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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, March 2, 2012

I can take it...

Last night I made a valiant attempt to host the Thursday night OARS meeting. I haven’t been able to do that for a couple of weeks and I miss all my members providing support, encouragement and lots of humor. I really wanted my “fix” last night. But, Riley had other ideas and so the meeting went on without me. I’m happy that everyone is so comfortable that they just keep going in helping each other. I’m very proud of them for being open and caring to everyone in the group. And, by the way, the group is very welcoming to new members. If you’re searching for people who understand and listen without judgment or criticism OARS is the place to be.

 I don’t understand how “waiting for the end” can be so hectic and chaotic. There are things to buy, schedules to coordinate, menus to plan, and meetings to be kept. Yesterday was one such day.  It started with cooking Riley breakfast. After that, I was in my office making phone calls to facilities where Riley had been a patient. I am gathering his records so they can be submitted to VA in a complete package. Then there was an in-home meeting with the VA representative to go over what else was needed. Usually, VA takes care of everything involving gathering of the records. But, in my efforts to hasten the application process, I am doing most of the gathering myself. Anyway, after that I had a meeting with Gill, grocery shopping, prescriptions filled and shopping for a bath bench and oil-filled heater.

When I returned home, Riley was “in a mood” as it were. I knew he had been timing me and I had been gone much too long for his comfort. He knew better than to say that I was late or ask what had taken me so long. But, his attitude said it all. He wanted to put away the packages I brought in.  It is how we usually unpack bags of stuff from the store. That way he gets to see what I buy and many times there are little surprises for him. It’s a game we play, but today the game was not working.  He questioned every purchase and then complained that I was visiting with the teen age girl down the road who wanted to talk about teen-age alcoholism. My focus was not on Riley and that was troublesome to him.
It may not be recognizable to some people but what was really happening was that Riley was abusing me. There were no fists flying or even very much yelling. It was fairly quiet. But there was an undercurrent of anger coming from the kitchen. I knew what was wrong. I had been gone too long and was not giving him immediate undivided attention. Riley was furious with me, although, he would never come out and admit it because to him having anger means he’s not able to control his emotions. Somehow he thinks maintaining control makes him better than other people.

Riley has been abusing for me years. He’s just like most other alcoholics and I’m just like most spouses of alcoholics who, in the beginning, do not recognize the abuse. It comes in small doses – much like the Frog Soup Theory. Maybe he keeps his drinking money out of the salary household bank deposit – and you don’t know. You have to work twice as hard to make up the money – that’s abuse. Maybe he never spends Saturdays helping you clean the house or dealing with the kids – that’s abuse. Maybe he will leave you a long list of things that need to be done and maybe he could just as easily do those things – that’s abuse. He may not say anything to you about any of it, but you just know. There is a feeling in the room – the proverbial elephant that no one ever talks about. It’s abuse.
Somewhere along the way the alcoholic begins showing disapproval of the things you do and then calls you names or belittles you. That’s abuse. You’re now walking on egg shells because you don’t want this discord in the middle of family events or day-to-day activities – that’ abuse. Telling you he will do something and then not doing it – or lying that he has done it – that’s abuse. Name calling, degrading your sense of logic and making your life generally more difficult is abuse.


Of course then there’s the biggee – physical abuse. It will seem that you have so disappointed him that he will lash out with a slap or hit. Maybe he will even tell you it was an accident. Trust me it was not – AND that’s abuse. Each time he gets behind the wheel of a car and you worry about what he’s doing to himself or innocent bystanders – that’s abuse.
Besides all that, abuse comes in all sorts of fashions. There is abuse of power, abuse of inanimate objects, abuse of emotions, abuse of society. When there is an alcoholic involved you can be sure that he’s abusing everything and everyone around him, but especially the spouse/caretaker.


The question is, what do you do about it? No one can make any decision for you and we are all prone to forgive especially when it is someone we’ve vowed to love and accept no matter what. Most of the time, the spouse doesn’t even understand that they are being abused. Riley abused me over the nearly entire 40 years that we’ve known each other. I didn’t really recognize or understand it until recently. Now I see it. Now I understand. It’s too late for me to do anything about the past. But, I can make sure it stays in check in the present.
So, I want to do the OARS meeting and Riley comes in and makes a comment that I’ve been gone all day long and haven’t spoken to him at all for the entire day. I know none of that is true, but I decide to forego the meeting and deal with the issue. I return to the den and ask what it is he wants to talk about. He wants to know why our house is such a mess all the time. I want to say that the house is not a mess and defend the cleanliness level to a person who has feces smeared on his bathroom wall. But, I don’t do that. I simply say that the housekeeper will be here in the morning and what else did he want to say. He asked why I didn’t put hard-boiled egg is his chef’s salad. I told him I forgot about the egg and would remember it next time. And so it continued on… And that, my friend was abuse and I gave into it. Never once was there a real conversation or a slight smidgeon of thankfulness or gratitude for anything I did do that day. It was all about what I was failing to do or had failed to do.

I should have told him I would come talk to him when the meeting was over. Period. I should have closed my office door and gotten the support I needed from my group members. But, I didn’t. My choice was the abuse because it seemed like the easiest thing to do.
When living with an abusive person, the spouse gets presented with these choices over and over again. The spouse must weigh the potential outcome in their mind before acting. If you could slow down time, maybe you would see this image of the spouse talking to themselves about which road is the best to take. If I do this, then this will happen or if I do that, maybe that will happen. There’s a battle going on in there.


So, I often choose the abusive route. I deal with it. My reasoning is that Riley’s days are numbered. I know and understand he is a sick man and could emotionally  snap in a moment’s notice. So I tread lightly to keep the tiger inside him sleeping. I don’t have to placate for very long. He is sleeping more now and that provides me with solace. But the bottom line is no matter what he says or does, I know that I’m a good, intelligent, loving person – no matter what he says or what his passive aggressiveness wants me to think.
I am more fortunate than others. My abuse is at its end. For other’s it is just beginning and all I have to say is decide early on what you are willing to accept. Recognize it for what it is. And know that once you agree to accept the Bull Stuff that’s being handed out, you are agreeing to a way of life that may leave you feeling useless, stupid, unlovable. Get off that cycle now. Put a stop to it. Decide now that you are worth a solidly reciprocal relationship where things are shared and not just managed. Be the person that we all know you are – highly intelligent; very confident; genuinely loving; and over forgiving. It’s OK to take the easy way – as long as you know inside yourself that you’re doing it because it’s easy and not because you accept it as a way of life.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am new to reading your blog. Can you tell me what an OARS meeting is?

jo said...

totally agree on the abuse. i can see what its doing to me but i have no way to stop it and honestly, i think its far too late anyways. being called a whore at 8 am is to early! lol.

linda, would you please post on what the VA is allowing? so far i have got nothing but that he must be rated for military disabilty, which wont happen because 1..he wont fight for it. 2..its almost impossible to get liver connected anyways.

right now the VA does check his blood every 6 months. thats about it.

is riley service connected for disability? if so, my God, your so lucky!

i appreciate if you could let me know what they tell you and what you must do. we turned in mines medical records to be told unless we prove it with our tests, he doesnt have it. and all their tests came back fine...and on his chart it states does not drink or smoke. its a crock so they dont have to pay anything.

thanks in advance....

Syd said...

I think that in many ways I was far more abusive than my wife. She simply would have her drinks and go to bed. I was the one who would ask her to stop, do the passive aggressive stuff, and blamed my unhappiness on her. Sure, there are plenty of alcoholics who are bad drunks. At most meetings, I hear the spouses say that they were the ones who acted crazy and angry. Looking at my part in the whole thing helped me get to a place where my day didn't start with anger and fear.

Linda -- Immortal Alcoholic's Wife said...

Anonymous -- I have formed a support group through FACEBOOK. It's named OARS F&F GROUP. Just go to FB and put OARS F&F in the search and it will come up. Go to the page and ask for permission to join. Everything on the site is confidential and the posts are not visible for anyone outside the group. I will accept your request to join and then you can come there anytime to talk to others who offer non-judgment support.

Jo -- I'll post on IA on FB about VA.

Syd -- I know that I'm also abusive to Riley both now and previously. I try to keep it in check, but it is all because of the frustration of wanting him to WANT to live. I think in our attempts to help we try tough love or reality checks and those attempts can be abusive. I admire your solid grounding in the teaching of Al-Anon.

Anonymous said...

Thank for this reminder that I do not have to accept abuse in all its subtle and various forms. I do have a choice. Your post left me with chills because it is yet another form of the answer I have been quietly waiting to hear. Thank you!

jo said...

thanks linda. i kinda suspect riley must have retired from the military, in which case he is eligible for more than someone just in 3 yrs.

syd...i understand your anger and passive aggressive stuff. i used to be that way., now i just dont care. i barely speak to mine except to nod cause its blatantly useless to even try and expect him to reply in a way that makes sense. too much energy i no longer have.

i know ALL alcoholics/addicts are not abusive. not like mine. of course they are to a point, they are not capable of a real relatiosnhip. but not openly mean, or not often.

the smart thing to do is teach others to run at the first signs of addiction. it isnt how humans are made...and i dont know how many actually do.

Alice said...

Hi Linda, thank you for your previous comment about valium, a few posts ago. I get it now --- since his BAC was very high the valium could arrest his respiration etc.

Thank you also for these past few posts, as they are very helpful in scaring me sober... I had a slip last week of five days back on the booze. I feel very guilty about it, but I AM pleased to say I managed to detox myself, by getting my family to take my wallet, and dish me out valium and antabuse, once the alcohol had left my system. Now I'm sober again and back on the antabuse, and my parents come to my house and give it to me a couple of times a week - which is enough - I know full well how long I have to wait before I can drink after taking antabuse, and it's longer than half a week. I drank on it a few times in 2008/9 - NEVER again. I've never felt so completely ill in my life - I really did feel poisoned. I remember your story about Riley vomiting it up outside base.

I am very lucky because although I've had LFTs come back very high in the past, they've gone back down after a few months of sobriety. I don't have liver or brain damage, and PHYSICALLY, detox is OK with a bit of valium. But then, I'm 33 and I spend most of the time sober (I calculated it last year, it was 98%).

I still fight a terrible battle in my head wanting to drink - I am a well-educated woman who knows full well what it can do to me.... I really don't understand it sometimes, it's just so freaking powerful, but I continue to fight. Your blog helps. I really wish that things can be as non-unpleasant for you as possible in the next short while.

rhondanash said...

And once again, you hit the nail on the head for me about the abuse. I miss the man I married but don't miss the alcholic version I divorced.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. It struck a chord with me as my husband is an alcoholic as well and we are now in the accelerated stages of timing how long I am out and seeking undivided attention... I empathize with you greatly, and so appreciate knowing that I am not alone out there taking it because it's easier. I keep looking for the man I married in his face, in his eyes but he isn't there anymore. It breaks my heart, and my heart goes out to you because I know you know exactly what I'm talking about.