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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, May 25, 2012

Do unto others...

I’m a big believer of family programs being offered when an alcoholic comes in for rehabilitation. I believe a solid program should be mandatory as part of the treatment plan. I also believe that any funding via government sources should be reduced if no family program is made available. I also believe that family programs should be covered under private health insurance policies that cover any alcohol treatment programs to the alcoholic. It seems to me that treating the alcoholic without treating the family is similar to removing a damaged appendix without closing the incision. It is a job only halfway done.

One of the misconceptions held by many caregivers or families of alcoholics is that there is some magic set of phrases or some formula that will prevent the alcoholic from returning to drinking. The reality is that there is no such thing. There is only a sense of “doing the right thing.”
I grew up with my grandmother always touting the Golden Rule. Whenever I was angry and wanted to “get back” at someone, I would hear her saying “Do unto others…” She had this keen sense of me wanting to kick over my brother’s truck or pour sand in his boats after they he had done some heinous thing like draw a moustache on my baby dolls face. She knew and she would softly say, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”   Then I would see her scolding my brother and handing him a cloth to clean the baby dolls face.
Whenever Riley did something heinous to our relationship or to the kids, I always thought out ways to seek my revenge. But, I was never good at it. My attempts often were thwarted by my own hand. I resorted to reason and logic trying to use conversation to make him understand how insane his behavior was. I tried to get him to admit his wrong doings and often he did. He said he was sorry. He said he would try not to do it again. But, more often than not, the bad deed was repeated and I was left with frustration and anger.
I could always hear the words coming from my mouth – things like – he’s a disgrace to fatherhood or a miserable failure as a man or husband. I heard the words and I truly meant each one. But, in the back of my head was my grandmother… “Do unto others…” At those times I thought my grandmother, the strongest woman I have ever known, was just a wimp. I was not about to let some drunk get the better of me. I’d fix him – or tell him just exactly what my thoughts were at that very moment.
20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. I can clearly see now that I was not doing anyone any good. I ask myself now, what did I truly want? If I’m honest I would have to say that if he could not be the husband and father that I knew he could be, I rather he just left us. So, if that was what I wanted him to do, why did I not do that myself? Why did I not say – please leave and we can each be on our own?
I know why I didn’t leave for so long. The Navy gave us forced separations for long periods of time. I’m convinced it was the only thing that kept us truly married until I made the decision to not be counterpart anymore. There was also the practicality of it all – money and kids. There are many reasons why we do not leave and they are all very good reasons.
So in staying with the alcoholic, how much good does it do to belittle and badger? NONE! Would I want to be talked to in that manner – absolutely not. Doing unto others also means NOT doing unto them at all. Instead of all the mean hateful things I said, maybe I should have taken a step back and not said anything at all. Maybe I should have found another outlet for my ranting and venting.
Would anything I did keep him from drinking? NO!  Nothing I said or did could have kept him from climbing back inside that bottle. Getting back to drunkenness was solely his doing. I had no control over what he does or why he does it. I did not cause him to drink. He might have used me as an excuse, but this responsibility is his and his alone.
If that’s the case, then why am I so adamant about family programs? Because as the family and potential caretaker, we must come to know and understand that we have no control, that we did not cause, nor can we cure the alcoholism. The reason WHY the alcoholic started drinking or what makes them choose alcohol over the family is really of no consideration. An alcoholic drinks because he/she is an alcoholic. It’s that simple which makes it hard to understand.
Family programs can offer insight as to what to do next – after the acceptance that we are not to blame. They can teach us about detachment and offer a means to finding out just what the passion is that lives inside us all outside of the alcoholic insanity. They can remind us of the Golden Rule and they can provide valuable biological insight of alcoholism. If we know what to expect, we are better prepared for the ramifications. Knowledge is the key to survival. Family programs can provide that knowledge.

5 comments:

Furtheron said...

I often share this as it was actually one of those really big life lessons I once learnt. I spoke with a psychiatrist once about Do Unto Others... he had his quizical look - "Why?" I went into how this was the right way to treat people etc. He then posed this to me...

"Shouldn't it be Treat others as they would want to be treated themselves"... wow! Truly lifechanging for me, impossible to live up to - how can you know the exact way others would like anything to be done. But I do try to think of it as a mantra...

Makes it all that much more complicated, like suddenly adding an extra dimension into something.

BevE said...

I couldn't agree with you more Linda. Our son has gone through - inpatient rehab twice and once as an outpatient. He was in a city owned rehab facility and the rule there was if anyone wanted to visit someone in 'the program' they had to attend a weekly hour long meeting.

The meeting was lead by an employee of the facility who lost her daughter to a herion addiction. You could tell who was there for the first time and who were truly family - they were the one's with the questions, taking notes. Many just sat there and listened -putting in their time.

Another thing was that the 'patient' was the one who said who could come and visit, so if you weren't on the list you couldn't come at all. Once our son just put his girlfriend on the list and not us.

Any handouts were printed by mimeograph - I din't know mimeograph machines still existed - they could have gone to Kinko's for crying out loud- half the stuff you couldn't read - it was blurred and the print ran off the page in a slant.

When I called the director of the rehab facility and asked why there wasn't any one on one counseling with the facility and the family members or one on one with the patient he didn't know what I was asking. He said what do you mean? I thought I was clear. We needed help too. We needed time to talk to our son when he wasn't in an alcoholic haze. We wanted to have someone counsel us. Instead we got to see our son once a week in a loud cafeteria with other people sitting at our table. We couldn't have any meaningful conversations with him - we could barely hear each other talk because of the noise.

You would think it's a 'given' - part of the program. But too many times it's not. Thanks for your post Linda - I hope people who run rehabs read your blog - maybe they would learn something : D

jo said...

great post, linda. the one time mine was in a mental hosp..rehab...i was completely left out. i asked..."our focus is on the patient" ie..who we bill.

that just wont work. the family must have support and skills to cope with the addict.

i must say i dont berate mine. it does no good, he wont listen, and i dont have the energy. i have accepted it all, and with such i no longer fight. i no longer help. i just avoid all i can and when i cant, i pray a lot. i dont like myself this way, but i know no way to change it to something else. not and survive with my sanity.

the family MUST be included and helped. society really has no idea yet about addiction.

Syd said...

There are programs for families and friends of alcoholics, addicts, etc. One could check with local Social Services, hospitals, Al-Anon and Nar-Anon. I agree totally that the family is sick too and needs help.

Anonymous said...

I am grateful to have stumbled onto this site. I could have written every word. My husband of 39 years is no longer a partner or husband or even a friend. I am his caregiver. After he drinks his fifth of vodka, he becomes belligerent and downright evil. He is having cognitive problems when he is sober (coming down) and making errors in judgment.

Fortunately, five years ago, I decided that I needed to take care of myself and found a job that I love (after having been stay at home Mom and running our business from the home). My self esteem had been so low prior to that. I listened to all the nasty things he said to and about me and though externally I dismissed it, it had a great impact on my psyche. In the last five years I have developed a new self esteem and strength and have developed wonderful friendships.

Sometimes in frustration, I say mean things. I remind myself of the fact that despite it all - once in a while I see the glimmer of the wonderful man I married and how much I really do love him. I would not abandon him because I could not throw a dog out in this condition - much less someone I had shared my life with. I pray for him and for myself.

Whenever and however his end comes, I know that it will be horrible and I live in dread. When I'm at work and hear a siren, I wonder if he's had an accident or burned our house down. Coming home from work, I am afraid to open the door for fear of what I will find. And yet - on the other hand I am almost hopeful that the nightmare might be over.

God Bless you all and give you strength and courage.