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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.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A special gift...

It breaks my heart to read all the comments from people who are asked their opinion on surviving the death of the alcoholic closest to them. The loss generates questions about what the non-alcoholic could have done to prevent the demise. I can truly see this from two distinctly separate points of view -- as a mother and as a wife.

Although my son didn’t live all that far from me – only about a 4 hours – I really didn’t see him very often. He and his girl friend were always working and she seldom wanted to make that trip. My transportation was “iffy” and I didn’t want to push my good old heap to make the journey. But we talked every weekend and often during the week. I seldom talked to the girl friend because it seems she was always in the bathroom when I or Alea was on the phone.

You would have thought I would have known what was going on. But I didn’t. There were innuendos and comments, but nothing concrete. I talked with Brian often about his drinking and asked what I thought were all the right questions. But I was not listening close enough.

The point is… I failed my son. As a mother I failed to protect him because I didn’t realize that he could be in danger. I have beat myself up over this so many times and I try to rationalize and give myself a break. But there are no breaks for me. My inaction killed my son. So I grieve everyday for my little boy who never really grew up. For him I ask, why? What if? But I know the answer and I do NOT like it.

There is another side to this. There is Riley, the father of my little boy who shared the same addiction to alcohol.  He has been saved so many times from a path of his own choosing which complicates the lives of everyone around him. I no longer see him as my husband who shares everything with me. He is now my roommate, my responsibility, but not my lover. I have detached from him and that is how I survive.

We had a discussion this morning about his death. He is not drinking at the moment and therefore is not in eminent danger of dying. But, it is just a matter of time before the cycle begins again and he will meet his demise. And, in my jaded mind, his death will be the ultimate gift to me, Alea and Ryan, because it will be the gift of freedom from insanity. We have already grieved for the husband, father and grandfather that we knew in the past. It has taken us years to get to this point – but here we are. When he dies our tears will be representative of the joy of being able to let go. We will miss the Riley with the handlebar moustache – but we’ve been missing him for a very long time.

So why is it different for Brian? I never had the opportunity to accept the reality of his addiction. I never detached because I didn’t have the conflict with Brian that I have had with Riley. Brian never lived in my house as an alcoholic. He never caused me to be concerned. He never went to a rehab center. I never detached because I didn’t know I needed to. And so I am left with this immense hole in my heart.

It seems cavalier of me to say… detach and you will not be in so much pain. Oh... just do as I say and everything will be rosey. Well… guess what it is NOT rosey and will never be rosey. The loss of a loved one hurts – even on a good day or a bad relationship. But the loss can be less intense if you can see it for what it is. A gift.

My son gave me a gift – even if I didn’t want it – he gave me the gift of not watching him follow in his father’s footsteps. He gave me the gift of not consuming my life with insanity. He gave me the gift of forcing me to let him go. If I don’t believe this, I am doomed to live in the darkness of his absence.

Riley will give me a gift – a welcomed one. He will give me the gift of sanity. He is not ready yet to wrap it up with a pretty bow – but eventually he will hand it to me. And I will gladly accept his gift of letting me go. If I don’t believe this, I am doomed to never escape from the insanity of his alcoholism.

4 comments:

Ann said...

Linda! You are in NO way responsible for your son's actions! What would you have done, corralled him, tied him in a chair and kept him hidden in a closet for the rest of your life? Life is not always fair, certainly not when it comes to this disease. Our children have two parents, not one, and especially not just one who is responsible for their well being. You can only be responsible for your children while they need clothing, shelter and protection from harm. After that, you can love them from afar, but they are their own people, responsible for their own actions. It seems as though one should be able to save one's own children, but even that is not realistic. Let him go, and relish the good memories because what could have been will never be, but what was is all you have, so make the most of the best, leave the rest......alcoholic insanity is getting a leg up on you, my friend.

Syd said...

I think that my memories of my father are mostly good ones. Of course, there are the dark ones too. But I understand that he was a product of his upbringing. I don't think that anyone can prevent the demise of an alcoholic. They have made a choice to keep drinking and some will do that until they die. Such a sad thing but not something any of us can control.

Anonymous said...

I live with an end stage alcoholic, my husband. It is such a horrible thing to watch him kill himself, but I find that I pray for it to happen soon. The guilt I feel when I have those thoughts is staggering, but finding this site and reading what you say about it being a gift is more true than I can believe. This is not the man I married more that 20 years ago. He is an angry, sullen man who can't remember things, falls asleep on his feet and has body tremors that are very disturbing and doesn't want to live any longer. But what makes me the saddest is that his children, 21 & 18 have very little memory of the kind, funny, and sweet man that their father used to be. I just get up every day hoping that it will end soon. Thank you for helping me to feel a bit better about hoping the end comes sooner rather than later.

Jennifer said...

This site is my first visit to a community of people who share what I have lived with for over 20 years. It is such a relief to me (and my daughter, too) that our wish for the "gift" to escape my husband's alcoholism is natural -- it still doesn't feel right to hope for it, but knowing we are not monsters for feeling this way helps us cope.