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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.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Shhhh!! Caretaker sleeping...


It was 4:00 a.m. when I heard it the first time. It woke me up out of some much needed sleep. At first I couldn’t quite make it out. At that time in the morning, I was a little groggy. Then I heard it again --- HORSE POCKEY!!! – and I knew what it was. Riley was watching TV.

There’s no point in staying in bed. I toss on my bathroom and slip into my slippers and make my way to the coffee pot. Riley says “good morning” as I pass by his rocking chair in the den. He then informs me of the status of the animals.

“Jax is in and has been fed. Jade has been in and out and has been fed.” I’m not sure what the significance is of him telling me the whereabouts of Jax and Jade. I don’t worry about where they are or what they are doing. If they want inside, they will let me know. Much to my chagrin, Riley feeds them on demand – as well as the neighbors dogs. I worry that Jax will get fat. I’m not too worried about Jade getting fat because she runs it off as soon as she takes the food in. But, I really can’t afford to be feeding the dogs that don’t belong to us. That’s a different story.

I ignore the status report, get a cup of coffee and settle into my office. Mornings are my most productive time and I like to take advantage of that. But, it takes me a while to really wake up and be able to actually see the computer screen. I’m tired. I could have used at least another hour of sleep.

Sleep… I feel like I sleep all the time, but I never sleep “tight.” My sleep is broken into bits and pieces. I fall asleep while watching TV, which is set to turn off on a timer. But, as soon as the TV is turned off, I wake up, go to the bathroom, and try to fall back into a sound sleep. That just doesn’t happen; I wake up just about every other hour. I’m not totally awake each time. I’m awake just enough to know I should go back to sleep.

I like to watch my soaps in the afternoon. The combined programs are one and a half hours long. The problem is that I always fall asleep before they are over and I end up sleeping for about two hours. That sucks because I’m not a good napper. In fact, no one should be around me when I wake up because I am truly a bitch. It takes me another hour to get back to being human after my nap.

My ideal sleep regimen would be to fall asleep around 11 p.m. and sleep until about 6 a.m. As hard as I try to manipulate my body into that routine, my brain refuses to read the memo. I would rather not nap in the daytime, but just stay awake all day long until 11 p.m. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable and if my brain and body doesn’t start cooperating, well, I don’t know what I’ll do, but I’ll do something. There must be a way I can whip them into submission.

Recently it brought to my attention that my inability to sleep may not be from something internal to my body. It could be that something is waking me up that has nothing to do with my brain. So, I was thinking, Jax is in and out of my room all night. He comes in through the window and wants to be feed around 4 a.m. Maybe he is the culprit. Maybe he jumps up on my bed and disturbs me enough to make me just barely wake up. I doubt it, but it could happen.

The more likely scenario is that Riley is waking me up. He is up and down all night long. He watches TV and fixes himself something to snack on. He talks to his computer which is right across the hall from my room. The TV is the source of loud angry rantings. Even though the television is in the den and I can’t hear the program when I’m in my room, I can clearly hear him screaming at the hosts of Chopped that having a time limit on cooking something is unreasonable.  Riley makes his political point of view known when he says someone campaigning – loud and clear. Sometimes I wonder if he thinks the actors, hosts, politicians or contestants can actually hear him as he sits in his rocking chair in rural North Carolina.

My room. It is my haven from insanity. I retreat there often. I even eat my dinner in there. Wait a minute!! It used to be a place for me to rest and recharge my batteries. In long ago days it was sometimes a romantic place and other times it was hot and steamy. Ahhh… those were the days. But it was never, not ever, where I would eat my dinner! Meals were only eaten in my room if I were too sick to go to the dining room or kitchen. Something has to change here.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you know I always come up with a PLAN. My family will probably have engraved in my tombstone – She had a plan. My plans don’t always work out, but for my sleep situation, I have a plan.

It may take a few days to get the brain on board, but maybe by the time the weekend is over, I will be acclimated. I’m going to go back to eating in either the kitchen, dining room, office – anywhere that is NOT my bedroom. I’m not going to watch my soaps in my room. I have a wonderful hi-def television in the living room and it’s about time I started using it. Same thing goes for watching evening programs. In short, my bedroom will not be for watching television when I’m supposed to be sleeping.

Imagine that – my BEDroom will be used for sleeping, resting, recharging and/or maybe a little light reading before sleep. If my room becomes a sleeping place again, maybe I’ll get some sleep.

The door to my room will be shut and I might turn on a little “white” noise to block out the sound of Riley’s nighttime escapades. My humidifier might just do the trick. I’m supposed to be using it anyway.

Attaining any normalcy while in the midst of the insanity of caretaking an end-stage alcoholic is an extremely difficult task.  Unfortunately it is a series of trial and error of different scenarios. To top it off, what works today may not work tomorrow. As Riley gets deeper into Wernicke and loses his ability to reason or the recognition of night from day, things will get more difficult. I expect that and that’s all the more reason I need to get as much rest as I can while I can.

Yes – I am more productive early in the morning, but maybe I’m more productive because I burn out earlier. I think I will still be more productive in the morning, but I’ll just me more rested and as a result thinking with a clearer mind. OMG!! I might start making sense!! Where would the fun be in that!?!?

12 comments:

The Zombunist said...

I'm a new reader, and finished off reading your whole thing in the last week or so, so I should have known you had a plan. But instead, while I was reading the first half of this post I kept thinking "Oh, well, she shouldn't watch TV right before bed," and "It's probably the background noise," and then you go ahead and show that you knew all that and had a plan. My mistake.

I'll add, though, that there are a lot of possible causes for trouble sleeping. If your solution doesn't help (and I think it will), you may want to ask your doctor about a sleep assessment...this'll mean leaving your home and husband unattended for a night, so it might not be possible right now, but keep it in mind.

If the humidifier doesn't work, there are white-noise generators you can buy at Walmart, and there are always earplugs (if you can stand them).

You're also right that your bedroom should be for sleeping, not eating or watching TV. You risk making yourself feel like a prisoner in your own home...which...another cause of sleep problems is depression, which you've mentioned being a concern before.

I hope your plan works, though. I LOVE a good night's sleep (I sleep like a log), and I always hate hearing about others having trouble.

Jenna's Anxiety said...

Hi Linda,
I know you from twitter. You must know you are a wonderful and awesome person. You are kind hearted and caring.
Your story breaks my heart.
I hope you will care for yourself and be good to yourself and live your own life as well as looking after others.
I really feel for you. XXx
Jenna

ADDY said...

I have read before in articles about insomnia that keeping the bedroom purely for relaxation and sleep is the best policy for a good night's sleep. TV, eating etc should be done elsewhere. Lighting in the bedroom should also be subdued to enourage a calming atmosphere. The trouble with caring for end-stage alcoholics is that you tend to live on your nerves, always keeping an ear out for calamities. Because Greg smoked and was constantly intoxicated, I was always afraid of the house burning down too. Not exactly conducive to sleep.

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

Welcome to Zombunist and Jenna's Anxiety!!

Zombunist -- I have had a sleep study done and in the opinion of my neurologist, I should be on a CPap machine. But, insurance says I'm not bad enuf yet so I haven't been able to get one. I hate being at the mercy of insurance companies.

Thanks for the tip on the white-noise machines. I'll be checking those out.

I can't believe you read the whole thing!! That's a lot of reading. Hope you will read the book when it comes out in the spring.

Jenna -- Please don't let my story break your heart. I hope you find some amusement and encouragement in what I write. Please keep reading, I'm happy to have you!

Kitty said...

I agree a white noise machine can help. Jeckyll always had one since the day we met, and it took me a long time to get used to it but now i can't sleep without it. Also keeping the pets out of the room helps a bunch too. without a cat walking on you in the night it's much easier to stay asleep. also be mindful of what you may be snacking on before bed. chocolate has caffeine, I find that can keep me awake.

The Zombunist said...

Haha, I'm a big reader, and am trying to kick alcohol out of my life (4 months so far) so I've been scouring the internet for blogs to read and then obsessively reading them from start to finish.

I snore (when I drank I snored a LOT), so every person I have ever shared a room with for any length of time has had to break down and buy one of those white noise machines, so I've become a bit of an expert. I've driven people to tears with my snoring...

Hope you have a good day!

Gerry said...

Another interesting blog and I am glad that you will be coming out in the spring with a memoir about your life with Riley. I think your analyses of what might cause your sleeping problems are right on. They remind me of when I was a kid I could not go to sleep until my alcoholic father did, as I always feared he might set the house on fire, too. One night he did drop the kerosene lamp he was carrying from room to room while drunk. I heard my mother scream at him and I ran down stairs to see the kerosene running across the floor but fortunately the wick had gone out. This is how I got chronic fatigue. I never went to sleep while we were on a trip when my dad was in the car drinking. Even if it was long. My dad when very drunk had a habit of rising up and turning off the car lights! Once we were going along side a deep canyon. You can imagine the fear I felt. So if you keep one ear open and alert for signs of Riley setting the house on fire, you are not going to sleep soundly.

jo said...

another blog taken from my life, too, linda. i eventually get so sleep deprived i sleep for like 14 hours at a whack. and use a fan to drown out the 3 am wakings and hearing which dog went out and peed and what he was doing. exactly what riley does. i have no idea why they do this. exact same behaviors. have you ever asked anyone about that? yell at the tv. call every woman on every show a whore. thats mines latest kick. he never talks about today, or just everyday things. its the same litany...over and over. even sober now he is beginning to do it.

amazing they do the exact same things! and even to the same tv shows. now that is weird. i love chopped. lol. mostly i stay in my computer room..my tv..and eat in here. there is only so much andy griffith/ncis i can take. or fox news. argh.

mines blood tests came back normal. how they do this when he is losing his mind is beyond me. do you know what rileys blood shows? i am interested to know if others show very low lfts...not high.

hang in there. mine got me choc covered strawberries for "valentines" then called me a whore all morning. one of us is def losing our minds!

mine has set so much crap on fire...his bed. the couch. the carpet. his chair. and i get yelled at when i put it out.

and the beat goes on.

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

Jo -- The anger, yelling at the TV, being upset over trivial things, calling us names -- the hostility is all a part of the Hepatic Enceph. It's the toxins that load up the front lobe where all our common judgement and reasoning reside. Their brains are truly poisoned.

I know that sometimes alcoholics who have only a slight elevated LFT's that are still at the edge of the grave. The liver may still be functioning, but can still have portal vein issues. Once some organs start going down hill, they just continue on with even a small amount of alcohol. It could be that the pancreas is more deteriorated than the liver.

Since Riley has switched from beer to vodka and is now drinking about a liter a day, I anticipate a big change in his blood work. I took him to the doc just yesterday about an injured arm and I'll get the lab report back in a few days. It will be interesting to chart his decline. I'll post about it when I have the results.

Riley doesn't have a thing about fire -- except for the candles he has in his room. I make sure to only buy the ones in the glass containers. He keeps them on his desk. So far, he's been pretty good about making sure they are out when he is not in the room.

Syd said...

My cats drive me crazy by walking on my back at night so I keep them out of the bedroom. Good idea to have the white noise machine. We have a water fountain in the bathroom near the master bedroom. It provides some pleasant sounds at night.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain, Linda. I am such a light sleeper, because I have had to train myself to be. My alcy husband loves to turn on the stove burners while drinking. We have a gas stove, and he doesn't always turn the knob far enough for the burner to ignite, so gas is slowly seeping into the house. Sometimes, he thinks he wants to cook and he will set a pan of oil or food on the stove and turn the burner on high, then walk away and totally forget about it. He set the back deck on fire and luckily I happened to look outside and see the flames. He has dropped lit cigarettes everywhere when he would pass out. So, needless to say I don't get much quality sleep at one time.

When I get overtired for long periods of time, I tend to get migraines, so I take naps as often as I can. I don't know if they help much or not, but I'd like to believe that they do.

jo said...

thanks linda, for replying. i find it weird, and something someone should study, that so many say almost exactly the same things with this.

mines lfts are very low...20 and 16. . his elevations were 25 yrs ago and never since. i have heard various explanations on this .. without further tests we wont ever know. all the rest were still within range, borderline low. albumin..etc. just within range. i have been told some do this and wont show out of range until they crash. i dunno.

until the alcohol is out of mines system, he does his usual verbal vomit. over and over. repetitive, same sentences. mostly aimed at me. always pornographic (understatement) involving racial slurs. sometimes he wants to shoot a bunch of people or cut their throats. nice. the paranoia is interesting. too bad its not real.

it is beginning to come out when he is actually sober, tho. just not as often or as graphic. yet.

the knife edge temper. the insane ideas. lovely.

i find it odd that it manifests in them almost identically. maybe our brains arent as diff as we all think. lol.

thanks. this is where i wish we had a md who would post and help us..if their brains have been studied at all and they have a explanation for us. maybe all brains would do this with this issue. but identical --almost--behaviors? that is weird. identical wording? behaviors?

and because sober he is so diff, no one believes me anyways. i still think i should tape him...audio...

since mine has the asian gene thing, he cant drink hard stuff anymore. he just upchucks it or it would kill him, i guess.

thanks again. appreciate it. you are a small light in this darkness we live in.