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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, March 14, 2012

Crying wolf...

One of my favorite fables when I was a young girl was about the little boy who cried wolf. The premises is that a boy stood at the edge of his village and yelled to the townspeople that a wolf was about to do a lot of damage. The townspeople reacted quickly and ran to the aid of the boy to help him fend off the villainous four-legged creature. Each time, the people discovered that there was no wolf anywhere in sight. The child had lied to get everyone’s attention. The boy did this many times until the townspeople just starting ignoring his cries for help. Eventually, a wolf did show up, with its grey hairy face, and consumed the boy because no one came to help him as he cried out for help. The moral of the story for me was that I shouldn’t ask for help unless I really truly need it. Oh, yeah, there’s that don’t lie thing as well.

When an alcoholic asks for help and receives it and then goes out and starts the cycle anew – it’s a lot like the little boy who cried wolf. After a number of attempts, no one will believe that he truly wants help at all. Family, friends, rehab centers, insurance companies, and counselors begin to believe that the alcoholic is not being honest in his desire for help. It’s why an alcoholic will not be admitted to rehab after many failed attempts at helping the alcoholic achieve a sober lifestyle.

There are other ways that the boy who cried wolf analogy works. For end-stage caretakers we become accustomed to hearing medical professionals tell us that the alcoholic’s time on earth is coming to a close. We gather the family around and break the heart-wrenching news to our children. We take on a vigil of prayers for a miracle that will stop the dying process and give the alcoholic a profound desired for sobriety. We wait. We cry. We try to make deals with God. And finally, we believe that God has heard and granted us our wishes because the alcoholic miraculously revives and comes back to us. It appears that the doctors have cried wolf when there was none in sight.
After a few weeks, or months, we discover that only a part of the prayer was granted because the alcoholic goes back to drinking and we find ourselves back in the hospital waiting room.  Once again we gather around and things play out much the same as the previous hospital visit. And once again the alcoholic survives and remembers nothing of the ordeal. How could he/she? They were not “in the present” when the crying, hand-wringing, praying and pleading took place. The wolf never appeared.

This can go on and on for years. The doctors cry wolf and then the wolf turns out to be nothing more than a little bunny rabbit hopping along his trail with no intent to harm. Finally, the family stops coming when the wolf appears to be near. They stop praying and crying and pleading. They stop going to the hospital. They begin to believe that the alcoholic is immortal. Even if the wolf showed up, he would not gobble the alcoholic up and cause any mayhem at all.
We, the family, get to a point where we stop believing what the doctors say. How can we believe what has turned out to be untrue so many times? We are the townspeople and the doctors are the little boy. The wolf represents death and it just doesn’t seem to really arrive.

That’s where my family is with Riley. We keep hearing that Riley’s has used up the last of his nine lives, but then it doesn’t seem to be turning out that way. In fact, my daughter comes out and says that she doesn’t believe anything the doctors tell us about Riley’s life expectancy. She observes how he looks from the outside and in her eyes; he’s not even as bad as he was when he had the stroke. So she believes she’ll be able to tell how close he is to the cremation urn using her own measurements.
I have received lots of comments about what a difficult time this is for me and I’m in everyone’s prayers. I am so appreciative that I have so many people who wish I weren’t going through this.

It is unfortunate, that my pain is not so much for the loss of Riley as a companion, but the fear of losing myself as I try to juggle all the details. I make the mistake of trying to make decisions based on a sensible outcome. But there is no logic to any of this. I will probably get to the place where all the paperwork is done, all the arrangements are made and there is nothing left to do but wait. I’ll probably end up waiting for years and the wolf will never appear. By the time he does show his face, what if, because of the stress, the wolf is at my door long before he shows up at Riley’s?
I know that I’m falling into a depression. I am very lucky that I recognize it and can take some positive action to fight it. I also know that the townspeople are on their way to help me. They aren’t really coming to help Riley, instead they will be there for me whether Riley is there or not. I’m grateful that I learned the lesson of the little boy who cried wolf by not crying out for help so many times that I have become unbelievable.

My depression is countered by putting as much focus on my many projects as I can. Oh – but wait – one of the reasons I’m depressed is because I’m not spending as much time on my projects as I would like. My time is being taken up by preparing for a wolf that may never show up. Sometimes the frustration is more than I want to handle. It’s not that I can’t handle it – it’s that I don’t want to.
My mother had a little book that had been given to her from a beloved family member. I don’t know who – but someone. She gave me the little leather bound book one day when I was complaining about not having anything to read. It was her book of fables. I have read that book from cover to cover many times. It is well worn. It is well loved. It is something I will pass down to my great-grandchildren when the wolf is, in fact, stalking me. My hope is that they will learn and live by the lessons in that little book.

In the meantime, I’m going to read through that book again and see if there’s a fable that will help me with doing things I need to do even if I don’t want to do them. There must be something in there…


Gerry said...

As usual for you, the writing in this blog entry is I think simply brilliant. You really are gifted. I hope your gift will inspire you to try to survive the wolf for I know that he comes. When my father died after years of upsetting the family with his alcoholism I could hardly believe it. I had dreamed a month before that I was walking down the road and he came along in his big cadillac and decided for some reason known only to him to swerve and try to hit me. I leaped aside and the car went over a cliff and killed him. I was so thankful he had died without killing anyone, even though he was to go to court in a month for causing a wreck in which three young men were hurt and their car totaled. One's leg was broken. This probably I thought helped cause the heart attack that killed my father at 64 as he had been nearly impaled by the steering wheel of his car in that wreck. I can see why you would use the term Immortal Alcoholic which I think does describe what those who have to keep rescuing the alcoholic eventually feel, but that is an illusion. He will die.
And you will be freer than you have been in many years. I felt that release when my father died. I felt it when I divorced my first husband, never to go back to him. His second wife was even able to help quit drinking for 20 years, only to have him start again causing a divorce almost immediately. He accepted that and proceeded to cause his sister a great deal of grief who gave him refuge in her home. My son finally took him and sobered him up twice, and eventually he had the fortitude to quit during the last ten or more years of his life. I used to dread this man's drinking sprees as he hardly ever got drunk without threatening to kill me. And he nearly caused my death a couple of times.
I vowed never to tolerate alcoholism again and did not get married again. I associate now with another alcoholic, brilliant, but I do not believe he will ever quit. I feel sad because I know he will die and I will miss him, miss what he could have been. I am psychic and have had many dreams about the future. I dreamed that he would die before this coming Xmas. I can hardly believe it, but I must prepare and by the next Christmas I, too, will be gone. That was included in the dream. These dreams help me to concentrate on what is good in order to put up with the bad.

ADDY said...

In my case the Wolf came when I was least expecting it. Greg suddenly got a bout of internal bleeding mixed with pneumonia and within a week he was dead. I had got so used to him being admitted to hospital and coming out fine again, that I did not see the end coming. You sound at the end of your tether (not surpising) Do you have any emotional support (such as Al-Anon)you can turn to? Just take one day at a time and try to create some time for yourself. Not easy, I know, but you need to think of yourself now!

Anonymous said...

I think you have to verbalize to the Alcoholic. Tell him "It is Time for him to GO" Just Go.

Ms Kay said...

I think perhaps people need to know that you need help caring with Riley for YOUR mental healths sake . Regardless of wether Rileys care needs have changed then you are clearly running short of mental fuel and you need some help . X x

jo said...

one word.

AMEN. to your post, linda.

i almost believe they are immortal. i pretty much think he will outlive me.

i have heard how sudden the end comes,tho, from many others in our situation.

i have no idea. im almost to the point that even dead, i will believe mine is still alive and will come after me any time. i wonder how long that will take to get over? lol. my brain whispers never...

prayers for you, linda. you must tend to you. we lose ourselves easily and quickly with this. dont let that happen!

Karen said...

Sending healing thoughts and prayers your way. The waiting game for the wolf is a difficult one to play. I've been there and have seen the emaciated, incontinent and jaundiced version of what used to be my mother lying in the hospital bed waiting to die. Be strong.

Karen E. said...

Take care of yourself..do something each day that makes YOU happy. Go for a walk, plant some flowers, rake some leaves..just get outside and breathe and move!

This roller coaster and wolf watch is dreadful, tiring and depressing.

I too am over the shock of them destroying themselves only to come back appearing strong and then drinking again and the roller coaster gains speed.

My A has such severe dementia thru the years of alcohol abuse and falls with hits to the head that she may now forget how much she loves vodka! BUt she cannot take care of herself any longer and at only 71 (sunday) this is too sad. I think she is past me taking care of her too. The nursing home may be the place for her for sometime and the wolf will find her there..probably in many more lost years.

Syd said...

Very sad for all concerned. Waiting on Riley to die is not a way to live. I cannot imagine.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you since I've stumbled upon your blog several years ago. I've experienced depression myself and I can tell that it's distorts our perception of reality. Just want to say, hang on in there. From what I have been reading about Riley's situation, I feel, that the end is near.

from Switzerland,


Adina K. said...

I must state for the record-as a sister, too terrified of the outcome of my brother's 25 yr alcohol addiction-I felt a momentary respite by reading your poignant, yet hysterically funny (tongue-in-cheek) blog.Even the title is brilliant.

Having witnessed, in horror, the depths he has sunk to while in an alcoholic stupor; to being just plain drunk as a skunk; to listening to him blabber like a blubbering fool-continually repeating himself; (but I must say, he is a mostly friendly drunk)seeing him blacked out too; as well as near comatose in the hospital's ER, after having been told that they RARELY see such levels of alcohol poisoning (and this is a major city in Israel) I am unfortunately NO stranger to this disease.

Having utilized MANY strategies to get him to straighten up,(studying this disease, until I am now considered the resident family expert) I am convinced that I am operating against an immovable force.And, I am NOT just talking about the alcohol!

Cursed with an enabling wife, for many reasons she prefers him off balance, as long as he keeps up his high profile career. And, here's the kicker-up until now he has been a 'high functioning' alcoholic( but only career-wise). He has reached the pinnacle of his career and his wife basks in his 'success'. As long as it's his 'off time' which is soaked in booze, she's not too concerned.

At then end of this 'death dance', I have no intention of starting a blog-why add to whatever is out there, yours (and others) certainly are doing a world of good. But I do intend to expose the aspects of enabling, specifically how it contributed to his addiction-in ALL its permutations.

To all the sufferers of caring for an alcoholic-take good care of yourselves! Don't let the addict drag you down to the depths of hell too!

Adina K.

After all, IF one can drink in the comfort of a beautifully appointed home(yup, this isn't a typo)

Gabriele Goldstone said...

This is, I guess, where the 'HIgher Power' kicks in. I'm praying for Riley's quick death and your freedom.

What torture! Learning about your horrific experience is a lesson to me. Leave, asap. (which means, in 2 yrs) And for that I thank you.

Anonymous said...

Linda, as a new reader of your blog, I am so sad to see how down you are. You are in my prayers...you are a gift to those of us beginning to deal with what you have been dealing with for so long. Accept our thanks and know that you are loved and worthy of caring for yourself. I wish I could give you a big HUG...pray for God's mercy and grace as you walk through this horrific journey.
My love to you.

Anonymous said...

This is a great analogy of an alcoholic or drug addict, same thing really.

Right now, as I type this, I am drinking. I've created so many problems from drinking and drugging that it makes me want to continue boozing and using, but I want to stop a lot more. I'm also shooting coke and other opiates on and off. It's a destructive cycle, and I ask myself constantly, why am I still doing this to myself, after all the hardship and pain its caused my family and me? Well, I'll answer that question as best I can.

I had my first drink at 11. I was a misfit. The alcohol made me feel incredible. I could socialize better, I had no anxiety, and it was euphoric. This started out simple.

After drinking occasionally (every 2 weeks or so) I came across marijuana, I smoked it with my brother when I was 12. At 16 someone offered me a lortab (hydrocodone) 10mg. I took it, and what the alcohol didn't do as well as the alcohol the opioid did, pure synthetic bliss.

My drinking increased as I went through high school. I started buying the painkillers (hydrocodone) every day or two. I would only buy 1-2 at first. At my worst I was buying 10 a day. I was spending too much money, but the high was all that mattered.

After high school I was introduced to cocaine. I sniffed it. A few months later I was buying half a gram a day. I would snort coke, drink and pop oxycodone until I drowned myself in forgetting my past.

My tolerance increased with cocaine and opiates and alcohol. I ended up injecting oxycodone for the first time and that lead me into intravenous drug abuse. The drugs I was doing effected me more that way when injected.

But what goes up, must come down. I ended up in jail. Then I was required to go to outpatient rehab for my probation. Then rehab helped me tremendously. I was clean for 3 months. I felt great. I had urges to use, but I went to AA and NA meetings.

But recently I have fell of track and I found out I have hepatitis C. Which effects my liver. Yet I still drink in excess.

That is my life of addiction summed up.