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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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

End-Stage thankfulness...

The season is upon us. Flipping the calendar over a couple of pages, skipping December, is not going to solve the problem. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and then we are in for a month or so of celebrating. Everyone happily spends money and eats lots of unhealthy stuff. And there’s lots of booze flowing at every party.

This year, Riley and I will not be going anywhere for Thanksgiving. We’ll be having a hen instead of a turkey and small portions of everything symbolic of Thanksgiving. I’ll buy a gallon of Chablis for him and a regular bottle of Pouilly Fuse for me (of which I’ll drink about a 1/3). We’ll spend our time putting up and decorating the Christmas tree. Other than that, I’ll be sewing and he’ll be watching TV.

We had been invited to my grandson’s house for dinner with the rest of the family. But, it’s an hour-plus drive and I’m still tired from the six-hour drive back from the conference. Riley has bowel and bladder issues and refuses to wear a Depends, so that complicates things as well. My grandson’s bathroom is on the second floor and the climb for both Riley and me,  is a bit of a challenge. Staying home makes the most sense.

While other people carry on with their happy holiday attitude and make plans for the best Christmas ever, the families of end-stage are just looking forward to having it all be over. They are also planning for the holidays, but their plan resembles disaster preparedness. It’s a “what will I do if…” sort of attitude. Each invitation to a party or event is scrutinized for possible pitfalls. How much alcohol will be there? Are the other attendees aware of the alcoholic problem? Will any embarrassment cause me to have to deal with fall out? Will there be children around while everyone is toasting with Hot Buttered Rum? The answers to those questions will determine the participation and become a part of the plan.

I have found it easier to celebrate the holidays by hosting my own event. That way I can control the hours, food and beverages being served. I best event I’ve hosted was a holiday brunch where the only alcohol in the room was in the sterno burners under the chafing dishes. There was lots of sparkling cider and egg nog without the brandy. I kept it going as long as Riley wasn’t making a fuss, but the minute I saw a potential problem, I started trying to head people out the door.

Any activities outside of the brunch and family, I attended solo. When I was working in the corporate environment there were many events that were not mandatory, but an absence was negatively noticed. In the interest of my career, I went to everything for which I received an invitation. I just didn’t drag Riley with me.

When Riley and I separated, my holiday life became much, much easier. He didn’t partake of my family gatherings, so I was blissfully free of his alcoholic nonsense. I choose my dates carefully for business functions and even included a gay male friend with a Master’s Degree in Business for one holiday party. (We had an awesome time – a lot more fun than some of my straight dates!)

Riley was always invited to our family Christmas dinner at my house with the kids, but he seldom accepted the invitation. He preferred being with other drunks and his other girlfriends. We were all OK with that.

Last Christmas was the second Christmas since Riley has been back with me. I was uneasy about Riley being around everyone. He ended up wetting his pants while sitting on my daughter’s brand new white ottoman. It was snowing so hard that we couldn’t leave for two days. I was miserable. Riley was pacing like a caged tiger. When the roads cleared a bit, my son-in-law was able to take us home in his four-wheel drive. A normal hour-plus drive took us three hours. We got home safely. I was so happy to be back in my own house.

We can learn from our experiences and I will not repeat last year’s Christmas – or Thanksgiving. I will miss the excitement of my great-grandchildren running down the stairs and being surprised by the gifts under the tree. I will miss watching my 2 year old great-grandson sucking on the turkey leg. I will even miss listening to my grandson as he tries to coax his daughter into eating just a few more green beans. But, I will not miss the feeling that I must constantly supervise everything Riley is doing.

Choices are sometimes difficult. My choice is to give my family the gift of Riley-free holidays – both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know they want me to be there. I know they will miss me. I also know that they will understand. They know I don’t make the choice easily and they are willing to compromise.

Monday is my birthday and on Sunday, the family is coming to the country to throw me a birthday party. I haven’t had a birthday party since I was a kid. I’m beside myself with excitement. New Year’s Day is on Sunday this year and, again, the kids will be here for a New Year’s Day dinner. I’ll take my birthday and New Year’s Day over Thanksgiving and Christmas – it’s a good compromise!

When I first started this adventure, I never thought Riley would be around for three more Thanksgivings. But, he’s still here. If I ask him what he has to be thankful for, he will probably say he’s thankful that I keep him supplied with alcohol. I’m thankful for too many things to list in this post. But, I will openly admit that I’m thankful that there will not be too many more Thanksgivings as Riley’s caretaker. I know that when the end is here, I will be most thankful.


Syd said...

It's all about choices. I hope that you have a happy birthday. Celebrating the way that you want is good.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for todays blog, its ditto to everything re supervision, much easier to stay at home, thats how i have felt the last few years but this year is different and Im confused. My alcoholic wont be helping decorate the christmas tree or anything, he will lay in the conservatory staring into space pretending he is watching tv. He does not have the energy or strength to do anything other than that, his eyesight is failing fast the nerve damage to his feet has spread to his thighs, he can barely walk, he has been living on one slice of toast per day for the last 5 or so weeks now and is very frail. Will this by my last Christmas full of stress and anxiety? I dont know how he is alive yet sometimes feel it could go on for years.

Happy Birthday, hope its a good one xxx

Anonymous said...

It feels so strange to say this... But, I get to be thankful for the second year in a row that my alcoholic is in jail for Thanksgiving. Both last year and this, he has managed to be arrested 2-4 days before the holiday. Last year he was lucky enough to make it home for Christmas. I think I will be the lucky one come that day this year, as it seems he will remain incarcerated. I guess my blessing is twofold! Every day he's in jail is another day sober. Maybe reality will take hold and he just might choose to remain sober! On the other hand, it will be hard for me to see our four young children wondering why he chose that path rather than be with them for such a special day, but I can also be thankful that they are (somewhat) detached from him and don't really hurt because of his absence. Wishing you all the best holidays you can have living the lives we live. So glad to know I'm not alone. Thanks.

Eclectic Bohemian said...

Just make sure that you are choosing to stay home because that is what YOU want. Not because you have become enmeshed to Riley.

I'm sure that you have weighed your options based on what would cause the least harm, embarrassment, frustration, aggravation, etc.

I do not know you but just from reading your blog, I can tell that you are an intelligent, giving, caring and strong lady. I have no doubt that your family is thankful for YOU.

May your Thanksgiving be peaceful and may your birthday be the best yet!

ADDY said...

I perfectly understand how you long for a life free of alcoholism,free from embarrassment when you spend time with others etc. I was in that position too. But I can tell you, when the alcoholic finally dies, you are left with things you should have said or asked, while they were alive and wish you could have them back. I so wanted rid of Greg at his end-stage, but now would love to have him back (sober of course, athough that was never going to happen). Make the most of Riley, even with all his problems, as one day he really won't ever be there again.

jo said...

something i noted in the blog and in the comments.

we keep saying when they are gone.

that is the same mindset addicts have...life will be better if i quit drinking.

i find this interesting. life will be diff when their gone, but not always easier. life will be harder for them if they quit drinking...until they are far into recovery and diff thinking.

life is. if they are dead, or they quit drinking,,it will still be hard. just diff.