Sunday, June 12, 2011
Alone in a crowd...
When I started this blog I felt that I must be the only one going through this and that the writing would help me get my thoughts and feelings down on paper – well – computer screen – it is the 21st Century after all. I was angry at myself, Riley, everyone around me because no one person really understood my dilemma.
Before Riley came back, I was happy. I was in a relationship. I had a great job, a cat, and lots of friends who were not related to me by blood. It was a good life. I had my share of trials, but nothing seemed to be able to keep me down for long.
When I made that long drive up north to move Riley back to my home, I knew things would change. I wasn’t really sure how they would change, but change was certain. I was no stranger to Riley’s drunkenness. I listened as his roommates told me of some of the bizarre behavior exhibited over the past few months. What they described didn’t sound like the drunken Riley I had shared my home with previously. I was in for a very rude awakening.
At first, I just treated him like I had before. But, I quickly realized that I needed to change my approach. As the changes took place in how I treated Riley, changes were also taking place in my personal life. There was no time for a relationship and no time for social gatherings with my friends. I still had my job – telecommuting was my lifesaver there. With the exception of a few friends and family, who I now communicated with via e-mail and phone calls, I was alone with Riley. None of my friends wanted to be in the presence of a man who has a tendency to ogle, make rude comments, pee on myself, and unable to string three words into an understandable sentence. Well… my cat didn’t care – I still had my Jax Cat.
Alone with Riley. Hmmmm… I remember days when that phrase would have put a twinkle of delight in my eye and make me tingle with anticipation. I would have had visions of a romantic dinner and a walk around the lake. But now… it sounded like a prison sentence. I had to remind myself over and over that my reasons for doing this were to save my daughter from this very same sentence. Just like a criminal who knows there’s a possibly that he may have to do time for the crime – I knew for a very long time the possibly of having to be Riley’s caretaker. I knew I would have the support of my family and a few friends – but that in the end – this would be MY prison term and I would have to serve it ALONE.
Riley’s behavior was so outrageous that I was certain no one on the face of the earth was experiencing anything like it. I went to Al-Anon, but the other attendees’ stories just weren’t relatable to mine. Everyone thought they knew what I needed to do but none of them ever once described anything like what was transpiring in my house.
Al-Anon is a good source for support. I recommend it. But, I find that the issues of end-stage are very different from that of alcoholics who have not encountered extreme physical dysfunction or near fatal detox. The physiological changes magnify the amount of effort needed to maintain a clean and healthy household – avoiding such things as salmonella. The personality changes make it seem that there is a stranger in the house. I believe in the principals of Al-Anon, but I think it may be difficult to really relate them to actual experiences – especially at end-stage. Sometimes, we end-stage caretakers must go against what is taught at Al-Anon meetings.
From the very beginning, I did research on end-stage alcoholism. There wasn’t much out there, but I kept digging. I learned about different alcohol-related illnesses and what I could expect if Riley had one. I’m a firm believer in knowing what you’re up against – and the internet was very helpful in educating me on alcoholism in general. Finding out about end-stage issues was a long and circuitous route. But… the good news… it kept me busy and between Riley, research and my real job… I didn’t have time to focus on how alone I felt.
I wrote in my blog, but there weren’t many comments. That is – until – I heard from a woman who was going through exactly the same thing I was. She wrote that her alcoholic husband had the same traits as Riley. He even watched similar TV programs and made the same demands. I was elated – I’d found a kindred spirit. I felt a distinct bond with this person.
To stay informed and understand Riley better, I continued with my research and I shared what I learned on my blog. After that, I started getting more comments and e-mail began to arrive in my virtual mailbox. Many people were uncomfortable with posting a public comment and preferred the anonymity of e-mail. I was OK with that. I try to answer each one personally and try to be there to listen (or read) and provide support. I can feel the pain and isolation in each note and I wanted to reach out and say – you’re NOT alone. That’s when it hit me – I am NOT alone.
For every note I receive, I imagine that there are thousands more that have been enduring the life that I find myself living with Riley. And I wonder how many have no support system at all? I have my daughter and family and a few friends, but who do they have? I wish I could visit each and every one and give them the comfort of a giant size hug, a bowl of macaroni and cheese, some homemade chicken soup, and, a plate of freshly baked cookies. But, instead, I just keep writing in my blog and answering e-mails. I hope that they feel my support being transported over the invisible waves of virtual reality.
I no longer feel the loneliness of being alone in this prison. Because of that, it doesn’t feel so much like a prison anymore. I have a life, happiness, and last but not least – my cat.
at 6:20 AM