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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, September 8, 2011

Keeping reality real...

After a frustrating week of trying to get help for the stray hound dog, Deputy McArthur arrived and took the sweet boy to SPCA for medical treatment. It was difficult to see him go, but the reality is that I cannot afford another dog. I pray that he gets a good home where he will be fed regularly and played with everyday.

This retirement thing is being a bit difficult to grasp. I still get up before dawn and find myself trying to get things done before my usual clock in time. I’m getting better – I actually took a nap yesterday. I think that these first few weeks may be a bit of a trial. I need to be better at scheduling my time and staying in a quasi routine.

My daughter, Alea, came out to visit for a couple of days. It’s always good to have her here. It started raining just as Alea was getting ready to leave. She made mad dashes to her car with her bags, trying to stay as dry as possible. I was in my office and I heard Riley yell out the back door – “You know it’s raining out there!” and “You’re gonna get wet!” He can’t stand up without holding onto something and he grasped the laundry room sink which is near the door. Still he swayed back and forth, watching his daughter scurry around her car.

It’s not often I see or hear Alea get irritated with her father. But today was different. She raced back up the steps and I heard her yell –“Move!!!” I knew that Riley was standing right in front of the door and she could not get around him. She was getting soaked just trying to get into the house.

The next thing I heard was – “Really, Dad? I’m pretty sure I know that it’s raining and I’m darned sure I know that I’m getting wet!!” There was no humor in her voice. There was no punctuating laughter. She was just disgusted with his statements of the obvious. “I think I know what I’m doing and yelling at me from the door is not helping anything or anyone.” As she entered back into my office, she mumbled “Damn drunks.”

Now, I know, and Alea knows, Riley is not responsible for the rain. He didn’t make it happen and no one blames him for the weather. We live in the south where it rains one minute and there’s clear blue sky the next. We just live with it. It is a fact of life. But somehow when Riley starts in with that little tone in his voice, it almost seems that he thinks someone is definitely responsible for those drops of water falling from the sky. It seemed to Alea and me, that Riley thought she had ordered up the rain and then went out to play in it. The thought of that made us laugh. So as we are speaking out about ridiculous weather scenarios we decided that just before her next visit we’d order up some snow to kill the gnats. Then on the day she arrives, we’ll order up a nice sunny, yet cool, day so we could sit outside and have a bar-be-que. How lovely it would be if that were reality.

Ahhh… reality… how fleeting it is in the house that contains an alcoholic – especially an end-stage alcoholic. For Riley, reality is whatever is on the news at the moment and everything on the news is an urgent matter that somehow needs someone to respond to it at the exact same moment that he hears it. He comes to my office door and makes a statement – then he laughs or grunts or makes some kind of noise and then goes back to the TV as he throws out possible outcomes of the newest bit of information. I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to do about it. Sometimes I comment. Sometimes I ignore. Sometimes I snicker. Sometimes I become irritated.

There are a lot of unrealistic things going on lately. Like, Riley’s need to hang on every phone conversation that I may have. His theory is that he wouldn’t mind if I picked up the phone and eavesdropped on his conversations with his brother, therefore, I should not mind if he does it with my phone conversations. I explain that just because he doesn’t mind me eavesdropping doesn’t mean that I don’t mind.  It’s not a concept that he can grasp. Simple courtesy escapes him because his reality only concerns what he wants at any given time. His reality is not realistic.

After Alea left, I felt a sense of loneliness in the house. My reality is that I need to make some changes. There is no companionship with a man whose world resides in a bottle or a TV set. Conversations are difficult even on his good days. I have been out here in the country for a year and I need to start cultivating some friendships with local ties.

Now that I’m not immersed in a “regular” job, there is no reason why I can’t join that book group that meets on Wednesday mornings. I have no time constraints that prevent me from volunteering at the hospital or library. As the caretaker of an end-stage alcoholic, I must remember that I need other people who are not part of the insanity. Interaction with others will give me insight – a barometer – of how bad things really are with Riley. If I continue to simply live my entire life within these walls, I may become to immune to the insanity and start to view it as not so unusual. It’s like placing a box in the corner of a room the day you move into a new house. After a while, it starts to feel that the box belongs in that corner and so it never gets unpacked or moved. That’s just where it’s always been so that’s just normal. I've even been known to throw a tablecloth over it, put a lamp on top and call it a table. The reality is that it IS NOT a table, just a box disguised as a table. But, it becomes a table because that starts to feel like a normal reality.

I know that even in retirement, I have a lot on my plate. My projects are taking the spotlight – that’s a good thing. But, I must learn to structure my time so that I’m taking advantage of other possible activities. I always work best in some form of scheduled situation – I would have failed if I had been forced to attend Montessori School as a child. I used to have a day-timer and I think I need one again. Uhhhh…. Do they even make those anymore???

Today’s schedule and tasks are: 1) Get a day-timer; 2) Set aside time in my day-timer to find a local friend and/or do an outside activity.

How hard could that be??


Syd said...

It sounds like you have a good solution for the loneliness. Getting out and making friends is important, whether living with an alcoholic or not. I used to stay within the four walls except for work. It made me intensely unhappy. I formed my own prison. Not I don't have a day timer, and I have a lot of things that I enjoy doing. I am much healthier because of that.

Beth said...

You have a great strategy regarding getting out and meeting people Linda! I know that I have lost touch with way too many of my friends, mostly due to them moving away.....Kind of odd that with the exception of one or two, all of my close friends live all over the country now and talking on the phone isn't easy as I know you understand. Every time I get on the phone he talks to me, "who are you talking to, tell them I said hello, what are they doing these days?" On and on to the point when I just hand him the phone. Even though I have a decent excuse, I feel really guilty not keeping in touch. Fortunately when I do get in touch the years just fall away and it's like we spoke yesterday. I have made some wonderful friends over the years, unfortunately I can't just pick up and go to lunch or the movies with them. I know, I'm rambling here, but I think you have come up with some great ideas to get out and make friends and that's truly important as I know how my IA monopolizes all of my time not at work, and how depressing that is. I'm wishing you the best of luck on your new journey as a retired person, and I have a feeling things are going to work themselves out for you....(insurance stuff aside....that really stinks!)

Take care of you Linda!

jo said...

i find myself nodding at your words. retirement is indeed a new stage to get used to. our lives have many of these, and we always adapt.

mine also..with the TV. it is totally real to him and he cusses out the women, repeats the news., etc. yep. and comments on the obvious.

it is sad this has taken away their kids love and respect for them. same here.

thanks for putting into words our lives. i am always amazed at how alike they all end up. and how if they can stand in the way, they will. every time!

i wish mine would get past his vulgar, porno stage. argh. it gets old.

hugs to you all.

ADDY said...

I agree that you need to cultivate a life without Riley, because one day he won't physically be there either. You have already lost him mentally. I found when Greg died, life on my own carried on much the same as before as we had ceased to share life TOGETHER for the last few years.

jo said...

after a few more days, i reread this/. i dont think its possible to even find reality with them. not with mine. he just gets mad if i even try. thats why i ask yall so much...to keep some sort of reality ...

Colleen said...

I feel like I am always too busy to have time for a social life. I feel like a maid on an endless hamster wheel, all the responsibilities are mine, and it seems there are just not enough hours in the day.
I am embarrassed to have friends here, because it is hard to keep up with the endless beer bottles and cigarette ashes, not to mention the inappropriate things he says while trying to join a conversation. He even goes as far as dialing the numbers on my phone bill, and hanging up on them to see who I called. I feel like a trapped animal.
I am going to spend the next week fixing up the basement for him to drink and smoke in. That should make my life a little easier.