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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.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sticks & stones (by Jo)

Today I have posted a contribution by one of my followers -- Jo. Her husband is an alcoholic and she is faced with the task of caretaking. Many of you already know Jo since she is very active on the Facebook page and regularly comments on my posts. Her post here, is her point of view along with some suggestions on a subject that we are all faced with -- verbal abuse from the alcoholic. Please feel free to comment.

Sticks and stones...

It’s Saturday and I’m a whore, again. Yep. Every time my husband drinks about four beers, he begins his litany. It usually happens six days a week or so now with the progression of his alcoholism. It’s almost exactly the same words every single time -- like clockwork. If I could choose what kind of whore I would be, I think I would be a high class one. Not a corner of the street one.

When I was honored by Linda to be asked to contribute a guest blog on abuse with end stage As (addicts/alcoholics), I was excited. I had no idea how hard or painful it would be. I’m shaking as I type this! Somehow, putting it in words seems so final, so accepting, and so real. I have tried several times to write this and I hope that this time I won’t chicken out!

I know I’m not alone. Lots of alcoholics are verbally abusive and they are all almost exactly the same as me. The thought of that mystifies me. What gets stuck in those brains? Something does. Some circuit, I guess. The real question is how to cope? For me, I find that taking things day by day is what helps me cope. Some days are easier than others. Some days it hurts a lot to listen to him. Some days I wonder if he knows what he is saying, why he says what he says, and what his point is. On bad days, I wonder if I’m the crazy one. I wonder if he is right and I really am a whore and just can’t see it. My reality gets skewed from so much stuff being spouted at me. I tend to pray a lot and lean on God.

What do we need to help us cope? As a result of counseling, I learned some important skills to help in managing the onslaught of insults from my husband.

I mentally separate myself from the abuser. I learned not to own the other persons issues. I know and understand that I’m a separate person and I do not allow my alcoholic to “make” me feel a certain way – his way. His statements are simply his ideas and his alone.

I learned self-esteem skills. By not owning the other persons issues, I am able to rebuild my self-esteem that his words tear down. I remind myself who I really am inside myself. I tell myself I am a good person.

I learned communication skills. I do not pour fuel on his fire. This means that I don’t try to change his mind and I don’t try to defend myself. I don’t argue, but instead I state how I feel without blaming him. An argument takes two people and I don’t take on the job of being his number two. I cannot change his mind and what he thinks is just how he thinks as a result of his own issues and addiction. It took me years to accept that fact. The more I stand fast in not taking on his anger or pain, the harder he will try to make me angry or hurt. No one person can MAKE another person feel one way or another. We all have the ability to choose how we feel and respond.

Always BE SAFE. If you think the alcoholic in your life might be physically dangerous, get away. Walk out if you have no car. Put your safety and the safety of others in your house above all else. If you feel threatened, call 911. I am fortunate that my alcoholic husband is not physically abusive, but I watch him constantly for signs of advance warning. After all, he isn’t all there mentally. He could be very dangerous.

We need support to cope. Family if you’re lucky… religion if you choose. Tend to yourself. Do nice things to recharge your energy. Do whatever works for you as much and as often as you can. I read a good book, eat some chocolate, take a long bath and listen to some good ole rock and roll. I am nice to myself!

We all caretakers need validation that we are not crazy or unreasonable. This is rare if you’re looking for that to come from counselors, doctors, and/or police officers. I have received very little from those sources. Society has a tendency to toss us aside, although I don’t know why. I find support from sites like FaceBook where I can relate one on one to others in my situation. This blog provides me with insight and reassurance that I’m not crazy. My choices are OK for me, but maybe not for other people. This is a complicated issue.

I have been surrounded by addicts my whole life. I have felt loss for many years and yet, I still do it day by day. I now look for, and feel ok about, asking for outside help. I face the mirror each day and accept what I see in the reflection. And I thank every single one of you who comment, post, reply, or just send hugs. You keep me going. I hope to somehow return this favor to you all, and help keep you going thru this journey also.

-- Jo

Next Tuesday -- Some more biology and other stuff by Linda Jane


Syd said...

Good solutions, Jo. I would add that there is Al-Anon which has helped me tremendously. It is for families and friends of alcoholics. I have learned a lot by going to meetings, sharing with others who have alcoholics in their life and working the 12 steps of Al-Anon. I'm not there to help the alcoholic but to help myself. Sounds as if you already have many of the coping skills.

jo said...

hey syd! thanks for commenting. i didnt realize how much courage it would take me to post that. :)

i should have added i had 4 years of intense counseling, by intense i mean i made every appt, read every book and listened to every tape i was given, took notes in a entire legal pad, and actively worked at it and the skills. and it is not easy! painful, hard. but it will work and help us cope and be better people. never give up.

al anon wasnt for me, altho i do use some of their steps in my skills. im just not into groups of strangers,,maybe i will be someday.

i think maybe it helps us all to stand back, see where we were 5 yrs ago, maybe even 1 yr ago,,and how much we have grown since then.

end stage As and us , a challenge for sure. addiction wants everyone, to hurt and kill everyone it touchs. imho* we can not let that happen to us.

and even with the skills, its a hard journey for all of us. again thanks for commenting!

linda s said...

Jo, thank you for baring your soul and sharing these thoughts. I went to Al-anon because that was my only option. Like you, groups of strangers and the whole sponsor thing just wasn't for me. But I kept going for about 4 years. Now that my alcoholic is at end stage, the core ideals of Al-anon have given me a peace of mind that I never would have expected. I've learned to take care of myself and to not get caught up in HIS drama.

Again, thanks for opening up and sharing your "sticks and stones". You sound like an amazing person!!

Karen E. said...

Great post Jo! Although my mother is not a verbal abuser as an end stager, she was during her few stints of sobriety. I think this type abuse is the worst and hurts the deepest and stays with you the longest. I am glad you have found ways to cope and focus at times on yourself!
We work out..run, crossfit..almost to the point of exhaustion..this helps me cope, allows me to be somewhat patient and helps me sleep!
You should be proud of yourself for this post! I am!
Take care of yourself, stay strong in this dreadful journey we are on. Thank you for posting and spending time on Lindas Blog..your thoughts and insight really help!

ADDY said...

Jo. My heart goes out to you and I pray you wil be able to cope with what wil be thrown at you. It will get better one day, not necessarily n the way you would have wished, but better nevertheless.

jo said...

thank you guys, for the kind comments! i have def kept and used some al anon steps, the day by day thing, the not owning their stuff, the fact i have no power over anyone but me, letting God help me.

if something good comes from all this, then its worth it to me.

lol. im not amazing, just human. :) thanks tho, cause its nice to hear :)

yes, exercise is the best way to run out the nerves and anxiety. i love how i feel afterwards. its getting harder as i get older tho. 58 here; almost 59. sometimes i feel a bit "old" lol.

good thoughts and prayers to you all.

Anonymous said...

I so needed to read this right now. My husband and I are both heavy drinkers and last night we really got into it and it is still going on today. He calls me 'the craziest bitch he's ever known', that he is looking for a way to leave me, that he is done with me. He was at just as much fault as me. He is a cruel bastard. I will continue to absorb your message. Thank YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

Feel free to email me at soukupbeth@yahoo.com.....needing some reassuring words right now. We're in the thick of it..

Gabriele Goldstone said...

Day by day and detachment are two lessons I've been learning in the last year. I find it so awesome to be able to read and share about this disease. Only a year ago it was a painful secret. Stay strong, Jo. Stay detached.

Colleen said...

Thank you jo, good post.
Sometimes I don't even "hear" the abuse any more.
Sometimes I have to step back and say to myself, " yes you are being abused and No, this is not how normal people live"
I have an appt at the spa at the end of the month. I was trying to fall asleep just now, but feeling guilty about this appointment and spending the money. I don't spend any money on myself.
So I came to this blog and it is so helpful to read about other peoples experiences.
You can get caught up in your head with this disease.