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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, July 25, 2011

Finding sobriety...

There is amusement within the absurdity of alcoholism. For some reason, I’m not sue what, I was reminded this weekend of a statement that Riley had made quite some time ago. It was before he had the stroke that lead to his last detox. It was when he was drinking almost a gallon of vodka a day.

“New Beginnings” is a substance abuse help center serving the local area. My grandson, Ryan, and his mother, Alea, were discussing it as an option for one of Ryan’s friends. Riley got in on the tail end of the conversation and thought they were talking about him. He was adamant that I should take him right away to talk to the counselors at the center.

We tried to explain that it was not a rehab center – it was a resource center. We offered to find him a detox, rehab center if that was what he wanted. He did not want to detox. He wanted to talk to the counselors because he knew they would have the answer to his question. And what question would that be??

“I want them to tell me how I can maintain sobriety and still drink my vodka.”

Stunned… we all looked at each other and someone said… “Isn’t that called an oxymoron?” Riley was looking at us… waiting for a confirmation that he had finally found a way to make everyone happy. He was too fuzzy to recognize the comment about the oxymoron. Someone replied that one of us would be a happy to take him to the center and find out what if they could answer his question.

Riley left the room and we all just kinda gazed at each other as we sat around the table. It was Ryan who made the first sound… “Uhhh… well… awrighty then…” We all broke out in laughter. There really wasn’t much to say, we just enjoyed the moment of comic relief.

I made the appointment for Riley to talk to a counselor. Bless her heart, she tried – and she tried some more – to make sense of what he was asking. By my barometer, she was young – no more than 35 which is young to someone who is 60. But, she was also experienced and educated. You could tell she had dealt with some hard and fast addicts in her job. She knew her stuff.

The counselor suggested that he get sober and then find his own answer to his question. He insisted that he didn’t want to stop drinking, he just wanted to know how to stay sober. He didn’t want to detox because detoxing was not fun. He didn’t want to go to rehab and he didn’t want anything to do with AA. He just wanted to be sober and keep drinking.

As the appointment came to a close, I realized that she never told him he could not be sober and still drink. She never told him he could either. What she said was that maybe, if he wanted to gradually cut back on his consumption, he could be more sober than he was currently without going to detox or rehab. But, she stressed that he would have to want it more than anything he had ever wanted in his entire life. She wished him luck and said he was welcome to return whenever he wanted to talk. As we were walking to the door, she said to me, in a low voice, “You have your hands full with this one. Come in if you need some support.” I nodded in the affirmative.

It was almost three weeks to the day that Riley had the stroke that sent him to his last detox. A few days after that… I started writing this blog.

Someone asked me if it is possible for an alcoholic to gain sobriety without going to an in-house rehab center. My answer is… for someone who is not end-stage that is possible if they have the determination and a strong support system. If they do not need medical detox, they can achieve sobriety. But the odds are not in their favor. Long-term sobriety is most often attained by committing to a treatment center that offers care even after the alcoholic has graduated back into society. The longer the in-house stay, the more likely the alcoholic will stay sober.  And the rehab center must provide a solid program for the family of the alcoholic. Everyone needs to heal. So the answer is yes, but not likely.

I think we non-alcoholics sometimes forget how strong the pull is between the bottle and the alcoholic. Something we take for granted is so very fleeting and elusive for them. For us, it’s a no-brainer. For them, it’s like climbing the north face of Mt. Everest. And to make matters worse – there is nothing we can do about it.

Have you ever seen one of those giant magnets that are attached to the boom of a crane and used to pick up cars? Image a safety pin as the alcoholic and the magnet as the booze. There is no contest the magnet will win every time. That safety pin will absolutely have to have help to free itself of the magnet. The help is detox and rehab centers, a strong family support system and AA (or AA-type support program).

Riley doesn’t even remember asking his question about sobriety. When I told him about it recently, he joined me in laughter. Although, he clearly states he would prefer death over sobriety – he sees the absurdity in the question. Somehow, I like to think, that’s progress.


jgabrielle1 said...

yes my dear, i too think that is progress. my partner still drinks two or three pints of beer a day...i fell like our home is her rehab ctr..all i can do is give my continued support. thank you for sharing, it has lifted my day. be blessed.

Kitty said...

it's a perfect example of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

Syd said...

Yes, if Riley sees the absurdity then that means something is filtering through. I hope so anyway.