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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, April 25, 2011

Not my choice...

The one aspect of living in the country bit me on the butt this weekend. It was Easter and I would have loved to have had a big family dinner at my house. I have the perfect yard for an Easter egg hunt. We also have lots of rabbits to hide those eggs.

My grandson’s wife has a lot of family where they live. They have a lot of obligations. There just isn’t enough time in the day for them to drive two hours to see us. I understand and I do my best to accommodate them, but I miss them terribly.

So… why don’t we go to them?? It certainly is the best alternative and, until now, we have done just that on previous holidays. This holiday was different because things are changing with Riley.

On Friday night, I cooked a wonderful beef stroganoff. The meat had simmered in a red wine which made it sooooo tender. The onions had caramelized. The mushrooms were fresh. There was nothing low cal about it and every calorie tasted superb! Riley loved it. I loved it. I wanted to lick the pan!

About an hour later, Riley lost his dinner. The stroganoff probably didn’t taste so good going the wrong direction. He went to bed and was up and down to the bathroom all night. The problem continues even through this morning – four days later.

Basically, he has not had a real solid meal since Friday – which doesn’t count because there’s no nutritional value in a meal that can’t be kept down. He has had toast, crackers, soup, and a bit of mac and cheese. In spite of it all, his liquid consumption remains about the same – 12 cans of beer a day with a few sips of water in between.

When my stomach is upset, I want nothing to eat or drink. I have to force myself to eat crackers or soup and to drink water. I usually try to stick to dry toast and warm unsweetened tea. But, I certainly could never drink a beer. The thought of it would send me on a run back to the porcelain bowl. It’s difficult for me to understand how Riley can continue with the beer. I don’t get how it is even physically possible to get it down at all.

So on Easter Sunday, driving two hours to my daughter’s was really not an option. Riley would certainly insist upon going. If he has the flu – I cannot expose the babies or anyone else. Our last trip to her house resulted in Riley peeing all over Alea’s brand new ottoman – that trip was a disaster. So even if the vomiting is part of an alcohol related illness and not contagious – I cannot expose anyone to that either.

One of the reasons I moved to the country was to separate Riley’s alcoholism from the children. As I fret over not being able to see them, I know I’m doing what’s best for them. My plan is working.

In the meantime, I make do with hearing my great-grandson laugh over the telephone. He has such an infectious raucous laughter for a little guy. My great-granddaughter briefly talks to me – she’s a 4 year old with things to do – such a little diva. I enjoy every second of hearing their voices. Afterwards, my resolve is reinforced that I’m doing the right thing for them. They are too little to understand. There should be no need for them to have to understand.

Is the vomiting alcohol related?? The logical part of my brain says – absolutely. We are probably on the downward spiral. I no longer check his feces or intestinal matter for signs of internal bleeding. I’ve freed myself from that by not trying to save him. If I don’t know that he is bleeding internally, I won’t feel compelled to get him to the hospital. I won't ignore it, but I won't look for it either.

I asked him if he wanted to go to the doctor – he said NO. I asked if he wanted to go to the emergency room – he said NO. I told him if he changed his mind to let me know and I would take him. He has not changed his mind. I don’t plan on asking again.

Oh – I know what you are thinking – how could I be so cold!! I’m not cold, I’m doing as Riley has requested. His loud and clear statement of his desire to choose death over sobriety rings clearly in my head on a daily basis. It’s not my choice to make. I won’t go against his wishes again because I’ve done that over and over and I’ve gained no ground.

Just to clarify – I will not keep him from getting to the hospital. I will gladly take him if he asks me for help. If he doesn’t ask for help, I will do nothing until he is unconscious. When that happens he will no longer be able to decide for himself and I will get him medical care. It may be too late by then and if so – it was his choice.

If it turns out that the Immortal Alcoholic is in fact truly mortal… well… next Easter the kids will come to my house the Saturday before and I will have a family holiday in the country filled with love and laughter.

Then again… it could be that Riley simply has the flu.


Gabriele Goldstone said...

I understand what you're saying. But, couldn't you go visit your grandkids on your own? He's too sick to travel. I'm sad that my own adult kids have to see their father so ill and so uncaring about his own health. It's a disease, yet. But it is also a choice.

On the one hand, yes you are cold - and I am too - but on the other hand, this detachment is a survival mechanism. It's too hard to feel empathy for someone who's obviously self-loathing. My husband asked me again if the life insurance was up-to-date. Why can't he just focus on getting healthy?

Jennifer said...

I don't think it's cold at all. This is an all too familiar scene. I don't dare force the argument when it comes up but only ask once and leave the offer without further comment. His defense mechanism is instinctual to protect the drink more than himself. Like Gabriele's comment, my husband is more concerned with life insurance than health (it's almost as though he thinks he's controling it all with a slow, dramatic death). It's sad we all have this in common. Doctors are out of the question, so I don't question any more. I'll call the ambulance when he is unconscious, which I expect will come from one of the many times he hits his head on walls, doors, and tables lately. That's why I'm here -- my job is to make sure he doesn't drive, turn off the oven or gas grill when he passes out in the middle of cooking, and get him to the hospital when (and only when) he's not fighting it. I'm not physically strong enough to force him. And I won't ruin my own health stressing out over checking on his. Like Linda said -- it's not my choice.

Jennifer said...

One more thing... Gabriele asked if you could go visit your grandkids on your own. As the caregiver of an alcoholic, I cannot imagine leaving him alone -- the fires he would start, the cars he would total (I know because each of those happened years ago when I was foolish enough to leave him alone). The question reminds me of a question my mother-in-law once asked: "Why do you have to do everything? Can't he drive the kids to an after-school activity once in a while?" The kids and I knew the answer I didn't say: "Of course not. He can't drive at night."

ms. jacque said...

thank you so much for sharing. my partner is struggling with deciding to stop. so until then...12 cans of beer a day...i couldn't believe it the first time i really took notice.

it's down to 4-5 12oz cans..(same diff to me) getting her to see sense of eating even if not hungry (we're getting older and our bodies will not bounce back like back in the day)
is baby steps.

i knew she was an alcoholic when i met her and knew what that might entail. hopefully recovery in some near future.

until then, one day at a time.
thank you for letting me share too.

Alcoholic Daze (ADDY) said...

I'm with Gabriele. You could visit your family on your own and leave him behind to fend for himself. When Greg was at that stage I used to leave him regularly (once for two weeks) to visit my elderly mother sixty miles away who needs a lot of looking after too. I am so sorry you are having to go through this. My release came with Greg's death, but now - a year on - I am all at sea. Alcoholism is a wretched disease and there are no winners.

Linda said...

At this point I COULD leave him at home alone, but in a few months that will be impossible. As it turned out, Alea came down with a viral infection and I didn't want to chance getting it myself. It's OK -- the grandkids are bringing the babies out this weekend so we can go to the Hog Fest!

I wish Riley were concerned with life insurance. He has never wanted to have ANY so I have it thru my employer. He says buying life insurance is betting against yourself. Oh well...

Gabriele Goldstone said...

I'm so happy to take part in this discussion. Thanks, Linda - and I hope you get lots of hugs from your grandkids! Al-anon's ok - but this here kind of talk is what I really need.

Syd said...

I get that you cannot force him to get help. If he doesn't want to live, which his actions clearly support that, then you can't fill him with the desire to carry on. I don't think that I could live with the knowledge that someone is slowly committing suicide. It would be so difficult. I know the choices that I have now. Still, your being there tells me that you are anything but cruel.