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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.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Addiction Swap Meet

I’ve had so many people tell me how wonderful it must be that Riley is not drinking. These people assume that because he is not alcohol infused that life must be close to normal. I’m not so sure what “normal” is, but I know that the insanity continues even in sobriety.
As often happens when an addict stops using his preferred drug of choice, he will change over to another addiction. The new addiction can often surface as some unusual manifestations. During Riley’s alcoholic career, I’ve seen him go from an alcohol addiction to an addiction for AA, women, sex, cleanliness, food, politics, TV… almost anything that strikes his fancy at the moment.
Currently, he has developed a penchant for making sure that certain areas of the household are kept at a certain cleanliness level. But he’s not the same as the TV character Monk. That character was a true obsessive compulsive clean freak. To say Riley is obsessive compulsive may be too broad of a statement. A better definition could be “selective obsessive compulsive.”  
Riley has his mental list of things to be done on a daily morning basis. He makes the beds, hangs or folds up clothing, feeds the dog and cat, washes the dishes from the night before -- and during these sober moments I’m very appreciative of his attention to these chores. There is an order to the things he does and he is driven to do each task in the “Riley appropriate” order.
But there is also a contradiction to his cleanliness drive. For example, he prefers using a sponge, but forgets to throw it in the washer or dishwasher. The sponge begins smelling pretty bad before I remind him to get out a clean one. He does his laundry and wears clean clothes, but he only showers and shampoos his hair about every six months.
I know this is mostly due to the residual brain damage and I try to be understanding and cooperative. But, there is resentment – he would not have brain damage if he had not gone back to drinking so many times. Most days I succeed at not letting the resentment take over so that I can appreciate the things he does around the house.
I am grateful that his addiction did not become something more sinister. However, I believe that some addictions – such as Riley’s cleanliness – may be a form of passive aggressive behavior. For example, washing my coffee spoon before the coffee pot is empty. He knows it irritates me because I never have just one cup of coffee and will have to get out a clean spoon for each cup. When I bring this to his attention his response is that the dirty dishes need to be washed in a timely manner. It’s very difficult to argue with that kind of logic. On the other hand, I don’t think it will hurt anything if the spoon doesn’t get washed until the coffee pot is empty and we’ve moved on to lunch.
There are worse addictions than Riley's current one and if my passive aggressive theory is correct – the more intense or dangerous the addiction, the more internally angry the addict may be because he cannot or will not express his anger.
Whether it’s passive aggressive, obsessive compulsive or another addiction – the result is the same. It all breeds an uneasy sense of insanity because as a non-alcoholic living with an alcoholic, there is always impending doom. But, as I’ve said before, I live and enjoy the moment. I appreciate that I don’t have to make my own bed or wipe down the stove top – at least for today.


Elizabeth R. said...

I love this, Linda! And thank you for visiting Countingdays.org! I loved getting your comment! Yes, I think that what I have might actually be selective obsessive compulsive rather than ocd! And I almost wish that I was currently suffering with compulsions that made me obsess a little more on keeping things tidy like Riley...

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