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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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


This past week has been a tough one. Riley’s return to drinking has left me a bit frustrated and angry. I knew it would happen eventually and I thought I was prepared for it. But there is always a sense of “What the f……?” when the cycle does a 180.

There have been conversations – albeit nonsensical – about Riley’s drinking. I’ve asked questions like, “Do you understand that drinking is killing you?” The answer has never changed – his answer is “Yes.” Does he care? Yes, he cares but that’s not going to stop him.

During one of these conversations, Riley asked what would happen if I died before him. I told him he would have to go live with Alea. He asked, what if he didn’t want to live with Alea? I told him there were no other options. He then asked about what would happen if he didn’t want to live with me anymore? My answer was the same as the other one – he would go live with Alea. He said he didn’t want to go live with Alea. I told him there were two choices – me or Alea. He then told me he wanted to go live by himself in California. I repeated his two choices – California wasn’t one of them.

Riley is passive aggressive. He has ways of trying to get his way via the backdoor. We’ve had conversations this week about conflicting house rules. That is I have a rule and Riley has a directly opposing rule. For example, I don’t want the dog to be feed table scraps. Riley would set a place at the table for Jade if he thought he could get away with it. He ignores my rule and gives all the scraps to her when I’m out of the room. No matter how many times I have told him that this is not healthy for Jade, he insists upon feeding her those scraps.

In my mind, I believe he will do everything he can to generate a stressful environment so I will get tired of it and send him back to California. This is exactly the sort of thing Riley will do. I know this and I become angry with myself when I fall into the trap of letting him anger me to the point of yelling. Yelling has never done any good. All it does is make my throat sore and give me a headache. It’s definitely not worth it.

At the moment the only alcohol Riley is consuming is beer. Alcohol is alcohol. It doesn’t matter if it is beer, vodka or Listerine. The only difference, at the moment, is that the beer haze doesn’t seem to carry over to the early morning hours. That means I can have a semi-reasonable conversation with him prior to him popping that first beer of the day. I am grateful for the conversation; however, he is only SEMI-reasonable. I never know what the topic will be or if it will make any sense.

In order to maintain my own sanity and health, I have to reach into my bag of magic tricks and pull out my extra-strength survival wand. It’s in there somewhere – mixed in with my One Day At A Time and the chocolate bars. Then I see it… dim little lights in the darkness of the bag and they are spelling out… Smile and Nod!

When Riley’s conversations are unreasonable and I run out of things to say before I start yelling… I must smile and nod. Close my mouth. Turn off the reactive part of my brain and just smile and nod. It is not a nod that implies acceptance of what he says – it’s just an acknowledgment that he is speaking. The smile is to let him know that he has not succeeded in riling my anger.

So now the conversation is about how many clothes to put into the washer. I ask him to not put so many in at one time. He responds with – OK, I’ll just use less water. I tell him that won’t work because it would be the same thing as one of his “regular” loads. I tell him to keep the water level at high and use fewer clothes. He begins to give me a litany of why I’m wrong. I tell him, OK – just don’t wash any of my clothes. Of course, he has an answer to that and I can feel the frustration turning into anger. I shut up. I don’t express how irritating he is instead I simply… Smile and Nod.


Anonymous said...

Thank you. I have to visit my end-stage alcoholic mom soon. And I know similar situations/ conversations will occur. This helps me prepare.

Alcoholic Daze (ADDY) said...

Sending you hugs (((()))) - it all sounds so very familiar.

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Keep on smiling and nodding Linda - do not reinforce his behaviour by entering into discourse.

Feel for you!

Anna :o]

Ann said...

This sounds like home.......only the smile and nod practice only made him angrier; because I wouldn't fight, he said I didn't care.

Anonymous said...

did alot of amiling and nodding this week...thank you Linda

Syd said...

I am reminded to pause when agitated. Easy to say but hard to do at times.

Anonymous said...

I keep trying to smile and nod, but it sure is hard.