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.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Risky Drinking Premiere

From time to time you've read about my collaboration with HBO for their documentary film on alcoholism.

RISKY DRINKING
An HBO documentary film
Premieres
December 19, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.
(Eastern and Pacific Time)

This film challenges viewers to recognize and evaluate their own risky drinking behaviors. The film follows four case studies who are in a broad spectrum of risky drinking stages. Addiction experts explain the science behind the alcohol abuse disorder and provide statistics about its prevalence and hazards.

RISKY DRINKING was directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent; produced by Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Perri Peltz; segment director, Perri Peltz; supervising editor, Geeta Gandbhir; editor, Alex Keipper. For HBO: senior producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.

A MUST-SEE FOR ALL MY READERS!

Other HBO playdates: Dec. 22 (10:10 a.m., 11:50 p.m.), 24 (1:15 p.m.), 27 (5:15 p.m.) and 30 (3:00 p.m., 2:15 a.m.), and Jan. 8 (1:35 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Dec. 21 (2:10 a.m.) and 24 (10:35 p.m.)
The documentary will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and affiliate portals.
I'm looking forward to reading your comments after the viewing. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Til death do we part...

I hate it when I get e-mails from people who have lost a loved one to alcoholism. My heart breaks for them and all I want is to hold them like a baby to ease the pain. I remember the unbearable stabbing in my heart when Captain Morgan stole my son from me.

I slugged my way through the memorial service with fake smiles and nods as loving friends and family took my hand and told me how sorry they were. My mind raced with sarcastic comments – they weren’t as sorry as I was and NO, I didn’t believe he was better off now. Instead I simply nodded and said “Thank you for coming.”

My older brother died of leukemia. I had the same feeling when he died that I did when my son died. Leukemia stole my brother and I didn’t think he was now in a much better place. His place was with me and my other brothers. His place was on one of his barges or wheeling and dealing some buy/sell transaction. He was not supposed to be in a pretty box in the ground.

I suppose I feel the same way when anyone I love passes. The initial grief of losing a loved one is overwhelming to me. It takes me a while to calm down and accept what the other mourners are saying to me is just their way of trying to make me feel better. They aren’t being disrespectful. They are showing their love in whatever way they can.

I am grateful for all those who expressed their condolences. It was comforting to be able to see how many people loved my son and my brother. The fact that they simply attended and told him goodbye meant a lot to me. I looked around the room and knew he would be missed.

There were rumblings and discussions of Captain Morgan and what a shame it was that my son’s life was wasted. Those discussions were not directed at me very often. If they had been I would have responded with, WASTED? My son’s life was not wasted. It was cut short but not wasted. I would remind them that he had done a lot of good things, interesting things, productive things during the short time he was on the earth.

Just because someone is addicted to something doesn’t mean that person doesn’t have value. What about all the years when they weren’t an alcoholic? And sometimes they continue to be a productive member of society while also getting into the deeper throes of the bottle.

Alcoholics are a person first and not just an alcoholic. There are people who love this alcoholic person. They are someone’s spouse, parent, sibling, friend even if they may have become estranged as the disease progressed. The memories remain from days before.

The next time you have the misfortune to attend a memorial service, celebration of life, homegoing, funeral… whatever term you use… Instead of saying the deceased is no longer in pain try instead saying something positive about the person. “Your son (mother, father, sister, brother) was a loving person and I’ll miss his beautiful smile.” OR “Your father could be quite a rascal. I’ll miss his mischievousness.” You can even say “Your brother lived on the edge. He had an interesting life.”

I know that alcoholics create havoc, can be mean and not loving at all. Their value system fails and it seems that no one will miss them when they are gone. The fact is no one will miss the alcohol part of the person, but someone will miss the PERSON he was without the alcohol.


Once a person is gone it’s time to take alcohol inspired memories, put them in a box and hide the box away. Someday when the pain subsides, take them out and you can either laugh or cry. Then put them back in the box and burn it. It’s over. It’s done.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Not so simple to survive, thrive, flourish

Lately, I’ve been hot on writing the new book. It’s about surviving the chaos when care giving an alcoholic. It could really be used for any type of care giving situation, but I’m focusing on alcoholism. I want to give you a glimpse inside the book in today’s blog post.

Between the covers you will find poems, cartoons, published blog posts, explanations, exercises, forms, tips for maintaining sanity, and lots of information. Discover who you really are and what you would like to accomplish in your life. Learn to put your alcoholic care giving into a different section of your brain clearing your mind for things that help you to continue with a life of your own.

This book is not an easy one to write. After all, I write about my experiences. I write about how I feel and what has worked for me. Some things in this are about what I may not have yet accomplished so far in this journey. The truth is that surviving is a continual work in progress. You won’t know if you survive until the alcoholic has passed on to another world. If the alcoholic goes first, you survived. It’s really that simple or is it?

It turns out that it isn’t good enough just to outlive the alcoholic. Sure, you survived, but did you survive as you or as the person the alcoholic needed. Surviving as the alcoholic’s robot isn’t really surviving because you aren’t being who you really are as a person. You may survive, but you are not thriving.

The whole point of my new book is to get people to be able to not just survive, but to thrive and flourish in spite of being a care giver to an alcoholic. Thriving is being open to happiness and a full productive life even in unfortunate circumstances. Flourishing is being continually being successful in discovering yourself.

Writing the book is therapeutic for me in my attempt to regain my own identity. It seems that I no longer know who I am other than Riley’s caregiver. I know the basics, i.e. a person of strong work ethic who can be a bit quirky, stubborn and persistent.  For a while I felt I had even lost my gender identity. I was a person but didn’t feel much like a woman. I was a human robot. I started working on saving the woman inside me and in the process started acting like ME again. The book helps me to document my journey and pass on things I’ve learned to help others find a way to love themselves again.

I’m sure that while reading the book you will say something like “Everyone knows that…” and that may be true. But sometimes we forget the obvious or we need a new viewpoint on issues. Reviewing is healthy. Sometimes we discover, or rediscover, while we are reviewing.

We are facing another new year ahead and hopefully the start of the year will be a start to regaining happiness and peace. I have planned lots of exciting endeavors for 2017. I don’t plan on cancelling any of them simply because I am an alcoholic’s caregiver. I may alter or re-arrange, but not cancel. My life has become that important to me – as it always should have been.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Medicare -- Not a Knight in Shining Armour

There is some confusion within the general population of our country. The confusion is that it is easy to place a person into a facility. Nothing could be further from the truth unless you are extremely wealthy or planned well for you golden age back when you were rockin’ with Dick Clark.

Let me make this perfectly clear, Medicare does NOT pay for any type of long-term care in a facility. There are certain cases where they will cover up to six-weeks of care after a 3-day hospital stay. Let me say it one more time – DON’T expect Medicare to help pay for a nursing home for your mother or anyone else.

If you have worked throughout your life and collect Social Security benefits of about $1,200 - $1,400 per month, you probably make too much money to be accepted into the Medicaid program. So they will not pay for a nursing home facility. However, if you have been on welfare or aid for a large majority of your working years, you may not make enough on Social Security to eliminate you from qualifying for Medicaid. I am still trying to figure that one out.

You can qualify for Medicaid if you have enough “spend down” expenses, which you deduct from your income, to put you within range of acceptance. Expenses like paying for a personal aide, medical equipment, etc. can all be deducted from your income. That’s good to know.

If you are a Veteran, the VA will pay for a facility for you if you have a 70% disability rating on a military injury. Getting qualified and accepted with a disability percentage can take years to achieve. By the time you are qualified, the applicant may be dead and no longer in need of a facility.

Many people believe that Medicare will take care of us. Let me assure you, no one is riding in on a beautiful steed with a silver sword to come to your rescue. You will not be saved from the oncoming train. You’re on your own and that’s just the way it is.

If you were smart back in the 70s (when you were young enough to afford it), you bought long-term care insurance. That’s about the only way you can pay for a nursing home without the entire amount coming from your pocket.

The cost of a long-term facility these days runs from $5K to about $9K per month depending on your location and the services required. Even if you planned well for your retirement, most people don’t have that much extra cash available.

Riley and I worked from the time we were 14 years old. We have seldom been unemployed. We have both been known to work more than one job at a time. We have paid our taxes and have an above average retirement income. But it is not enough to support me and pay for a facility. In fact, the cost of a facility is more than the grand total of our income. Unfortunately, a social worker once told me that we’d be better off if we had not worked so hard. I apologize for our strong work ethic.

The bottom line is this… start planning now and put that plan into action. Figure out where you will live and who will care for you should you become unable to care for yourself. Meet with an Estate Attorney and get some legal advice about what is possible and what is just a dream. Get your ducks in a row now while you are still sane enough to make the hard decisions.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Much ado about...


It’s been a trying week or so. I feel like a pinch hitter in the batting cage with a nerf bat trying to hit hard balls from a pitching machine stuck on the highest setting. No matter how hard I try to fend them off, those balls are coming at me at rocket speed. They have a mind of their own and they can see me, standing there, defenseless with my form bat. Do I drop the bat and run thereby forfeiting this game of… whatever it’s called? Or do I pray a lightening bolt will strike the pitching machine and end the game by an act of nature? Or do I run… run away as fast as I can?

I don’t know which course of action I will take. I’m still working on some kind of plan. I’m leaning towards running away which doesn’t feel cowardly at all to me at this point. Sometimes you just have to know when to walk away. But, then, I always seem to zig when I should’ve zagged. I always know what I should have done, but seldom am I sure what I should do in the moment.

Is that how you sometimes feel? I think the best thing to remember is that we don’t always have the best answer to every situation. We can only see so far ahead and never to the end of whatever is going on. We can play it all out in our heads and think it through with every possible scenario. But, in the end, most of the time the right decision is just a crap shoot. You take your chances. You roll the dice. And whatever comes up, comes up.

What we end up deciding to do or course of action to take is never really the wrong answer. Making a decision unto itself is the right thing to do. Although, if you simply can’t come up with an answer then doing nothing is sometimes advisable. For example, if I can’t decide between this house or that house, maybe not choosing a house at all will eventually lead you to the right house. Same thing goes for careers or cars.

When I’m faced with a hard choice, I set up a method for deciding. I list all the pros and cons into two separate columns. I give each pro and con a number from one to ten according to how important each one is. Then I examine each one and put my findings next to each pro and each con. I number the answers as well. I do my best to put the paper away and not think about it for a day or two. Usually I can only manage a few hours, but the longer you go without looking at it the better it will be.

I pull out my sheet of pros and cons and read it thoroughly. I then make more notes as to things I may have discovered while the paper was out of my sight. If time allows, I put the sheet away again.

Now it’s decision time. I look at my sheet of paper and decide. I might just go with my gut and decide what feels best for me. Or I might go with what is the most rational on paper which is a high number for the pro or con and the answer. I don’t know if my system really works or is just a way of stalling in my decision-making. Sometimes I’m right on and the system works and other times I’m way off the mark.

There are times when you just know what is best for you to do, but you don’t really want to own the decision yet. I hate it when that happens. Falling into an inevitable decision somehow feels like I’m not in control of my own life. Here’s a news flash – none of us have as much control over our lives as we like to think we do. Sometimes we just have to give in and take the path that’s in front of us.

The only way I can get help with taking care of Riley is to move in with my daughter. The path to a solution is right in front of me. I can see it. I know it’s what I must do. I must give up my big old country house and move me and Riley into my daughter’s house. I’m going about the decision making as though I really had a decision to make. I do the pros and cons. I write down answers on slips of paper and throw them across the room with the one landing the farthest to be my answer. But, in the end… I know what the decision must be.

I just don’t like not being in control.   

Thursday, October 20, 2016

How can I help the caregiver?

This post is dedicated to a commenter named “Unknown”.

I understand how torn you are about what to do about your parents. Your father is wasting away from the booze and your mother is wasting away from the stress of taking care of him. That puts you in an uncomfortable position.

All of the things you describe of your father are typical of an alcoholic. As the alcohol continues to saturate his frontal lobe, he loses the ability to think logically about his actions. This part of the brain controls common courtesy, values and the ability to “care” about what he is doing. Simply put, at this time he does not care because the alcohol is now controlling his brain.

Your Dad, the loving one, he is still in there. But it’s like he’s in a coma and some other personality is in his place. I always think of the old horror movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” where pods are put next to a sleeping person and when they wake up the human person one is gone and the pod person is left.

Unfortunately, there is really not much you can do about your father. Alcoholic’s drink. That’s what they do. Those who care for the alcoholic are left with the mess to clean up. It sounds like your mother has been in a “frog soup” type of situation for a long time.

In my opinion, your mother’s cries for help are not really about you trying to get your father to stop drinking. She’s asking you to help save her sanity. It may be easier than you realize.

If you live close enough, when she calls – go to her. Give her a strong and lasting hug.
Don’t let go until she does. Then send her to go do something for herself – mani/pedi, shopping or, maybe, just a visit with a friend. Look on Groupon for tickets to something entertaining that are reasonably affordable.

While she is gone, look around and see if there’s something that needs to be done that you can help with. Clean the kitchen or bathroom; put fresh sheets on her bed; make cookies; prepare dinner; do a load of laundry; write a note and put it with those fresh cookies and a pot of tea; or anything else you can think of to do.

Being a caregiver to an alcoholic is a thankless job. Any indication that you appreciate and love her is a big boost to the caregiver. You don’t love her because she’s taking care of your father. You love her because she is your mother.

When talking to people who have alcoholics that have passed, I’ve found that the pain and suffering the alcoholic caused seems to fade and the person grieves for the person before the pod was left at their bedside. You father is an alcoholic but he is still your father and that’s the person you mourn. There will undoubtedly be a roller coaster of emotion ranging for extreme hate to extreme love. Let it happen. Feel it all so that you can find a way thru the mess of emotion.

There is nothing for you to feel guilty about. This is not your disease, not your circus and not your monkeys. You father must own what is his and you would be doing him a dis-service by taking that off his shoulders. If/when he asks for your help, you can offer to help him find a rehab center or a way to detox in a medically safe environment. Tell him you will not help him drink because his drinking is none of your business.

After you’ve helped your Mom, the best thing you can do is continue to live your life. Make your own happiness, be productive, and be good to yourself. Don’t let the alcohol or the alcoholic define who you are. Seeing you happy will be a wonderful gift to your mother.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Where'd she go??

Someone sent me an e-mail asking if Riley had died. The person was concerned because I had not posted in quite a while. The answer is – NO Riley is not dead. He is still the Immortal Alcoholic.

The reality of life is that sometimes we get caught up in whatever it is that’s going on and we forget, or we put on the back burner, about the rest of our lives. I’ve been spending so much time on taking care of Riley that I had not stopped to do things that I love to do. One of those things is writing posts on the blog. Life happens. Priorities shift by necessity. That’s the way things go.


I can’t tell you that a break will not happen again. It definitely WILL happen again. No one person can constantly be immersed in alcoholism and not need a break. Sometimes it happens by design and other times it happens inadvertently. Again, it’s called life.

There are exciting things happening ahead. Keep coming here and find out what is new.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Finding traits on the road to survival

September 9th is my father’s birthday. September is Recovery Month. What do the two have in common – almost nothing. Except, that my father believed he could “cure” Riley of “that problem” if he could be alone with him for about a month. Daddy was old school. I have heard tales of him being greatly depressed after having lost his best friend during the War. The depression led to some heavy drinking. It didn’t last long because his newlywed bride, my mother, threatened to end the marriage if things didn’t change. He stopped right then and there and drinking was never an issue again. Yes. He did drink, but never over-indulged again.

With five children and several cousins being in his charge, Daddy was often overwhelmed with frustration. It seemed to all of us that he was all-knowing and was almost clairvoyant about what we were doing. Telling him a lie was bound to end in unpleasantness. He was never violent because he didn’t have to be. He had a certain look of disapproval that you always hoped was intended for someone else.

Besides being strict, he was also a bit of a comedian especially when taken aback by something one of us said or did. When he was exasperated, confused or surprised, he would place his open hand on the upper ridge of his nose, just under his eyes, and bring it up his face. He stopped and rubbed his eyes, still open handed, then continued to his forehead and the top of his head. Then he would take his hand down and raise one eyebrow and say “Whaaaat?”; Or sometimes, “Have you lost your mind?”; Or, some other expression of astonishment.

I understand that hand movement. Without even realizing it I seem to do the same thing. I guess I’ve been doing it for a long time but just didn’t notice it.

The other day Riley was being especially needy. He needed the picture of the dog to be moved a half-inch further from the television. He needed a new bottle of water so it would be there the minute the current one was empty. He needed the sheet pulled over his feet. He needed to know if I had called anyone about a supplemental Medicare plan. He needed for me to order him something from QVC. He needed… he needed… he needed.

After the first 3 “need requests” I found myself. Placing my hand at the upper ridge of my nose and imitating my fathers hand movements.

video

  
It is gratifying that I have inherited some of my father’s traits. It makes it easier to cope with whatever is going on at the moment. My father’s incredible work ethic, overwhelming perseverance, positive attitude, exude strength without violence, intuitive but logical reasoning, and ability to forgive, are traits that I wish to add to my bag of things I have received from my parents. Just like my blue eyes and reddish/blonde hair, I am my father’s daughter. I just don’t understand why I couldn’t have gotten the curls…

All of the traits mentioned above have led to my being able to survive my journey down this fork in my road of life. I haven’t achieved all of them to the level that I want, but it’s a continuous worthwhile effort. All things considered, the road I’m on is a short road that only seems like a million miles long. Yet, I’m more than just surviving, I’m thriving. And although I may be frustrated and exasperated at daily instances, I am basically happy.

The road to happiness can begin with an examination of the traits you have, the ones you want, and having a goal of achieving what you believe you lack. Once you have identified the traits, you can move forward with putting them into your everyday life. At first, this survival thing isn’t easy but it will get easier. When you aren’t even looking you may end up being happy and thriving in spite of your difficult road.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Which holiday is this? You can chose.

There’s a fresh crispness to the morning air these days. It’s much more enjoyable that the scorching hot air that won’t let me take a deep breath. Autumn is on it’s way and I’m welcoming it with open arms.

This is also Labor Day Weekend. Spouses and loved ones of alcoholics will most likely not greet the weekend with open arms. For us it’s just another weekend that will provide the opportunity for the alcoholic to get drunk and stay drunk the entire time. It won’t matter that it’s the last chance to do things with the kids before they head back to school. It won’t matter if the weekend is spent on a beach or in the mountains. No matter what else is going on – there will absolutely be drinking, drunkenness, accidents, arguments, inappropriate behavior and crying. There will be lots of tears.

While families all over the country are looking forward to a weekend of fun and relaxation, others are gridding their loins for what’s ahead over the next few days. Instead of preparing for a good time, they are preparing for a potential disaster.

To those “other” families your chance to change things is at your fingertips. You can focus on your kids, yourself and others affected by the alcoholic. You have the power to make this a great weekend and be happy for it rather than dreading the next few days.

Start with the facts:

1.                  The alcoholic is going to drink. There’s nothing you can do about that.

2.                  The alcoholic may try to sabotage anything you try to do.

3.                  The alcoholic doesn’t care if it’s important to you or the family to have a happy and peaceful weekend.

4.                  You can’t change the alcoholic’s mindset.

5.                  It’s important to you to provide the family with the weekend they need.

6.                  You can make a change.

Once you understand and accept those facts, you will be able to move forward. Forget about the alcoholic’s wants and needs. Forget about the anger and resentment he will try to force upon you. Don’t become a party to his chaos.

Quietly go about planning the weekend you want. Want to have a picnic at the local park? Quietly go about packing the basket. Tell the kids you are going on a picnic the morning you are to go. Invite friends to join you. Do not invite the alcoholic. Then go have a wonderful picnic in the park.

The point is to just plan whatever activity you want and then do it. You don’t need permission from the alcoholic. You don’t need the input or the “help” the alcoholic may want to provide. You can tell him you’re going (if you want) but don’t invite chaos to your party.

This is the way to start regaining your independence. Start with something small and work up to bigger things. Eventually, you’ll feel comfortable doing things on your own. You won’t feel as though you are only half of a married couple. You will be a strong ONE of two separate entities.


It’s Labor Day weekend, but this could be your Independence Day weekend. It’s your choice. Do you want to be the alcoholic’s “laborer” or the “Statue of Liberty”.

For support from people like you go to:

http://oarsfamilysupport.weebly.com/ 

This brand new forum needs your help to grow. Come join us.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A new support group for family and friends



A brand new OARS Group is now available on an independent site!

When I closed down my site for Linda’s Front Porch, I also closed the OARS Forum on Linda’s Front Porch. The only OARS group available currently is the one on FaceBook. While FaceBook is awesome and that group has a lot of activity, I sometimes question if it gives enough access to those who are not members of FaceBook.

Announcing the New and Improved OARS Group! The site is up and running for the next 30 days. Members of this site are subscribers and pay a $5 monthly fee for access. However, membership is free until September 29th, 2016. After that date, a fee will be charged on a monthly basis. This will give the members a chance to try the forum before having to pay the fee. If you don’t like the site, and opt out, no fee will be charged.

I wanted to give this forum a try, get feedback, comments and suggestions, before I commit to a long-term contract. If it doesn’t seem to work, I’ll take it down.

Forums work best when there are active postings and a sufficient number of responders to the post. Without that no forum can survive for very long. The more members, the more there is a chance of people being logged in at the same time, which means more opportunity for conversations.

You do not have to e-mail me and ask to join. Simply click the “subscribe” button, fill in the form, and wait for a confirmation e-mail. After you fill in the form, an e-mail is sent to me and my administrators and with a simple “acceptance” you will be added to the group. You won’t have to wait for me to reply to your e-mails – which can often take weeks. And – with this site – I can have other administrators to help me accept/decline new members.

This is a private site. The administrators will monitor it regularly and watch out for members who do not respect others viewpoints, challenges, etc. In short, we all must play nice and be courteous of each other. You are welcome to vent your frustrations, but not to show anger to others. Heated discussions are allowed, hatefulness is not.

Another great thing is the ability to private message members in the group. Sometimes we connect with another member and just want a one-on-one talk. Talking is good and now available on OARS Group private messaging.

Please visit the site and help me make this a success! It’s free for now – so there’s nothing to lose except your feeling of isolation. Let’s all connect together and survive this chaos.