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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.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Balancing the seesaw...

If I make a change in my life and then I stand back and look around, I see that I’m really the only person who has changed. As a result of the change, I may not want the same things as I did before. Maybe I want the same things, but I want to add other things into the mix. Still, I’m the only person who has changed. Is it right for me to expect others to accept my changes thereby forcing them to make changes in their relationship with me? Whether it is right or not really doesn’t matter. What matters is that one change, whether it is an addition or subtraction, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Others are always affected by changes we make.

Change can be difficult for some people. If someone in our lives makes a change, it can be hard to adjust or accept. Even if that change is for the better, the status quo can often feel more comfortable. This is especially true in families. One family member attains sobriety after a lengthy marriage with alcohol, and the whole family is affected. Even if the family knows it’s for the best, they may still struggle to find a balance.

It is inevitable. Change is going to happen no matter what. An alcoholic may go back to drinking or choose sobriety, either way the person who is not making the decision to do either one is forced to be a party on the seesaw. If you don’t want to be on the opposite end, you can always walk away. Oh, but that, in and of itself, means you are making a change.

My life with Riley has always been a series of changes. He’s drinking. He’s not drinking. He’s living with me. He’s not living with me. Those are just the big ones and I handle those really well. I’m good at making those adjustments. But, it’s the smaller ones that seem to get to me. Today he’s eating, tomorrow he’s not. Today he is peaceful, tomorrow he’s agitated. Today he likes roast beef, tomorrow he will only eat chicken. Finding a daily balance seems impossible.

Just a few weeks ago, I had no help with Riley. It was just me on the seesaw trying to keep it level. It meant that I had to stand exactly in the middle. Today, I have a lot of help with Riley. The bath aid comes once a week and the visiting nurse comes out at least once a week. I have support and that helps me stay balanced. Although, at the time, I didn’t see much sense in taking Riley to the hospital to have his potassium levels stabilized, I am grateful now that I did. If he had not been hospitalized, I would not have gotten the help that both, Riley and I, need at home. The change has been good.

The bad side to this change is that I have had to do some fancy footwork to prepare for all the contingencies. In the past, I was just going along and waiting for Riley to die. But, now, even though he is still dying, I’m feeling the necessity of devising a plan – actually several plans. It has to be more than one plan because Riley is the “immortal” alcoholic. It doesn’t matter if the nurse says he could be gone in a few days – he could still end up with years to go. I’m standing up straight in the middle of the seesaw and waiting to see which end will drop first.
Of course, the past experiences with Riley and “you’re gonna die right now” scenarios have left me in the State of Denial. I can see the state borderlines right there between the States of Peace and Chaos. I hear what the nurse is telling me and I’m nodding my head in agreement and understanding. But, deep down inside I deny that what they tell me is actually going to happen. One end of my seesaw is named “Immortal” and other end is “Gonner”. Right now Gonner is up in the air and Immortal is almost touching the ground.  From the viewpoint of the nurse, it’s the opposite situation.

No matter which end of the seesaw is higher, a change is sure to come. Even if Riley is immortal, things will change because I may no longer be able to take care of him and he may be forced to detox and move to a care facility. If Riley does prove he is mortal after all, that will mean another change. Both possible changes mean a change in my lifestyle.
All these changes are difficult for my family. They are unable to deal with the daily up and down of the seesaw and have absented themselves from the situation. They also live in the State of Denial. Although they see things may change and Gonner may end up firmly on the ground, they really just see everything just as it was. For them, nothing has changed. Riley is a drunk. Riley is miserable to be around. Same-o, same-o. No change here.

I’m wondering what their expectations will be of me when Riley is not around – either in a nursing facility or at the bottom of the sea. Will they expect me to spend every weekend with them? Will they except me to run to them on a moment’s notice? They are already resentful of my not spending time with them because of my Riley Duty. Even though they say everything will be the same, I know better. I know all of us will be forced to make changes – some mostly good and some bad.
There is nothing to do but wait and see. Wait for the changes and adjust myself on the seesaw.


Anonymous said...

Remember, one day at a time.

jo said...

excellent post. absolutely EXCELLENT. you put it in words.

esp the inconsistency of the As. the immortals. it will drive a person crazy. today we want spaghetti. tomorrow we hate it and would never eat it.

i will use this. the seesaw. and how it always tilts..some days this way...some days that way. and there we are in the middle, just trying to not fall.

thanks again linda, for sharing this. i relate.

the prob is our lives and sanity are based on consistency. its how we know who to say hi to and who not to. what tv shows we like...what kind of pie. what clothes to wear if its cold out.

but with our immortals...this is all taken away. we have no balance point to use. what works today wont tomorrow. cant do it one day at a time with this.

your blog is and will be invaluable to me and others as time goes on. i would love to hear any solutions you have come up with to help you cope with this.

The Zombunist said...

I am SO glad that you currently have some help, even if the underlying situation stays the same.

About what your family expects from you...I think the advantage you have here is that they probably have no idea what to expect, either. When the day comes, you'll have the freedom to decide what sort of person you can be for the rest of the family and the Outside World. I imagine it might be frightening, but I feel like it will be liberating. Maybe there will be a learning curve, and maybe you'll find yourself falling back into "caretaker" behaviours, but at least you'll have the option to be someone different.

Syd said...

Every day is a different one. And change happens in every life. I do the best that I can to not project about the future or what others want. I focus on what I am doing and what I want. At last, it feels good to not be totally living my life for the benefit of everyone else. I hope that you will find that balance in on the see saw.

ADDY said...

Whatever happens, you need to have some me-time, time to look after yourself and establish YOUR own sanity. Everyone else will have to fit around you, because if you go under, you'll invitably pull them down with you.