Thursday, June 22, 2017
When I come upon someone I know, either by accident or design, the first thing I say after “hello” is “How are you?” I expect to hear back that the person is fine or that things have been rough. The conversation proceeds on from there. “How are you” feels like a natural segue into a deeper exchange.
Over the past eight years, I have been taking care of Riley and it has been a chore to say the least. My own physical and emotional health have gone downhill. There has been a host of people in and out of the house whose sole purpose was to help me with the care giving responsibilities and relieve some of the stress. Everyone who has helped has been awesome.
People who talk to me always start out the conversation with the phrase “How ya doin’?” I’m asked that question on the average of five times a day from well-meaning, concerned individuals. Riley asks the same question at least four times a day. It feels that everyone is always asking how I’m doing. It gets exhausting repeating the same answer over and over again. I try to keep it short – “I’m OK.”
How am I doing? Well, that fluctuates from hour to hour and even, sometimes, minute by minute. It depends on what and/or who I’m dealing with at the moment or what answer I’m waiting for each given day. There’s Medicaid, Veterans Administration, social workers, nurses, doctors, friends and family who are constantly asking questions and/or concerned for my well-being.
Decisions that need to be made bombard me daily. All the while, I must go to Riley when he calls me 4 or 5 times an hour. I must answer his questions on things that have no answers.
How am I doing? I’m frustrated, confused, tired, sick and I don’t want to explain the reasons behind the emotions every single day, over and over again. I’m not doing well. Can we just leave it at that?
Riley continues to s..l..o..w..l..y decline. His declining only creates more work for me.
I’m tired. I need a vacation where “how ya doin’” means “Can I get you a fresh ice tea?” Yes, a vacation would certainly help. Maybe a short cruise or a stay at a mountain resort. But, it will have to wait until Riley is gone and I won’t have to pay for a sitter for him. Anyway… it doesn’t matter what I need… I’ll continue to be “doin’” the same way I’ve been doin’ for a long time now. It will get worse before it gets better.
at 10:09 AM
Saturday, May 27, 2017
I recorded and saved the HBO documentary “Warning: This Drug May Kill You” which was directed by Perri Peltz who was one of the producers of Risky Drinking. I wanted to watch it at a time when I would not encounter any interruptions by Riley or the telephone. I waited until after 10 p.m. when the house was quiet.
In the back of my mind I was thinking this film was just another warning not to do drugs. I’ve seen so many of these types of films on drugs and alcohol that I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing it. I thought… what can I learn from this film, probably nothing. But, I couldn’t ignore a film directed by my friend, Perri Peltz. I was so very wrong to have doubted the film’s power. Within the first very scenes, I could feel my need for a box of tissues and a punching bag representing pharmaceutical companies.
Warning: This Drug May Kill You is a different approach to the drug epidemic our country currently faces. I didn’t understand that most people addicted to opioids became addicts through no fault of their own. It isn’t always someone using drugs for recreational purposes during parties or to be a part of the crowd. Instead it starts with a prescription from a doctor who wants to help the patient ease the pain after an accident or surgery. It was all so innocent in the beginning. The end is a completely different story.
The film contains four different story lines, with the same underlying theme:
A mother of three, Wynne was prescribed opioids after a painful C-section. Ex-husband Britt remembers that as she became addicted, “Doctors were just throwing pills at her [and] she became a totally different person.” In 2008, with Wynne in her tenth rehab facility, Britt filed for divorce. Though Wynne, who shared custody of her children, made an effort to be in their lives and appeared to be getting better, a bout with kidney stones found her leaving the hospital flush with pain meds. Her teen sons found her in bed the next morning, an overdose victim.
Teenager Brendan was prescribed opioids following surgery to remove a cyst; four years later, addiction claimed his life. His parents, Brian and Gail, had supported his efforts to get clean. Fresh out of rehab, however, Brendan overdosed, and was revived by Narcan – a drug that can reverse heroin overdose, but often leaves addicts more vulnerable. Unaware of the withdrawal symptoms he was facing, Brian and Gail were devastated to find their son collapsed in his bedroom, having overdosed again, this time fatally.
David and his wife, Judy, are still reeling a year after the loss of their daughter Georgia to an overdose. Her story is all too common: After suffering a back injury, Georgia was prescribed heavy painkillers, and soon graduated to heroin. On Thanksgiving, David found Georgia comatose in the living room, with a syringe nearby.
Suffering from kidney stones at age 16, Stephany was treated with Dilaudid, Oxycontin and Vicodin. She ended up sharing the pills with her older sister, Ashley, and when their supply was abruptly cut off, both turned to heroin. Stephany vowed to get clean after Ashley fatally overdosed, but the process has been difficult. With her mother’s support, Stephany enters “A Way Out,” a 30-day state-sponsored rehab program involving local police departments
I was proud to be a part of the production of Risky Drinking. Although there were some things I would have liked to have seen done differently. It was an excellent portrayal of the life of an alcoholic. In my opinion, Warning: This…, is a far superior film.
Warning: This Drug May Kill You is not about what life is like for an addict. It’s more about how the addict got to be an addict and what the family goes through trying to get help for the addict. It’s about the pharmaceutical companies feeding the pubic with false information – intentionally. It’s about the doctors who fail to monitor use of the drugs after they are no longer needed. It’s about US as a community who shake our heads in shame towards the one person who needs our support and understanding the most. It’s about the addict who lost the ability to say – “I’m not taking this prescription.” because they don’t understand how devastating it can be to them.
Thank You and Kudos to Perri Peltz, director, Sascha Weiss; producer, Larissa Bills; editor, Geof Bartz. For HBO; senior producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins for asking the hard questions. Thanks to all of you for being brave enough to take on this topic from the viewpoint expressed.
If I had been a part of Warning: This Drug May Kill You, I wouldn’t have wanted to change one thing.
The documentary will also be available on HBO ON DEMAND, HBO NOW, HBO GO and affiliate portals. Please watch with anyone you know who is taking pain medication so they may become informed.
at 11:08 AM
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Sometimes I make a decision and this little voice gets into my head and whispers “Rethink your decision” or “Great idea”. It’s disturbing, really. I may be totally confident in my decision but once the little voice steps in, I begin to doubt my reasoning process. I think and rethink, process and reprocess, decide and undecide.
It’s not just the big decisions, it could be something as simple as what flavor ice cream to buy. You should see me buying bed sheets off the internet. OH Boy! What a conundrum!
Finally, I’ve reached a point where I am starting to trust myself to make the right decision for the circumstance. I will listen to that little voice and I’ll check myself, but I won’t dwell on it as I have in the past. I’m so proud of myself – it only took me an hour to decide on which pair of sandals I wanted. Believe me, that’s progress!
But there’s a deeper trust issue that inspired me to write this post. That’s the issue of trusting our kids to make the right decision. When kids are young children, they need assistance in making choices. They lack experience and are unable to see the possible consequences of their decisions. So, I’m not talking about the very young, this post is for the older child – closer to adulthood and beyond.
A parent asked her high school graduating son if he wanted her to encourage the boy’s alcoholic father to attend the celebration. The boy’s response was that he didn’t care if the father was in attendance or not. The mother wasn’t sure if this was the correct decision because this would be a “once in a lifetime” event and the father might regret not being there. The son might regret not having his father there. Should she intervene and remind the father of the ceremony? What if he comes and makes a scene? So many questions making the decision more difficult.
In my opinion, it’s not the mother’s decision to make. The young man already decided that it makes no difference to him if his father is there or not. If he wants his father, it is up to him to remind the father or to ask the mother to remind him. The mother should not step in unless the graduate asks her. The decision is up to the young man.
By the time a child graduates high school, they have already learned valuable life lessons. It is time to put those lessons to use. The child has advanced to being the captain of his own boat. The parents can advise, support and observe, but should not make the final decision. As parents, we may not like or approve. It’s difficult to watch as they take a walk towards a cliff but we, as parents, must let them make their own mistakes and learn from them.
We must trust that we did the best we could to teach our kids right from wrong and to look both ways before crossing the street. We can try to continue to tell them what to do, but believe me when I say, they WILL stop listening.
Don’t worry because as the years pass you will eventually find yourself asking your kids for their advice. As the world changes, technology changes, and/or standards change, we may find it hard to keep up in the ever seeming faster paced world. I know. I can’t figure out my cell phone without my daughter’s help. It’s frustrating.
We must trust that we did as good a job as we possibly could while they grow up with an extra issue of alcoholism in the household or family. We must trust our kids to have learned our life lessons. If we don’t, we are doomed to live in a sea of doubt and worry. That’s not where I want to spend my later years of life. I trust my kids and grandkids. In fact, sometimes I think they are smarter than me.
at 5:00 PM
Thursday, April 6, 2017
In my deepest of dark moments, I still can see a bare speck of light. But if I blink or look away when I look again, the speck is gone. It alternates that way – deep black with the light and then nothing but black. I wonder if it will ever be light with bit of black so I keep looking.
Over the past few months, while I’ve been rather silent, I thought about retiring this blog and all things about alcoholism. I thought about just letting it go. There’s so much that I’ve wanted to do and have not accomplished. There’s so much that needs to be done without the time or money to do it.
This journey of the blog has been long and hard. I keep going by putting one foot in front of the other but it’s like walking through quicksand. I take breaks. I try to shift my focus. But, my status as an alcoholic’s wife and caregiver are still there – almost haunting me.
I find myself so angry with anyone claiming to be an alcoholic that I have no words for them. The fact remains that the alcoholic was not the one that was meant to receive the most advantage from my blog. I wanted to give my support to people just like me – a non-alcoholic faced with caregiving an alcoholic. Doesn’t matter how we got here. It matters that we are here and in need of some information, encouragement, support or just some plain truth.
The whole point was that we would get better and eventually move on from the world of alcoholism to a world ruled only by you. It’s not easy and often nearly impossible under circumstances beyond your control. No matter. I’m here and taking care of a sober alcoholic who is still in denial and has all those ugly alcoholic traits like narcissism and altered memories.
There are times when it can be humorous if you’re in a state of mind when you can let humor into your thoughts.
For example, Riley was reminiscing and trying to remember where he had worked and who his workmates were. He kept thinking I was working in the same place as he was. But I never did. He asked me why didn’t I remember the cute little typist who was assigned to typing his tech manuals. I was patient (well… I tried to be patient) explaining that I never worked there. When he started trying to name off all the women he slept with at each work place, I wanted to throw the TV at him. The final straw was him telling that the cute little typist could F*** all night long. I left the room.
That could have had a humorous little slant to it rather than generating irritation. After I left the room, I called Carrot and told her what had just happened. She burst into belly-aching laughter. She then told me how I could have played into it and said things that would have turned things from hurtful to humorous.
I could have claimed to be that cute little typists or all of the women whose name he could not remember. I could have made up stories about being in his office and create scenarios that would have baffled him. By the time we finished talking about it, I was also rolling on the floor. I’m thankful to have someone in my life who always makes me laugh.
A follower told me that my posts recently had turned dark. I’ve been going through a dark time without much of a speck of light. There’s nothing to do but keep trying to find some kind of humor which will keep the light shining. Even if the light is far off in a distant black hole, I must keep encouraging it to glow. Otherwise, it might burn out forever.
at 3:00 PM
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
I guess I’m just not good at killing people. I confess that I have, in the past, tried to ignore the pleas from Riley to “help him.” But when it comes right down to it – I just can’t do it.
Riley has been in and out of hospice a lot over the past couple of years. But, I guess I’m also not a very good participant as the caregiver of someone in hospice. Or maybe, just maybe, hospice failed me.
Early in January Riley lost his sense of where he was or who he was or when it was. He drifted into his imaginary world of submarines and destroyers where there is a constant battle with an imaginary enemy. This time the enemy was anyone he knew. His imaginary crew members were the only ones he trusted.
All of this type of behavior usually points to a urinary tract infection. A round of Cipro was ordered but it had no effect at all. I kept asking for help from hospice, but they would only say that they didn’t know what was going on. They did say that whatever was happening had nothing to do with him being at end of life. In fact, hospice just kept saying, we don’t know… we don’t know, but he is not dying. Well, they are medical professions – aren’t they? Surely, they must have seen this before – haven’t they?
I was confused. I watched as Riley slipped deeper into his fantasy world. The color of his urine was not right and his output was very low. If this was how it was to progress to the end, so be it. But, if what was happening had nothing to do with the end being in sight – wasn’t I obligated to get him some help?
After another day or two, I cancelled hospice, called the paramedics and took him to the emergency room. They admitted him and after many tests I was told that he had the worst infection in the history of the hospital and if I had not brought him in when I did he would have been dead within two days. Oh my gosh!! What had I done!?! I saved a life when he did not want to be saved. Or so he says…
Since he now was out of hospice, I would have no one to help with bathing him or caring for him. I was on my own again. After a discussion with the hospital social worker, I decided for him to go into a nursing/rehab facility. While there he would have physical therapists to help him regain the strength to get himself into the wheel chair. That would be a big help for me.
Riley will be in the nursing home until the end of March. Then he will come home if I can’t find a way to pay for him to stay long term, which is highly unlikely.
In the meantime, when I visit Riley, he is mean and accusatory because I did not let him die. And if I won’t let him die, I should supply him with alcohol. It’s been nearly five years since Riley has drank and STILL he keeps asking for his beloved drink. When he starts his raves about how I must take care of him because I did not let him die, I tell him I’m going and leave.
I try to think of how it would be easier for me to let him die if things had gone down a different path. I believed hospice would stay at my house while Riley was dying so the burden would not be totally on me. I thought they would provide me support so I could see it through. But, I was alone.
How ironic that I feel that if I had been a better person, I would have been able to do nothing and wait for whatever the outcome would be. So, I’d be a better person if I had let him die.
I wonder how assassins manage to put morals aside to do their job. Not sure how to resolve this issue and still be able to live with myself.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to Neal about how he was doing now that the Risky Drinking documentary has aired. I wanted to know what he had been doing since the film completed until now. He was hesitant to talk to me but not for the reason that you might assume.
Neal and his wife, Kathy, have been long time readers of this blog. I had many e-mails from Kathy and knew that her husband had faced difficulties around his drinking. He was drinking excessively when I referred the HBO producers to them as potential subjects for the upcoming film. The hope was that working on the film would give him a new insight into how his drinking was ruining his life and relationships with those closest to him.
He made many attempts to get and stay sober. He even allowed the film crew to be at his hospital bedside while he was detoxing. Neal was serious about stopping even though it may have seemed he was not the least bit interested in sobriety.
After the filming was complete, he went to several rehabs outside of his home state. He finally settled down in Louisiana and it was there that he decided to try one more time. This time he had a renewed determination to make it all work. He made the decision to become totally abstinent and this time his hard work paid off.
It was a long hard road and Neal slowly walked each step. Eventually, he renewed his relationship with Kathy and they began courting as though they had just met. It was a new beginning and Neal was well aware that this would be his last chance with the woman he loved.
Neal has been sober for more than a year. He is happy. He is calm. He is working his own program that works for him. He has no anxiety attacks and he is healthier than he has been in years.
He told me that he simply made a decision to not be drunk even though the simple decision was difficult to achieve. He says he found the whole thing easier once he accepted the fact that he could not drink ever again.
Neal took a less stressful job in order to simplify his life. It involves long hours and hard work, but he says it’s just what he needs. He spends less time with his grandson but his time is of a much higher quality. He likes this new life.
So why was Neal hesitant to talk to me? Because he doesn’t want any fame or notoriety. He wants to fade into the background so as not to have the pressure from public exposure. He wants to remain private and asks just to be left alone so he can enjoy his peaceful life.
He explained that he doesn’t want alcohol or alcoholism to be the center of his life. If he is constantly in contact with the people involved with the film, alcohol would still be his focus. That’s not what he wants. Letting alcohol go means moving forward and not letting it occupy your mind and thoughts. Neal says he has better things to think about and do.
I’ve assured Neal that my readers will respect his right to let him move on and put his past behind him.
at 5:56 AM
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Below is a guest post sent to me by Foundations Recovery Network. Lots of great graphics and relevant statistics.
Addiction has the power to destroy many things in someone’s life. A passion, a future, a career…but most importantly, it can destroy a family. The family plays a critical role before someone’s journey down the road to addiction takes place, and is as important in recovery and aftercare support.
Loved ones can be a primary influence in the daily life of someone who abuses alcohol or drugs. These loved ones can range from co-workers, extended family members, parents, children, siblings and close friends. As of 2013 about 43% of U.S. adults - 76 million people - have been exposed to alcoholism in their family. These people have either grown up with an alcoholic family member, or have had a spouse or family member become addicted during adulthood. The most concerning part is that the younger generations are also being exposed more and more to this epidemic, specifically from their parents. It is said that an estimated 8 million children in the U.S. have at least one substance abusing parent. Of this number, parents are 2.7 times more likely to be abusive and 4.2 times more likely to neglect their children. The number of children being raised by their grandparents has also grown (to 4.9 million in 2010) primarily due to addiction and mental health disorders.
Part of the nation’s effort in breaking the stigma associated with substance abuse is so that loved ones can have a constructive conversation with their addicted family member. This starts with being educated on the habits and signs of an addict. A lot is said on how loved ones can be enablers by giving the addict attention, money, and letting them continue their use simply to “protect” them. The loved one is scared to say something or doesn’t know how to help them. However, it’s also true that the addict himself can enable their loved ones; begging for money, help bailing them out of jail or getting to where they need to be, ignoring help from their loved one, and so on. We know it’s because of the substance that the addict is acting this way and not who they truly are. But this substance causes selfish, lying, stealing, threatening and manipulative behavior. The family member gets scared and confused and doesn’t know how to help the addict without offending them or starting an argument.
So, how can you spot alcoholism in a loved one? Here are some ways:
-The person is tempted and obligated to make alcohol a part of everyday life
-The person has an increased tolerance
-The person is unwilling to stop drinking
-The person has withdrawal symptoms when refraining to drink
-The person is ashamed of his drinking
-The person’s life suffers as a result of drinking
What to Do When It’s True:
-Hire a professional interventionist
-Plan an Intervention
-Conduct the Intervention
Steps of Treatment:
-Find a rehab that will meet all your family’s needs
The process of working with an addicted loved one can be stressful and challenging. Attending family therapy and recovery sessions can be a key part in maintaining a healthy mind and body. It can help family and friends concentrate on what they have lost during the other’s addiction, and what problems they still seem to be recovering from even after the addict gets help. This type of recovery and treatment may be different depending on the ages and relationships in question. Family therapy is important because it helps the group as a whole get back to their own identity instead of putting all the effort they have into taking care of the addict.
The addict is ultimately responsible for their own recovery, but it’s also important for the loved one to be supportive along the journey. If the addict respects and supports the loved one, and can even participate in their recovery as well, the whole family unit can find healing.
Family therapy and recovery will build strength and effective communication within each individual and their relationship with each other. Understanding of the loved one’s addiction and recovery will develop as well. This will help prevent generations of addiction to continue in your family, and help to be open with each other about problems or events that may lead up to a potential addiction or relapse.
There are 23 million people struggling with addiction and mental health illnesses. Only 3 million are seeking help. Addiction is a disease, and it effects everyone around them. Skywood’s mission is to reach out to the other 20 million who are not seeking help. Break the stigma, and reach out for help. We are just a phone call away.
Written by: Foundations Recovery Network
Private & Confidential Line: (877) 345-3395
at 9:38 AM
Thursday, December 29, 2016
The New Year is upon us but I find myself looking backward. I suppose I’m reflecting on the events of 2016 and wondering where the year went. Each year passes by so quickly.
Some of the highlights of 2016 were health issues for me; viewing the premiere of HBO’s Risky Drinking; going to New York City; spending craft time with my great-grandkids; hiring an aide; and, Riley is still immortal.
I have plans for 2017. At the beginning of every year I make plans. Lots and lots of plans. So many plans that no human being could complete them in a series of New Years. I don’t do resolutions – I do plans. In short, I bite off far more than I can chew. I’m going to try to be more realistic this year. (Does that mean I’m making a resolution?)
In the year 2017 I will be working with a partner to create a documentary film about living life inside the chaos of a loved one’s alcoholism. It will be a collection of home videos from volunteers willing to document the complexity of their lives. There will be more information forthcoming. If you think you might be interested drop me an e-mail.
My blog posts will become a book. The posts will be indexed by topic and date making it easy to find posts that will be relevant to you. For those who want to “catch up” on the blog’s history, this will be an easy way to look back and not have to search the blog for what you are looking for.
There will be more guests posts on the blog. These guests will include rehab centers for my alcoholic readers. I’ll be lifting my criteria that to accept a rehab center for a post they must have a family program. However, I prefer rehab centers with some kind of unique draw to them.
I will attempt a webinar and seminars based on “Surviving the Chaos” workbook. The workbook will be used in conjunction with the presentations. Get your copy now so you can go through it before the date is set.
2017 will be a year of fixing this old body. I’ll be having four surgeries. So, while I’m recovering, I’ll be doing a lot of computer work for The Immortal Alcoholic.
If previous years are any indication – Riley will remain immortal – again.
I’m making an attempt at staying realistic, so I think I should stop there.
Have no doubt… things will change. Things will be added and deleted. If I’ve learned nothing over the past 68 years, I have certainly learned that nothing is set in stone. All things are subject to change in the blink of an eye. There will be change in 2017 and years after. It’s one of those things that us humans cannot control.
On the other hand, some things won’t change – won’t ever change. Those are the things that we must accept and work around, through, over and under until we find a way to live with whatever the issue is.
Riley will not change. He will continue his slow, but steady, downward spiral until his immortality runs out. This, I accept, as something I cannot control.
The most important thing I will do in 2017 is to take time for myself. Let my body heal after the surgeries. Let my psyche heal from the stress of anything going on around me. I will take naps, go shopping, sew and craft stuff, watch old movies… I will live my life and be happy to be alive.
What does your 2017 look like?
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of household peace danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, fell quickly to sleep,
And I with my nightcap, had just settled in to finish my bottle of scotch;
I had dozed off for a minute when out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my recliner to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew with a staggering stumble,
Tore the ottoman and pulled the curtains off the window.
The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave such a luster of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering, hard to focus, eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be my drinking buddy Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
They must be the guys from Roscoe’s Bar down the street,
And Nick whistled and shouted and call them by names I did not know:
“Now, Dasher! Now Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall,
Now, dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the housetop the guys all flew,
With the sleigh, full of liquor and Nick, too.
And then, in a twinkle, I slipped and fell on my head,
Passed out until morning when,
The children thundered down the stairs searching for their bounty.
At first I had no recollection of how the curtains were pulled off the window,
Or how scotch was spilled all over the floor.
But I knew something was not quite right with last night.
Why can’t the kids stop squealing and why is my wife crying?
Can’t they see the pain in my head?
With my vodka coffee in my mug, I hide in the bathroom to regain some reality.
I know it wasn’t a midnight hallucination,
Nick and his buddies had visited my house in the dead of night.
But Nick says no, I must have seen St. Nicholas and his tiny reindeer.
I went to my computer and looked up rehab centers close to my home,
My Christmas dinner was served to me there,
Because, I couldn’t rationalize all those reindeer on my roof,
And maybe someone else will clean up all that poop in my yard.
Next year, will be different I’m sure,
For sobriety paints a different picture and composes a new poem.
Hallucinations dash away, dash away all,
Christmas will be pleasant in my home
So, I'm wishing everyone a Happy Christmas one and all!
at 2:47 PM
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Did you watch the Risky Drinking film? What did you think of it?
I liked the film very much. The fact that I advised HBO through an entire segment makes me unable to give an impartial opinion. Even though I like the film, after watching it for the second time, I realized that I am desensitized to the yukky parts of alcoholism. Hospitalization to detox and watching someone’s hands shaking is a bit ho-hum to me.
For me the concern was the 15-year-old boy taking care of his alcoholic father and the wife of the end-stage alcoholic who helps her husband go back into his job while in a drunken state. Those were the scenes that made me want to jump out of my seat and scream at the TV.
Let’s break this down by segment. In the first one, we see a young woman, Kenzie, who doesn’t do much drinking during the work week so that she feels comfortable binge drinking on the weekends. I know this is considered to be “fun” in her generation. But, I can’t understand why someone purposely gets drunk and begins the evening with laughter and always ends in tears. That’s not fun to me. But, I'm not a drinker. The fact is that binge drinking is just another form of alcoholism. I was disturbed with the young woman’s behavior while she was drinking and appalled at her reasoning for why it was all “OK.”
In the segment where a man, Mike, is having his teenage son visit him at his tropical island home over spring break was especially infuriating. The father wants the boy to come live with him rather than living with his mother in the states. At one point the father actually says he needs his son to come and help take care of him. What? What parent says that or expects that?
During this segment the man and his wife try to reconcile, but the effort ends up in a verbal confrontation. I was not shocked by the illogical reasoning that was spewing from the husband’s mouth. The inability to see how his behavior has ruined his marriage is a common trait among alcoholics. The scene could have come from any alcoholic home at almost any time. It’s not uncommon to those of us who have been a party to such arguments.
The entire time I was watching, I was thinking about that 15-year-old boy who has most likely seen this type of encounter between his parents many times over. I wanted to snatch the boy from inside my TV and run off with him to keep him safe. I wanted to make sure he had “normal” years of what is left of his childhood. On the other hand, how would I know what “normal” is since I’m the wife of an alcoholic?
Next, we have Noel and Rhonda. I’m not really sure what Rhonda’s function was in the film except that she was the introduction of Noel. I don’t think Noel is the only one with a problem in the group of women that share her happy hour enjoyment. My problem with Noel is that I did not see her drinking or drunk in front of her kids. I didn’t see her children suffering the way I know many children suffer. Maybe she is the tip of the iceberg and the assumption is that people will use their imagination to determine how bad things are. Unless you’ve lived it, I don’t see how anyone can simply use their imagination.
Noel was interesting because she used a new program called “Moderation Management” to help her control her drinking. It seemed to be working for her. I was happy her segment was in the movie because it reinforces my opinion that 12 step programs are not the only ones that can provide help to alcoholics. The fact that Noel seemed to be happy in her choice of programs and it was helping her, makes this segment worthwhile.
My personal favorite segment was the story of Neal. Maybe because I was the one who introduced the HBO producers to the couple. Neal’s wife, Kathy, has been a long-time follower of my blog and had written me many e-mails way before the film was even conceived. I believed they were the perfect candidates for filming. I was right.
Neal struggled through the film and yet was willing to have his life become an open book in order to show people how bad it could really get. What you see in the film is only a drop in the bucket compared to the reality of Neal’s life. What you don’t see in the film is the verbal argument between Kathy and the doctors at the hospital who did not want to admit Neal for detox. She takes a strong stand until the hospital agrees to take Neal into intensive care. I admire HBO for pushing the hospital administration to allow them to film Neal while he was hospitalized. Kathy and Neal stood behind HBO and between them they received their permission for filming.
I never wish anything bad to happen, but I had hoped the detox would be a bit more eventful than it was. Everyone was prepared for hallucinations and other horror factors, but Neal was fortunate to have an easy detox.
The most important thing for me to witness was the look on Kathy’s face as she attempts to get her husband to the detox center in Florida. You can clearly tell it was the last straw for her and I could feel her pain as I watched. Any alcoholic’s wife knows the look; knows the feeling of despair and sense of loss.
This is a must-see film for anyone who suspects that they may be drinking too much. But for me the real story is in the family. It is the teenage boy and his mother and the wife of the seemingly immortal alcoholic. That’s the true story of how extensive the damage can be amidst the chaos of alcoholism.
After watching this film, be sure to visit the website and read where these participants are now. You will find it to be very interesting. http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/risky-drinking/synopsis/where-are-they-now.html
I was supposed to have been listed on the resource page of the website for this film, but alas, I seem to have been left on the cutting room floor. For the family and friends of alcoholics, there is a new forum site open and waiting for your participation. It's a baby forum so please be patient while we build our membership. Go go https://oarsfamilysupport.weebly.com/.
at 9:12 AM