About Me

My photo

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, October 11, 2011

Happy anniversary (Part One)...

I began this blog a year ago. I thought I would just write some stuff down to get it off my chest. I had almost no support system and Al-Anon just didn’t seem to fit. I planned on being my own support group. I didn’t ever expect I would be having 7,000 hits a month or that I would be getting more than 20 e-mails in a day. October 19th will mark the first anniversary of The Immortal Alcoholic. In recognition, I am writing three posts concerning my life and journey with Riley. One is early history up to our move to North Carolina. The second is since we arrived in North Carolina. And the third (which will be posted October 19th) is life in the country and what I see for the future.

Riley and I had been married for more than 22 years when I left him. His drunken behavior had become intolerable. The womanizing, lying, and over-spending was too much for me to handle. Riley had retired from the Navy and although the plan was for him to work in the civilian world until our house was paid off, he decided working would cut too far into his drinking time. The house was foreclosed on and our two cars were repo’d. Although I was working 3 jobs to make ends meet, I was happier without him. I did not want a divorce because I would lose my military benefits.

I made a good life for myself. I went back to school. My career was going great. My children were doing well and I occasionally communicated with Riley who was living in a different state.

Riley decided he wanted to move back to California and would share a house with my brother. But, by the time he got there, my brother was diagnosed with leukemia and I had moved in to his house to oversee his care. Riley rented a small cottage close to my daughter. My brother died just 3 months after being diagnosed.

Riley was asked to leave the cottage because the owners were concerned about the safety of both Riley and their cottage. Riley was often found passed out in the driveway and forgot to turn the burners off on his stove. He had no place to go. My daughter was living in a very small apartment with her husband and son and they had no place for him. She asked if he could move into my brother’s house with me. It was OK with me because I was looking for my own place. Riley could stay there with my nephews.

When the landlord of my brother’s house decided to put the house on the market, Riley was again left with no where to go. I told him he could move with me to my new house if he first went into rehab. I knew it was a long shot since he had been through many rehabs before, but I felt it was necessary to give it another try. He had been through a near fatal detox once before, but my daughter and I believed it was the only way he could share my home.

This detox was worse than the one before. We were told he would not survive. My son flew in from overseas. My family gathered as we waited for his passing. We watched and held his hand as he sunk deeper into a place that we could not go. He became violent. We observed this normally peaceful man being bound to his bed as he tried to assault the nursing staff. He didn’t know who we were and we certainly didn’t know who he was.

Then one day, we walked in and found him sitting up and eating lunch. Shock and confusion were the immediate reactions. That’s when we sat down with the doctors and became educated about detox’s pros and cons. We couldn’t believe what we were hearing, but knew we were being told the truth. We also didn’t know why we were hearing this now instead of before he was admitted.

We didn’t expect Riley to go into the rehab center, but he did. He was sober for more than four years. After the first year of sobriety, he decided he wanted to live on his own. I was happy for him and encouraged his move. He was very active in AA and had a strong support group.

He had been on his own for just about three years when he went to visit our daughter who lived in North Carolina. He made a startling confession to her. He said he didn’t want to go to the liquor store to buy vodka, but that he was drinking Listerine as a substitute. Somehow, in his mind, this was better. My daughter told him that Listerine was not intended to be consumed and that he should re-think his logic. They went to several AA meetings during the visit. When he returned home, he came to my house and said that he didn’t want to be sober. He said he would rather be drunk than sober. He didn’t ask to come back to my house. He just wanted me to know. He waited a few more months before he began drinking vodka again. He went rapidly down hill from there.

I moved to SoCal to further my career. Almost two years later, my son died of an alcohol-related death. It was devastating. My daughter was inconsolable. She begged me to move to North Carolina. I agreed.

At about the same time I received a phone call from Riley’s roommates. They were going to have him committed as being a danger to himself and others. As Riley’s legal spouse, they wanted to know if I wanted to come get him instead. I thought – “Hell no. Let them do with him whatever.” But, when my daughter found out, she started making plans for him to live with her and her husband. I stepped in, moved him to my house and prepared for our move to North Carolina.

A few months before the move, Riley became much worse. I got a doctor and he ordered hospice. Riley was dying and had less than a few weeks to live. Even with detox, the consensus was that he would not survive. A visiting nurse told me to not be too hasty calling the paramedics and make the call when Riley was unconscious. I couldn’t stand watching him suffer with vomiting blood, incontience, loss of bowel control and oozing of his open sores, so I made the call.

Riley was hospitalized and I listened once again that he would not make it through the detox process. This time I was alone. I watched and waited. Just as before, when I walked into his room, I found a bright, cheerful man rather a yellowish lump of flesh. He went to a skilled nursing facility to regain his strength. He refused to go to rehab and made it clear that once he returned home, he would resume drinking. He was true to his word. I refused to buy it for him so he walked to the store each day to get his supply. By the time we boarded the airplane for our move, he was drinking almost a handle (the largest bottle) of vodka a day.


Syd said...

I am wondering whether he talked about his decision to quit AA and start drinking again. I have seen those who have many years decide to go back out for some "experimenting". They end up worse than when they came in.
Thanks for sharing your story. I am glad to have the support group that I have and that my life is much better because of Al-Anon and what I have learned there.

Linda (The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife) said...

Syd - Riley continued with AA for quite awhile. He went to meetings drunk and asked others if they wanted to go have a drink after the meeting. He was a district representative and continued that for a while too. I don't know if he discussed the decision with anyone else. AA is very accepting of people who are drinking and I am sure that they tried to give him all the support they could. Gradually he quit going to meeting. He's still in touch with many AA friends, but he hasn't told most of them that he is still drinking.

Karen E. said...

The story is so similiar to the last 15+ years for my mother...with one HUGE exception. She never went years without drinking. Reading that Riley was sober for 4 years, saddens me. My mothers sobriety shortened with each detox/rehab stay. The last was one year ago and she made it 4 weeks and hasnt stopped since. She manages a "handle" of vodka every other day or so...just ugly.

jo said...

addiction is so sad. i have no words of wisdom,,,except they can live thru things any normal person can not. and we suffer. as i read your other fb stuff, you just wont find many non judgemental caregivers of end stage. you wont find hardly any who arent. i wish more would share but they wont,,so be it. their choice.

this story saddens me. it hits home too much. its like we are all blood kin somehow.

hugs linda. i dont know what else to say. day by day,,,hang in there, detach, and to hell with the ones who dont understand.

i also cant imagine tossing them aside, as so many want us to do. call it what you will...its just who i am.

Karen E. said...

Jo..You and I share the same thoughts. I too have gone to other forums only to be lamblasted and ridiculed for my choices. I have been told by my sister and others that I am crazy for taking care of her. She chose this path but I cannot turn my back. I worry about the questions when this is over..she falls every other day..bruises everywhere cuts and scrapes..she looks abused.. I can only pray the medical personnel and attys will see her history and know she was a drunk and I let her do what she wished..drink and sleep. its a crazy life. But thats all she wants to do.. I dont think its wrong to be here and make sure she eats when she can..and pick her up off the floor. and make sure her house is clean and maintained.

ADDY said...

This is a horrid disease and one that does not get enough publicity. The likes of you and me are left to deal with it on our own and even the so-called professionals don't really understand it or want to get too invoved.

jo said...

addy, i have not found one professional who will even listen more than once. my A has no drs,,they all refuse to see him but in a ER. counselors are a joke. i believe its society in general that just wont or cant deal with addicts and the families. i was amazed at medical professionals tho, refusing to see them at all.

karen, thanks for the validation. i have given trying others..altho i have met 2 wonderful online friends that way who both are in our shoes. i had more but their As died. (hospice od'ed one..!) be very careful because in calif, a elderly lady i knew had social services called on her because hers was so self destructive. and she was in her 70's, she physically could not lift him or bathe him. it was awful. make sure, if you can, you have things documented. and keep copies.

i can not see this instant mentality of leave them in a ditch. not that i dont want to some days! but the coldness i receive from the "others" astounds me and shows me how education is needed.

i think your doing exactly what you should for your mom...and i support you for it. i know its so hard.

linda saves my sanity. truly. and you all!

Anonymous said...

Linda..you have my heartfelt compassion and respect for what you are doing. I'm from the Addiction Recovery Board where you posted your story on the Family portion of the board..I am so sorry if they chased you away and I hope that you come back. Some of us support your decisions and understand that not every peg fits in the same hole. Big hugs to you.

Eli said...

Linda, in less than a year's time, you've managed to reach out, provide extremely personal insight and validate many others thoughts, concerns and anger to a vast number of people who couldn't find support elsewhere. I commend you on your efforts, brutal honesty and humor in regards to a subject that touches so many.

I have the unfortunate ability to view things from both perspectives. I am a sober, recovering alcoholic from a family tree tainted with this horrible disease. Currently, it's my mother who is the end-stager. She does not live with me, but I've stayed for multiple days/nights with her and the rapid decline of Mom's life rings true via posts in your blog. The mere thought that I could have put this same kind of burden on my husband or daughter had I not stopped drinking absolutely disgusts me!

I am grateful that I was lucky enough to cross paths with you and your followers. :-)

Linda (The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife said...

Anonymous -- Thank you for posting here and for your concern. Yes they did chase me away. I'm sorry to say that I've never communicated with such negative, snobby people before. I felt that because I was not an addict or alcoholic, my information is somehow tainted. I will most likely NOT return to post again. I may, however, go back and read the rest of the comments.

For those of you who don't know, I posted on the Message Baord for Family/Partners of Addicts page of The Addiction Recovery Board website. The results were not pretty.

I've been writing this blog for a year and most of my readers have been here with me for the long haul. I have had people who don't agree with me and have expressed negativity, but not like the ones on that board.

FYI -- About the car -- it has taken me more than two years to even head in the direction of getting the car registered. I could drag the issue out another year if I wanted to. But -- even if it gets registered -- the keys have somehow miracously been "lost." (There's only one set) And I belive it is missing a spark plug wire or two. Wonder how that happened? I am a strong proponent of safe driving -- that's how I got on the Top 44 Blogs for Safe Driving list. Also, I believed I've posted about losing my step-son's entire family when he was hit by a drunk driver.

I know I help people. When I posted on the forum, I simply wanted to extend a hand to others who may also be dealing with end-stage alcoholism. End-stage alcoholism is different and there are very few resources.

As far as my daughter is concerned -- well -- if you want all the answers to that question, you'll just have to read my book when it is published. But, for those forum responders -- to pass judgment on me is simply distasteful and disrespectful.

You may quote me to your forum friends if so choose. They are welcome to continue bashing me on The Immortal Alcoholic FaceBook page. I do not discriminate on either the blog or Facebook. I don't care what the addiction is -- if I can help -- I'm happy to have done so.

I DO want to thank you for reaching out to me. I hope you join us on Facebook and keep reading the blog.

Linda (The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife) said...

Thank you, Eli! And thank you to all of you who have kept me writing when I sometimes wanted to just walk away. You are a part of my Immortal Alcoholic family and I appreciate you support more than you can imagine!

Linda said...

Anonymous -- For some reason, my site is not publishing my post. Maybe it's too long. I'll try again.

Thank you for posting here and for your concern. I know that a few does not always represent the majority. It seemed the same people had the same comment over and over again. They were never open to hear me and could therefore not be open to understanding. I'm not an addict nor an alcoholic and that seemed to me to be the deciding factor. I will most likely not return to post again. I may, however, go back and read the rest of the comments.

For my readers -- In doing some research for an upcoming post, I found the Addiction Recovery Board website. It has a message board and I posted in the Families/Partners of Addict section. I was asking if anyone had been dealing with end-stage alcoholism. The response was very unpleasant because they were rude and judgmental.

I have had people express opposing points of view and negativity. I encourage them to speak because no one person is correct about everything. My blog is an honest, open, hard-hitting account of what's happening in my life. It is also a source of information because I do extensive research.

I welcome you to both FaceBook and the Blog. I welcome the participants of that message board. I know my readers and I will welcome them with warmth and compassion even if they don't agree with what is written. We will offer the courtesy to them that was not offered to me.

Gabriele Goldstone said...

Powerful stuff. My spouse has not been drinking for 6 months now. We can almost pretend to be normal. But it's there - the fear, the mistrust, the waiting. Maybe things will continue to get better. Who knows the future? For now I will take the day. Maybe the distrust will gradually fade.

Congrats on one year! The stark honesty of this place is so empowering! Riley must be feeding off of your strength.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 1 yr anniversary. It was a little more than one year ago that my alcoholic husband split up and divorced. Your words have helped me to heal. Leaving him had nothing to do with not loving him, but everything to do with the alcohol. It was the root of every problem we had. I stayed with him too long because of my marriage vows - in sickness and in health.

I'm rebuilding my life, day by day, and I do have concern for my ex-husband. I know that he has alcoholic hepatitis and try to prepare myself for the dreaded phone call that he's gravely ill.

Once again, thank you for your words. I've learned a lot and no longer feel alone in this. Funny how the alcoholic can be out of your life and still be in it at the same time. I'm forever changed....Rhonda in Texas