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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, June 23, 2011

Denial of family...

It’s funny how you can know something but not really KNOW it. Maybe it’s that we don’t really acknowledge it rather than know it. Maybe it’s a form of denial.

I grew up in a large family that was greeted each other with hugs and kisses. In the summer, the kids were exchanged back and forth between aunts and uncles so the children could bond with their cousins. We were family.

I remember how my father doted on all the new babies that came into our house. I remember him literally bouncing them on his knee and kissing them a million times before handing them back to my mother. Since that was my “norm” I believed all fathers were like that.

When my son, my first child, was born, I remember how distant Riley seemed to be. Oh, we had a baby, isn’t that neat – I think that was his first reaction. But, he didn’t seem to care if he held him or not – never asked if he could – never just did it because he wanted to. He was not projecting any sense of a need to protect, no kissing, no touching… just OK we have another mouth to feed. I remember feeling very disappointed, but thinking he would change as Brian became more and more a part of our life.

He didn’t change. He had two other boys before Brian that he ignored and I should have seen that as a red flag. In my heart I believed he ignored them so they could have no complications with their new step-father. That was what he had told me. I thought it was admirable – a true sacrifice for his boys. I was young – just barely 18 – what the heck did I know?

As I said, I was only turning 18 years old when I met Riley and outwardly he fit into the format of the man I thought I wanted in my life. I was too young to realize that what I really wanted had nothing to do with outward appearances or occupation or knowing where to get the best scallops. When he described his childhood as Donna Reed Showesque, I thought of a loving family that expressed emotion. I guess I was watching a different “Donna Reed Show” than he was. I believe my denial started right then and there. Isn’t hindsight great?

This morning, during our usual “over coffee” talk, the subject of family was brought up. Riley told me that “I love you” was not something that he ever heard as a child. That there were few, if any, hugs and kisses. There was support and accolades given for excellent school work and tasks, and there were handshakes – but not much emotion.

This morning he was more detailed about the events inside his childhood home. He’s relatively sober today, I think what he says is believable. It felt as though, in his house there was just a safe place to physically grow and get out. I could be wrong – but that was my take anyway.

I asked him if that was why he was so distant to our children, grandchild and great-grandchildren. I asked if he felt a real sense of love towards them. His response was that he loved them, but was not emotionally connected with them. He said that he never felt a real connection with any of his kids. That’s why it would be so easy to just leave North Carolina and go back to California where he could be closer to his brother – the only real emotional connection in his life.

So now… more than forty years later… I realize that he never really cared whether he was a father or not. In fact, he could have done without fatherhood all together. He had no sense of “family” and that didn’t bother him in the least.

I had always known that Riley did not have a family life as a child that anywhere resembled mine. This morning I finally realized how much his childhood was opposite from mine. I had always known this but maybe I had denied how it would have a negative impact on his own children.

My denial is over. It took me 40 years to realize that my husband doesn’t really care about any of us – the people who have protected and cared for him in spite of every awful thing he has done to us or around us. It explains a lot.

I never really was in denial over Riley’s alcoholism. But I have been in denial as to how his emotional disconnect has contributed to his desire to not stop drinking. In a world where you don’t care if you are “loved” or not, I would imagine that there is no real reason to quit. That fuzzy world of insanity might provide a blanket between him and the rest of the world. I can understand that.

My first instinct is to say “screw him” and send him packing. But, I can’t do that because whether he loves her or not, my daughter loves her father. She will not abandon him – like an abused child protecting the abuser – she will protect him at all costs. In turn, I love my daughter fiercely and won’t allow her to pick up where I leave off.

Riley skirts the edge and believes he is the winner. I skirt the edge and know that Alea is the only one who wins. I’m not in denial about that and it makes me happy.


Anonymous said...

I found your site a few days ago and have read just about everyword! My mother is the alcoholic...3 times Ive been told this is probably it by Drs..only to get her back..sober for a few months and then back to where we are again now...24/7 vodka straight up..My sister lives in another state and walked away from her yrs ago and since I am not strong like her has cut commincation with me as well...Myhusband and I have moved in with her after the last fall, subderal hematomas, recovery, seizures, nastiness..edgy..and now just drunk..She fell 2 weeks ago broker her arm for 2nd time..on painkillers and vodka..now sleeps all day and some nights..getting the tremors, just started vomiting today...what is next..I cannot put us thru another medical stay sobriety meanness..its end stage..how long..whats gonna happen next..wish someone could show me the future..trying to prepare...waiting for your end stage blog..Thank you for listening an d for your blog it has helped tremendously in so many ways, karen from Florida

Syd said...

What a sad existence for all concerned. Riley not only had no role models of love, he also drowned all feelings of love with alcohol. And looking to an alcoholic for a good relationship is designed to fail, unless the alcoholic learns how to have a good relationship through recovery. It is all very sad and very lonely.

Linda said...

Karen -- I'm glad you have found some support in my blog. It's exactly why I write it -- to help others in the same situation.

Whether your mother is really close to the end depends a lot on what you do now. You are in a moral dilemma. Rush her to the hsp or let her go. Please e-mail me directly at immortalalcoholic@gmail.com.

Jennifer said...

Though caring for elderly parents is common, and it's difficult; caregiving end-stage alcoholic parents is more than any daughter and son-in-law can bear alone. To the anonymous poster, my heart goes out to you. I hope you do contact Linda, who undoubtedly has sound advice. It looks like your situation is beyond what many of us have yet seen. Wishing you some sense of peace and support...

tieropasvmii said...

I've just discovered your blog after my best friend of 17 years passed away this past Sunday at 29. He'd be 30 on Halloween. We knew each other online when we were both 13 or so, moved in together at 18, and stayed together for 7 years before I finally had to leave. We drank together every night, but he was drinking much more and sneaking drinks throughout the day. I couldn't figure out, at that age, why he would sleep so much, get drunk so fast and never be able to spend time with me in the evenings without getting sloppy or passing out.

I went through trying to take care of him in a codependent relationship much like all of you describe. I was working two jobs just to be out of the house at some points. Once I came home after a 14 hour work day only to find the deadbolt was locked and he was passed out inside, unresponsive to my knocking and shouting. I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was go inside and rest, but I was locked out of our own apartment. The neighbor came out to check when he heard the pounding and shouting. It was so embarrassing.

Another night after a similarly long soft at work, I came home and he was passed out in the computer chair with a cigarette burned down to the filter in his hand and ashes all over the desk. I tried to wake him and send him to bed so I could use the computer and unwind before I had to work another long day, but he wouldn't budge. I got so angry and frustrated that I lifted the computer chair and dumped him out of it onto the floor.

The worst was when I got a call from his coworkers to come pick him up because he was delirious. I had to leave my job and when I arrived at his, he was clearly messed up out of his mind. He had been taking xanax on top of drinking vodka, so he was moving in slow motion and passing out on his feet. Pleading with him to come home with me did not work. Trying to take his keys resulted in him grabbing my arm and trying to push me into some racks filled with auto parts where either of us could have been easily injured.

I finally got him home. He had insisted on smoking a cigarette in the car but could barely keep his hand raised so I had to nervously watch him while trying to drive us home as quickly as possible.

When we got there, I tried to get him to eat a taco from taco Bell. He passed out, face in the taco. I sighed and hoped to God he would stay asleep and sober up. I was shaken badly and even thought about handcuffing him to something so he couldn't go anywhere. I should have, honestly, because. ...

He woke up about 30 minutes later with sour cream and lettuce on his face and insisted on stumbling out the front door. In a panic, my roommate and I hopped in the truck to go find him. We live next to a very busy street, six lanes, and that was right where he was heading. No one could stop him. My roommate tried to wrestle him to the ground which started a very awkward, clumsy fight.

I called the police who luckily showed up very quickly and broke up the struggle and handcuffed him. Unfortunately they also found him carrying a large unlabeled pill bottle full of vicodin and xanax. How did I not realize it was there when I was trying to go through his pockets for his keys??

I'm not sure what I had expected the cops to do, but I hadn't expected him to be arrested for possession of drugs. Even still, I know that if I hadn't called the police that night, he would have wandered into six lanes of traffic, wearing dark clothing at night, and his death would have come much quicker.

I guess now that he's finally passed away, I'm remembering all of this and how traumatic it was. I miss him dearly and always hoped he would get better. He never did and now he is dead right before 30.