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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.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Happy anniversary (Part Two)...

Before I continue with my anniversary posting, I just want to let you know that I’m going to be having occasional guest posting. They will appear as a sidebar and comments should be directed to my e-mail address as there will be no space to comment otherwise. I’ll review the comments and post them under the guest post.

If you would like to be a guest poster, please drop me an e-mail and let me know what you would like as your subject, i.e., drunk driving, medical issues, senior issues, etc. I’m especially looking for guests in certain professions – a lawyer writing about legal issues or an accountant writing about how to protect your finances. But, I’m also looking for life experiences. If you want to share – drop me a line.

Happy anniversary (Part Two)

I chose JetBlue’s non-stop flight from Long Beach to Washington DC. I had chosen JetBlue because we could take both of our cats onboard. The seats were larger and Riley would me more comfortable if he could move around allowing him easier access to the restroom. This turned out to be the right decision and our flight was blessedly uneventful.

I had made a trip a month beforehand and leased a huge house on top of a hill. It had four bedrooms, two and a half baths, and a giant master suite. It was the total opposite of the little cottage in SoCal. We converted the formal dining room to a place for Riley and gave him exclusive use of the adjoining half-bath. This kept him on the first floor which eliminated the likelihood of his falling down the stairs.

This new house was immediately filled with family. My grandson, Ryan, and his family had already moved in and one of his friends was also living with us. I loved the noise of conversations when they all returned home from work. I loved talking to my three-year-old great-granddaughter about what she had learned at daycare that day. I loved cooking daily family dinners and having everyone around the dinner table. There were arguments and disagreements, but I don’t believe it’s possible for so many to share a house and always meet eye-to-eye.

Since our arrival, Riley’s drinking stepped up considerably. He was drinking more than a handle of vodka a day. His behavior was becoming more irrational. He stood in the kitchen yelling that he MUST have his dinner served precisely at 7 p.m. – not 7:05 or 6:45, but at 7 p.m.  When dinner was served, Riley sat down at the table and starred at his plate. He then left the table without eating any bite of food. I moved his plate to the counter where he would pick at it throughout the night.

Riley was sleeping most of the day and wandering the house at night. He sat in his rocking chair watching NCIS and other cop shows. When he wanted to get to the bathroom or his bed, he spread his feet apart and stand up. He would just stand  there waiting to get his balance. Slowly he took a couple of steps and then leaned forward enough to grab the edge of the fireplace mantel. Then he edged his way across the room, along the mantel to the entertainment center to the door jamb. If he were going to the bathroom, he would lean against the wall until he got to the door. If he were going to his room, things were a little tricker because there wasn’t much for him to hold onto. Often he fell between the bedroom door and his bed. He was dead weight, so I could not help him up. Many times he just stayed there and passed out. When Ryan returned home, he helped him up and into his bed.

Every month I had to insist that Riley take a shower. It was a tough process getting him up the stairs and into my bathroom which had a separate shower. Once I got him into the stall, I had to physically wash his body. I had trusted him once to wash and discovered him sitting on the toilet (not using it) as the water flowed from the shower head. He told me he didn’t like taking a shower so he was just waiting long enough to satisfy me that he had showered. After that, I actually bathed him. I longed for the hospice workers who bathed him every other day when we were in SoCal. I had not appreciated them enough.

At one point, Alea said maybe I should just let the showers go and not stress over it. But, when I tried it, she was one of the first to point out how bad his body odor was. He was often covered in fecal matter and urine. He had weeping sores. His skin was oily. Not showering was just not an option.

Cleaning up after him also became a huge issue. I had to clean his bathroom every week with a bleach solution. Wearing latex gloves and a mask, I cleaned the floors, walls, toilet and sink removing feces, urine and blood from every surface.

On New Year’s Eve, I was feeling under the weather. The kids were using the fire pit and were enjoying their celebration. I was in my room trying to ease what I thought was a migraine headache. I had shooting pains in my left eye and some pain in my chest. But, for some reason I thought it was all related to the fire pit that was aggravating my allergy to smoke.

The next day, the pain was gone, but I was having extreme intestinal issues. I ended up in the emergency room and was diagnosed as having Salmonella. I surmised that the cause was cleaning Riley’s bathroom without the proper type of gloves. I was miserable for several weeks.

I noticed that my eyesight was worse and I was hearing a sort of crunching sound when I rubbed my eyes. I went to see an ophthalmologist who told me I had had a “retinal emboli.” Turns out I had a stroke and a blood clot ended up in my eye. I was now officially totally blind in my left eye. I also needed to be aware that this could happen again. I needed to cut back on stress and be more careful with my health.

The following February, my great-grandson was born. Adding a newborn to the mix was delightful for me. But, I noticed a difference in Ryan’s wife, Nicole. She seemed more on edge and stayed in their space with the kids for longer periods of time. I talked to her and found that she was increasingly more uncomfortable with Riley. There were several times, she had gone down stairs in the morning and found him stark naked in the kitchen. She was worried about her little daughter being around him. I told her I understood and would try to get him to wear clothes.

I became edgy about what Riley was doing and who was around. I cringed when friends came to visit because I was unsure of what Riley would do. The nightly family dinners were changed so that they only happened when Riley was passed out. The minute he came out of the bedroom, everyone left the lower level.

In July, I entered the living room to find Riley standing there, penis in hand, spewing urine onto the carpet. Across the room, I saw that my great-granddaughter was watching the event. I was shocked. I yelled something – I don’t remember what. In that moment I knew I could not continue to have my great-grandbabies in the same house as Riley.

The sad thing is that Riley didn’t understand why we were so upset with him. He couldn’t make it to the bathroom. To him, it was a natural thing to do. He didn’t want to move. He had a beautiful view of the sound from his window and didn’t want to leave it. He became more unreasonable and showed more passive aggressive hostility than ever before.

I couldn't afford the big house without the kids contributing to the rent. They were moving to a condo. I had to find a place where Riley would not be a problem to the rest of the family. I needed a house that would accommodate my needs.


ADDY said...

I think that, unless you have lived with an alcoholic, many people will just not understand what is involved. Greg was just the same - his hygiene was distinctly lacking. He would not shower or change clothes for weeks on end. He was becoming incontinent and could not reach the toilet fast enough, so would soil carpets and clothes in the process. It was like dealing with a 6-foot baby only worse as you had the mood swings as well. It is not easy, is it? Nor trying to hide it from children or outsiders

jo said...

im afraid that yes, kids cannot be allowed around them unless their sober AND in a reasonable frame of mind. we already do this. the stuff mine comes out with is or can be very pornographic. he sees absolutely no problem with it or himself. he has no idea about decent behaviors any more.

luckily, we took the carpet up. it got too disgusting. the bathroom is bad enough.

as always, thanks for sharing, linda. it is so validating to read. and i have discovered, very hard to write in a blog. i just cant yet..im trying. makes it very real. its one thing to comment,,its another to write it as a guest.

@addy, unless you live with this, i dont believe any can actually understand it at all. some dont want to, and some just cant conceive of this. they like the happy drunks they see in the movies, maybe? not the reality of one.

Gabriele Goldstone said...

It truly is horrible. Disgusting. And sad. Taking over my husband's bank account was the best thing I ever did - and I got the courage to do it from your blog, Linda.

Karen E. said...

This is all so disgusting. Alcohol should be outlawed. My mother is incoherent, falls everyday, bruised and banged all up. SHe sits on the edge of her bed and almost every night she falls asleep in this position or passes out and face plants into the floor. We pick her up and put her back in the bed and hour later she walks to the kitchen to fix herself another vodka as if all is good. She is difficult to look at. Its getting old real quick...looking into nursing homes..not sure they would take her.

Linda said...

Karen -- In my experience, the only way to get an end-stage into a nursing home is for them to first go through medical detox. Nursing homes are not equipped to handle detox and I have never found one that would allow Riley to continue drinking while at the home.

To get her into detox, she would have to consent. Once through detox and in the nursing home, she would be in a physical "rehab" environment and would probably regain her strength -- which in turn means she doesn't need to be in nursing home.

So she's dry and then goes home -- usually the cycle begins again. Then what??

If you are lucky, she goes home and stays sober or at least goes back to her own home and you stop caretaking. But, after you're gone, and she starts drinking, do you repeat the process??

It's a horrible moral delimma that we are in. My decision is to let Riley's alcoholism come to it's ultimate conclusion. I will only get medical assistance when he asks of if he is unconscious. But, remember I've been there with Riley many, many times.

From the sound of things... your mother's ultimate conclusion may not be that far away. In my opinion, less than a year.

Anonymous said...

My husband i belive is end stage, sometimes just looking at him wears me out. His weight is dropping rapidly, legs are so thin he can hardly stand sometimes, he messes himself, vomits into his ashtry/bucket, cant eat, can no longer feel his hands and feet. I find the demtia the worst, he is either like a clingy needy toddler or is aggressive and talks utter rubbish. Thankfully he sleeps most of the time. He is riddled with anxiety and depression, only leaves the house to get cider from the local shop, lately i have had to take him as he is too weak to walk. Its sad, its humiliating, its frustrating... the list is endless but each morning a pitiful man wakes up, apologises for himself being this way and for half and hour i feel like my gorgeous husband is back. He is 35 years old.

Wanda said...

Thanks for your blog. It is salvation for me right now. Going through the gambit with husband. Been through DT's 5 times, latest with head laceration and coding 3 times from loss of blood in ER. Just paid $20,000 for private rehab and he stayed sober 6 weeks but now back to same routine just like Riley's. He hides his gin in a water bottle, only leaves house to go to liquer store, sleeps all day, up all night and has been warned will die soon if doesn't stop. Lying and denial still.Others don't understand why I don't just leave but after 51 years, I am still too weak to do it knowing he has nobody else to even find him. He is 63 yrs. old. So glad to find understanding and sharing with kindred spirits. Thanks.

Karen E. said...

Linda..You put in words what we know is the truth. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed and start thinking about other options..ie nursing home..but know the cycle will restart..but reading your words helps us continue the battle ahead and keep doing what we are doing. Thank you for listening, understanding and responding with the truth. Last year after her fall and seizure she was in a physical rehab/nursing home (at only 69 yrs old) and started drinking soon after release..(cant tell you how awkward it is visiting your mother in this setting with all the 90+yr olds and her not thinking anything of it!.. Thanks to you and all your followers I may survive this journey with a little sanity? !!