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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.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Detour in the road...

My resolve to let Riley be “left alone” has not waned. In fact, it grows stronger with each day. I’m sleeping better and feeling much more relaxed. The best part is I’m making plans again for several different events. Although I’m recognizing that I’m angry – still – I’m happy.

Here’s how it’s been going:

On Friday I made my declaration of independence and informed Riley that since he wanted to be left alone – he was now alone. I would not do anything for him anything to make him more comfortable or assist him in making his alcoholism easier for him. I will no longer cook his meals, do his laundry, or clean his spaces. I also will not make or take him to doctor appointments of any kind. The only thing I will do is buy his alcohol because I don’t want him on the road putting innocent people at harm. He has clearly stated that he just wants to be left alone to drink as much as he wants even if that means drinking himself to death. That’s what I will do for him – allow him to drink himself to death.

Since Friday, I’ve cooked only for myself. I made myself some lovely meals and enjoyed them very much. Riley has eaten a Hot Pocket and a portion of a frozen dinner. He watched me as I prepared my apricot stuffed pork chop, but didn’t ask if I was making enough for him. The answer would have been NO!

I have not cleaned his bathroom and his bath aide is refusing to come because she cannot be in a bathroom where feces is smeared on the wall or floors. His diaper pail is overflowing and the door jambs have handprints created from unwashed hands. The trail leads to his bedroom.

In the bedroom, he has knocked over a short bookcase and the contents are now on the floor. His sheets have not been changed and when you look in you can see the bodily function stains. Dirty clothes are scattered about his floor and the room reeks worse than a locker room after a big game. A spray of Febreeze isn’t going to do the trick.

All in all things are going rapidly downhill for Riley. He’s on the downward dip of the roller coaster and I doubt it will make it back to the top of the next peak. I did not buy a ticket and refuse to get onboard.

After a discussion with the visiting nurse, we have decided that there is nothing more she can offer him in a skilled nursing capacity. All she does is check his vitals and since his butt is healing, there’s nothing left to do. She has offered to find out if Hospice would be an option for him. But, basically, she is as done as I am.

While the nurse was there for her last visit, she told Riley that it seemed that I had given up on him. Since he said he wanted to be left alone, I was granting his request. Riley became vehemently angry and said he didn’t mean it. What he meant was that he wanted to be alone WITH ME in some other place. We both asked him “Why?” He informed us he wanted me with him because I take such good care of him. When I asked him what my reward would be for taking care of him, he responded with “The reward is that she gets to be with ME.” Oh, dear me, I didn’t know he was so special that I should be honored to wipe his shit from the walls. What is the definition of narcissistic sociopath? Oh!! Wait!! I see it here!! Right next to Riley’s name!

I learned something interesting this week. I have been in touch with a former shipmate of Riley’s. This shipmate says Riley came to visit them 18 years ago. At that time, Riley told them I was killed in a car accident. Actually, I think I look pretty good for having been dead for 18 years!! But, shouldn’t I be much thinner? I don’t see a lot of fat on people who have been dead that long – usually they are just bones. As Mark Twain said – Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

So – now that leads me to – if I am dead, I can’t do anything for Riley because I don’t exist. That greatly simplifies things for me.

Thinking back, I remember that I have been committed all along to not stand in the way of Riley’s death wish. I recall that I didn’t want any more heroic measures to keep him alive. That was more than a year ago. So when did things change? When did I get off track and things spin out of control? What was it that got me confused about my direction? As I recount the events of the past several months, I know exactly when it happened.

When Riley fell and hurt his arm, I took him to the doctor to make sure it was not broken. At that time I asked for a complete blood test so I could determine where he was on his road to death. When the results came back, he ended up in the hospital overnight having his potassium replaced. That’s when all this mess started.

People wanted to “help” Riley. They wanted to “help” me. The nurse alarmed me with Riley’s erratic heart beats which caused him to go back to the primary care doctor and then to the cardiologists. I grew weak from lack of sleep and attending to all of Riley’s needs. I knew I needed help, but the type of help I was offered was really only making things worse. What I wanted was one of two things – put Riley into a long term care facility or get a personal aide. My goal was never to get him to enter rehab and attain sobriety – been there, done that – without any success. I knew just detox alone was not what I was looking for if detox was not followed by placement in a long term care facility. Why detour him from a road that he prefers to travel and will end with an abrupt fall from the edge of a cliff? It is the same road he has chosen countless times over the years. Why not just let him reach the “dead end” sign as he is determined to do.

The cardio doc is right in that it will be a difficult road for me to watch Riley traverse. I’m not cut out for the role of Dr. Korvorkian. Observing someone die is so very distasteful for me. My every natural instinct is to try to save human life at all costs. But, how many times should a person be saved from death when they clearly have chosen to die? If Riley had cancer and had reached the end of all possible hope, then as difficult as it is, I would turn off the feeding tubes and let God take him away. That’s what I had to do for my son. I must see this situation as Riley having an incurable disease and that he has chosen his own end. I must let God deal with him and not try to interfere in his divine plan.

So this is what they mean when they say “Let Go and Let God.”


Syd said...

When I let go, I quit trying to fix others. By not doing something, i am doing something. And it may actually give Riley some incentive to take responsibility.

Anonymous said...

New reader here. I sympathize with your situation and think you are handling it with all possible compassion and grace. You've been asked to bear an incredible burden which you chose to bear for unselfish reasons - to ensure your daughter doesn't have to bear it. Stay strong, and chose happiness. Your burden seems to be almost at an end. Personally I will rejoice once you are free.

Alice said...

Everything you've posted makes perfect sense and I am glad you are following this path. The only thing I worry about is if his mess spreads and threatens your health - it sounds so unsanitary.

Riley *does* sound like a narcissistic sociopath - I've never met one and I hope I never do!

Anonymous said...

I just sit here shaking my head in horror and disbelief. Riley needs to be placed in a straight jacket and locked up in an insane asylum or a padded room. As a Christian, I understand that marriage is for better or worse, in sickness and in health, but once half of the equation has gone totally insane, the state needs to step in and protect the remaining sane citizen. Seriously. This whole scenario is total insanity for you, Linda. It's just not right. I mean, they used to lock women up for "hysteria" before they understood menopause and yet in this day and age such a horrible thing is permitted? No. Not right. Not at all.

Kibble said...

I don't understand how the aide gets to say that she can't bathe him because there is feces on the wall. Aides clean up after incontinent people all the time, and assist them with hygeine. She would need to wear gloves, a mask and eye protection, but dealing with excrement is part of what you do as a nurse or a CNA. Unless maybe she's not certified and can only do limited things? And if the nurse and aide are no longer a part of his care, please consider asking the cardiologist who wants to help you to refer him to hospice. Having the visiting nurse ask someone is not the best way to get hospice in. NOBODY in the medical profession would give him more than a six month prognosis. If you follow through with your decision, you will need someone to come in at the end.
I understand there may be some measure of satisfaction in standing back and literally watching the sh** pile up, but it's not good for you physically or mentally. Resentment is a poison you drink and expect it to kill the other guy. . .

Wanda said...

I am in the exact same predicament as you. A does not see anything beyond himself and his booze. Can't keep any food down for days now. Was sober a month ago after his 6th detox and nursing home stint. Enough is enough for me. I am trying to continue my life but keeping up with all responsibilities as well as caring for a narcissistic sociopath who only wants to be left alone is taking a toll. Feel guilty for praying to end it but the suffering of us both is overwhelming. I feel your pain.

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

Kibble -- Riley's bathroom is extremely small. It's so small that there is only room for one person. I'd say it's about 5x4 ft without the shower, toilet, vanity. It is almost impossible to be in there with Riley in the shower and not rub up against the walls and doors. The problem is the aid gets the feces on her clothing when showering Riley. She can't go home and change and she has other patients to tend to. She doesnt want to take Riley's excrement with her to someone else. I don't know if she is certified or not.

Once I have the VA money, I'll get Riley a personal attendant who will take care of all his needs. I'm hoping for an older male CNA. When the time comes, the current home health company will help me find a suitable person.

In the meantime, I'll give Riley two weeks to clean the bathroom and then I'll clean it. He doesn't know that yet. I'll clean it because it will affect my life. I don't ever use his bathroom -- but I have to smell it as the ordor wafts down the hallway.


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

Anonymous -- I agree that I don't understand why Riley can't be detoxed and admitted to long term care. I also don't understand why the commitment would not include that scenario. Surely his track record would indicate that even after detox he would be a danger to himself and others.

I want to be clear that I don't have Riley with me because of my marriage vows. He's with me because if I don't have him my daughter will take him in. As a parent, it is my responsibilty to protect my children -- no matter how old they are. -- Linda

Anonymous said...

Since I just began following your blog, Linda, I might have missed something, but why on earth would your child be willing to endure the treatment you have? I have my doubts that your child would deal with Riley as long as you have, but then what do I know, really? I'm 55. My father died at 38 from alcohol abuse, leaving a 29 yr. old wife w/three kids under the age of 10. I have a friend now whom I fear has recently been in end-stage, but appears to be on the right path & healing, but only time will tell as this is a repeat offender. It's been a shocking experience, not to mention heartbreaking.

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

Anonymous -- Just as with children who have been abused during childhood -- they still protect the parent in spite of the abuse.

In my daughter's case -- she has always been a Daddy's Girl. He is her father and doesn't want to see him die in the gutter. She loves him no matter what.

Also combine that with the fact that she feels she let her brother down by not being "there for him" before he died. She truly feels that if she had taken action she might have prevented his death. So if she takes action she may be able to save her father.

Since Riley has been back with me, Alea has become more enlightened. Before she would have jumped in with both feet. Now she would hesitate. I think she would hold out -- but as the end got closer, I think she would try to make his end less traumatic by doing what I had intended to do. That is give him a soft place to die.

She would only do it if something horrible happened to me and could not do it. When we thought I had lymphoma, we had long conversations about it and she was adamant she would take over where I left off.

I'm sorry for your loss and I hope you can gain insight from reading my blog.

Gabriele Goldstone said...

Stuffed apricot pork chop sounds great.

This is hell - but the darkest hour is just before dawn. Hang in there. You'll make it and this nightmare will end - or as you so eloquently put it - you didn't buy a ticket for this roller coaster.

Keep sharing and know that you're not alone! We care.

Linda / Oma / Ladybug said...

Why do you continue to buy his booze???? Hide the keys to the vehicle, for cryin' out loud! He doesn't have the ambition to find them and he can WALK to go get his poison! COME ON already!!!

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

Anonymous --

First -- When an alcoholic is at end stage they must continue to have the alcohol or they will go into a non-medically supervised detox which is certain death. This is an established fact and you can find references to this all over the internet. Even his own docs have said not to take away the booze.

Second -- We live 30 minutes to the nearest state liquor store and grocery store. There are no bars, no convenience stores. The closest business to us is a tire repair shop. We are truly "in the country". So he cannot walk to get the booze.

Third -- Both the license plates and the keys are well hidden away. However, I've seem him find things before that I thought were hidden in good places. I do everything I can to keep him off the road.

I hope that answers your questions.

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

Ooops -- that last comment was for Linda / Oma / Ladybug. Sorry about.

Kibble said...

Wow. Stop buying him booze, he detoxes and dies. Keep buying him booze but stop supporting his alcoholism in other ways and he dies, but not as quickly. You have really, really hard choices Linda, this is a really challenging bioethics case being played out in real and painful life. Thanks for writing about it, others need to have this stuff available to read if they want to.

Gabriele Goldstone said...

p.s. to my earlier comment.

A year ago, when my husband's unemployment insurance was about to run out - there was only enough money for his booze or the mortgage. I chose the house and he went through a rough period, where he seemed quite frail and pitiful, but he's now been (mostly) abstaining for almost a year now. Next week, he'll start collecting his pension and then I'll see what he does. I might have to ask him to turn that money over to me. But I'd rather he voluntarily give it to me.
Never trust an alcoholic. Never. It's been my biggest mistake.

Anonymous said...

Your blog has become an important part of my life.

I am on the other end and have severe alcoholism. I am 32 with bad liver damage.

Reading your blog helps me realize how much my drinking might be affecting the people in my life.

I just filed paperwork to start treatment and I really hope I can do this.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. What if you gave him the keys and had the cops posted at the foot of the driveway to arrest him for DUI before he got too far...then he would be jailed and in for medical treatment for his detox...just a (radical) idea. He would also be unable to continue his denial.