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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, April 17, 2012

Just tell me what you want...

Yesterday, we were patiently waiting in the cardiologist’s office and Riley and we were talking about a couple that he had been friends with in the good old days. Those days weren’t so good for me because I was an outsider and the memories reminded me of being weak and senseless.

The conversation then turned to an instance of him choosing the couple’s family over his own. To make a long story short – I had just arrived at the new duty station. It was just a few days from Thanksgiving weekend. We found a house and Riley gave me money so we could move in right away.

When I went to pick Riley up from the base that evening, one of his shipmates gave me a note from him. It said he needed space to think about things. He said not to worry he would be fine. I was stunned. What was there to think about? He knew for weeks that I was arriving and sent me money to make the trip across country. If he was having doubts about us, why didn’t he tell me before I drove from California to Connecticut?

I had no money for groceries, let alone Thanksgiving dinner. I ended up getting food vouchers from Traveler’s Aid which would give us enough basic food for a few days. Our Thanksgiving Dinner that year was half a baked chicken, potato salad and pumpkin pie. We walked on the beach, watched TV and played board games. Alea kept asking when I thought her Daddy was coming home. Brain just kept telling Alea to forget about him and that he didn’t care about us.

It was not a far leap for me to figure it out where Riley was. He was with the Rittenhouse family celebrating Thanksgiving in a warm, food laden cabin with a roaring fire, laughter and children running about.

Finally, I worked up the courage to call the cabin and demanded to speak to Riley. There was an awkward silence and I could hear the shuffling of the phone. Riley thinks he’s very good at imitating the Asian accent – he’s not. He answered with that accent, but I knew it was him. I asked him to explain himself. He hung up. I called back. He hung up. I called again. This time a woman came on the phone and told me I was ruining their Thanksgiving. She could have said a million things – she could have told me the truth – ruining her Thanksgiving was something I was happy to do. My kids weren’t even having a Thanksgiving!!

The whole scenario got played again while waiting for the doctor. Riley recounted that Thanksgiving would have been one of the best he ever had if it had not been for me. He blurted out that it was inconsiderate of me to call while they were enjoying their holiday. He said he would have been home in a few days. If I had never called he wouldn’t have had to pretend he was some Asian chick.

I tried to turn off the tapes of the past that was running through my head. I reminded myself that I was happy that I put the past in a place where it could not interfere with the present. I reminded myself that I didn’t want any past misconceptions to change anything in the present time. I wanted only to move forward.

It was not the fault of the Rittenhouse family that Riley was a lying jerk. They had only extended an invitation to a friend when they thought that friend had no place to go on a holiday. They were like that. It was not their fault that the invitation would hurt me or my children. They had no way of knowing because Riley didn’t tell them the truth. It was clearly Riley’s fault. So as a result of Riley’s action (or inaction) everyone suffered including the Rittenhouse family. Over the past 20+ years, I’ve discovered a lot of lies that Riley told about his relationship with the Rittenhouse family just as he has told them a lot of lies about me and the kids. As his alcoholism progresses, he has trouble keeping his past lies straight and ends up letting the truth slip out sporadically.

But I guess I’ve never really healed from the past because I heard the words come out of my mouth – “Are you sorry that you hurt us that way? Are you sorry for the lies you told? Are you sorry your kid’s memory of Thanksgiving has always been tainted by that one holiday more than 20 years ago?”

His answer – “I’m not sorry for anything I have done or will ever do. I see no point in being sorry. I still would have done exactly what I did.”

My reply – “You don’t think it was wrong?”

Riley – “No. I don’t do “wrong” things. It may have been wrong for you, but it was not wrong for me.”

It was unfortunate that at the very end of Riley’s explanation the doctor chose that very moment to enter the room. He asked Riley if he wanted to quit drinking. Of course not. He then said he was going to have him committed as being a danger to himself and others. The doctor then turned to me and said – that will get him into detox but that is all it will do. If he is unwilling to go to a long term care facility, we cannot force him into one after detox.

The conversation was quick and forceful and I felt my voice disappear. In this day, it’s unusual for me to feel unable to speak. The doc asked how he gets his booze. I told him I buy it. He said that was good because he didn’t want Riley driving. The doc told me to decrease the amount of vodka in each drink. I told him I don’t fix his drinks – he fixes his own. He told me I had to start fixing his drinks and put a little less vodka in each one. That way, he can detox at home. I protested that Riley drinks throughout the night and that would mean I would have to be up to make his drinks all night. He said that’s the only way to cut him back safely.

This whole time, Riley is yelling – he is not going to stop drinking and unless he goes to a long term care facility that allows alcohol, he’s not going there either. He is yelling that he is going to live another 30 years and I’m going to take “most excellent” care of him.

The doctor is ignoring him. He is focused on me. So I just blurt it out – I’m not going to go through round five of detox to have him survive to make my life miserable for another year. I need help to just let him die!! It’s what he has said he wants – why not just let him have what he wants.

Riley’s voice fades to the background – “Nay! Nay! Moose breath!! I’m not going to die! I’m going to be shot by a jealous husband at the age of 112!” I vaguely hear the words because they are like background noise.

The doc gets quiet and says “I’m afraid you won’t let him die. I’m afraid you are not strong enough. You will try to save him because you are a loving, caring, humane person. You will try to do the right thing. He needs to be committed. But, I don’t think it’s going to do anything but prolong the inevitable. Tell me what I can do to help you.”

I tell him I need to have the nurse and bath aid continue visiting. He says he will make that happen and gives the order to the PA. He tells me to call and request anything I want and he will be happy to try to make it happen. With that, he leaves the room.

As I’m trying to get his wheelchair turned around, he looks up at me and says “I’m not going to die. You are being very mean. I hate you. I was right when I choose the Rittenhouse’s over you. See what you’ve done to me!”

I looked straight into his eyes and stated clearly. “You may not die, but you are killing me and when I’m gone, who’s going to remind you to change your shitty diapers? Do you think Susan will come do it for you? There is one thing I know – she is way too smart to put up with your nonsense. They left your ass before when your drinking got in the way – they aren’t going to take you in now. If it were not for me protecting Alea, you would be dead by now. I’m all you’ve got and I’m done.”

On the way home, Riley asked when I could take him to the dentist and eye doctor’s. He’s not in any dental pain and just wants and extra set of glasses. I pulled the car over to the side of the road. I think I was contemplating putting him out. Instead I grabbed my cell phone and turned on the recorder. I told him I had stopped the car because I wanted him to focus on what I was saying. I asked if he understood me. I asked if he could hear me clearly. I asked if he wanted to detox, rehab, long term care, continue to drink. I asked him to choose death or sobriety. He chose death.

I calmly told him, “There will no longer be any discussion of any type of facility. There will be no detox, no rehab, no attempts to prolong your life, no rescue squad, no 911, no ER. There not be any more doctor appointments of any kind – no dentist, no optometrist, no cardiologist. There will only be me allowing you to do what you want to do -- drink yourself to death. I will not stop him. This will be the last time I ask the question – what do you want to do.”

“I want to be left alone so I can drink as much as I want – the way I want. If I die then I want you to just let me die.” He replied.

My answer – OK. I’ll put together a statement that will be notarized with your signature. It will state exactly what you want. I will leave you to die in the manner of your own choosing.

I turned off the recorded and continued in silence. I left him struggling to get out of the van and up the steps into the house. I offered no aid, no arm to steady him. I went to my room closed and locked the door and eventually drifted off into a peaceful sleep.


ADDY said...

Stay strong, Linda. Your peace will come, I promise you.

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you! The Dr is correct that you are a loving and special person, but he is wrong about your strength. You are amazing! You have the strength of a gladiator!

Karen E. said...

I am so sorry You and all of us are going thru this hell on earth. I am so tired as you are of living this way. The psych nurse call me today and said to get ready my A is coming home. She is realizing she doesnt have to stay there. She just wants a drink real bad.

Syd said...

A sad recounting today. It appears that he will get what he wants.

HereticChick said...

Linda, I'm so sad to see you having to go through this. But you did right today. Stay strong!

Anonymous said...

Stay strong. You're resolve to step back is absolutely the right one for you, your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. they deserve to have you in their life, and living a sane and happy life. I hope all that is not too long coming for you.
Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

God bless you. I don't know how you put up with it. You must be a saint. Please take care of yourself.

Furtheron said...

Anonymous above says it all...

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Linda! Pick your battles! I really don't know how you put up with him. You've got to be an angel of some sorts.

Anonymous said...

Oh Linda! I have been reading your blog for a while now as I am in a similar position. You are such an amazing woman and thank you so much for sharing the struggle. It is such a roller coaster ride isn't it?

I will be praying for you regularly as well as others I read about on here.

My A has started drinking again too and I am so angry . It is so hard to understand them when they know their cirrhosis is at the end stage and yet they pick up the bottle again.

Its the personality change that I find the hardest. The meanness etc.

Hang in there Linda. You are amazing! I pray that you will keep strong and have a feeling of peace and experience the wisdom you need to react to each crisis.

You give all of us strength to face another day

A sister in the battle xx

msterfun said...

As hard as that might have been to do, you are again on the right path. After a reasonable amount of attempts to help some and they still don't get it, the choice you made is the only one left for you. The sooner we who are affected by the A's of the world come to the same conclusion you did the better off we all will be.

As an example, my father got to create chaos and discord in our family for 37 years so i feel no shame, guilt or sadness in reaching the same conclusion you did a year after his ER admittence and subsequent recovery. Which lead to resumed drinking and a third total but technical first offence D.U.I. now i no longer have to call him and when he calls me my side of the conversation is limited to "uh-huh's" and "that's nice's"

In a few months im planning on signing him up for the beer if the month club.

Congrats Linda, detatchment is liberating. Isn't it!

Michele R said...

You go girl! I wish I was as strong as you.

Anonymous said...

I'm so confused. Yes you are strong and yes I believe you did the right thing, it seems your journey has reached a point of no other options other than to be there for him or not.

This is the third post that I've read -I found you last night and plan to read and keep reading what you have written Linda. I wasn't going to comment again - I could comment to every one of your posts because your experience is such a mirror image of my own. But I am confused because of AA ramblings from the past, from our family's well intended remarks and my own feelings. Our son is not the same person he was 15 years ago- he says some crazy things-it's like living in the Twlight Zone isn't it - where down is up and up is down - I find myself shocked more by normalcy now than what happens in our insane little world.

My doctor told me once that he read of a study that involved MRI's of alcoholics, that it has been proven that there are some alcoholics that can never quit drinking - he said "don't blame yourself, he might not be able to help himself either". I don't know if he was being kind or not - but he said again as I was leaving he said don't forget what I told you - "sometimes it's no one's fault - it just is".

Anonymous said...

I hate to be callous, but why didn't you kick him out?

You don't have to answer. Maybe I do understand.

You write so beautifully, I will be in line to purchase your first book, and your second, and your third....

May you have peace and serenity.
With love,