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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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An organized mind...

Yesterday, Alea had an issue and needed her Mommy. Of course, I accommodated her. We talked on the phone for a couple of hours going over her issues, feelings, and options and then planned a course of action. I don’t care how long I was on the phone, my child needed me and that was the only important thing in my life at that moment.

I had closed my office door thinking it would keep Riley from disturbing our conversation. I thought that he would understand that the closed door meant that whatever was going on was important and needed my undivided attention. Silly me.

In the mornings, Riley and I sit at my desk and he tells me his plan for the day. Yesterday’s plan was to clean out and reorganize the refrigerator. I wanted to move the shelves and make it easier to find things that get pushed to the back. I told him to take everything out, wash the shelves and then I would come in and put it all back.

I didn’t mean I would jump up from my desk the minute he completed his share of the task. I was dismayed when he opened up my office door and informed me that I had to come out right now and finish the refrigerator. I told him I’d be out when I was done. He returned two more times to let me know that the things that needed refrigeration were getting warm. I repeated that I would be out when I was done talking to Alea.

The phone call was over. I went out to the kitchen and saw everything on the counter. Riley was sitting in his chair, but when he saw me he jumped up and said I had been inconsiderate because now he wanted to take a nap but had to stay up to help me. I told him I didn’t need his help yet and to go lie down if that’s what he wanted.

From there he proceeded to tell me that I shouldn’t be on the phone for three hours talking to someone – anyone. I also shouldn’t be playing computer solitaire when there is work to be done – especially when I have my real job to do. Then he went off into his usual tirade about living in the real world – his personal fav.

I lost my temper and began yelling back. (Never try to come between MommaLinda and one of her kids.)

Then I abruptly stopped.

I shut up.

I looked at him and told him he should go take a nap.

A sober Riley would not have cared how long I talked to Alea. A sober Riley would have realized there was nothing frozen on the counter and nothing was going to spoil in that time frame. A sober Riley would have been impressed that I could talk on the phone and play computer solitaire at the same time. The person I was angry with was not a sober Riley. I lost my temper and began yelling at – who?? No one. No one that could understand or hear what I was trying to convey.

It’s perfectly normal to lose your temper and defend yourself. But, you can’t defend yourself and be successful at protecting yourself when dealing with an alcoholic. There’s really nothing to defend. The angry, defensive words are lost in the haze. It means nothing. The only thing I gained was a raise in my blood pressure. 

Riley mumbled all the way to his room. And I looked around. OK. I needed to fix this. I got the plastic shoe boxes that I bought just for this task. I sorted out the cheese from the lunch meat and the condiments from the leftovers. I put the cheese into a box, and did the same for the lunch meat and condiments that I use most often. The less used condiments are placed into another box. I threw away the very old leftovers. If I had two of something, I consolidated it into one. And the stuff that only had a small amount in the jar got put into a smaller container.

I put the boxes into the refrig, all lined up nice and neat. Now I can slide the boxes in and out and get to what is in the back of the shelf. Everything looked great. I was so proud of myself.

As I was looking at my handiwork, I thought that at one time this could have represented Riley’s brain. All neat and organized with everything having a purpose and place. It was one of the things I had loved and admired about him. Now his brain couldn’t connect to logic and order. He tries, but just doesn’t get there.

Instead of being defensive, I should have said… “I understand you’re upset.” I must remember that I only hurt myself when I become angry. There is nothing to gain by vehemently expressing my point.  In this house, my point is only important to me.


Syd said...

I can remember trying to pick a fight with my wife when she was near black out. I wanted to wound. But I wounded myself. I picked on someone who wasn't hearing or seeing me. I don't pick fights anymore. I see them for what they are--my anger that things can't be the way I want; my attempt to punish. It is much better to walk away. I will never win an argument with an alcoholic.

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Linda my friend - you have to vent at times or otherwise you would be constantly hurt and constantly wounded.

In hindsight it is easy to rationalise - but you have to consider your own needs. Be angry when you feel it is right and don't feel bad about it.

Love and respect.

Kind regards.

Anna :o]