come on… how can you forget how a pair of another woman’s panties got into the glove compartment of the car?

I always forget to take my grocery list with me to the grocery store. I can misplace my car keys after having them in my hand. I forget to call friends back after telling them I would. Sometimes my brain searches for a word that I’ve used a million times. I don’t think I have Alzheimer’s and I know I don’t have a UTI. In my situation, I believe I’m still recovering from the stress of caring for someone who couldn’t even remember my name. I don’t want to admit the fact that I’m of an age where it is perfectly acceptable to forget a few things.

Too bad I can’t forget where I hid the candy bars from my grandchildren… I have no problem remembering that hiding place.