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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.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Balancing act...

I have known for a very long time that Riley is narcissistic. Combine that with the fact that he doesn’t have a clear sense of right and wrong. He constantly insists that if something is right for him, then it is not wrong for him to do whatever that something is. No amount of reasoning can get it through to him that if something is wrong then it is wrong for everyone including Riley.

Weekends are always chaotic here in this little house. My grandson and his wife are off from work and the little ones are not in school. Things can get very noisy and confusing. On one particular day, we had addition family visiting from out of town creating even more chaos. The children were yelling and Nicole was making a valiant attempt at calming them down. She wasn’t having much luck. In the middle of all this, Riley emerges from his room and appears in the living room.

“I want a snack. RIGHT NOW!” Riley bellowed over the other loud voices in the room. I quietly got up and got him some cupcakes and a glass of milk. I took them to his room and set them on his table. Then I asked why he had been so loud and couldn’t have just asked me to step into the kitchen with him. His response was that no one was paying any attention to him and so he wanted to remind everyone that he was important. I shook my head and left the room.

The next day, when things were back to being the quiet normal workday, I asked him if he understood that his behavior was wrong. I reminded him that he was not a child, but rather a 70+ year old man who had the capability of simply asking me to fix him a snack. He proceeded to tell me it wouldn’t have had the same affect. That he got the attention of everyone in the room and I reacted immediately to his demand. He got what he wanted so his behavior was right for him. He continued to tell me that just because I thought he was wrong, did not make him wrong and he didn’t care about what was wrong or right for me.

Keeping the peace between me and Riley requires a delicate balancing act. On one end of the scale is his inability to see that he’s being a jerk. At the other end, is me trying to keep my temper intact while not agreeing or caving in with his demands. Actually, most of the time the scale is tipped in my favor because to keep it perfectly even means that he gets away with everything he wants. I make sure there is just enough anger to let him know I’m not going to tolerate his childishness. I’m much like a parent who makes sure the kids know that screaming in the grocery store for a toy will not get them the toy. But, if they ask politely they just might be accommodated.

I’ve heard from others that the alcoholics in their lives have similar selfish traits. There is no way to get through to them because they have their filters on that prevents them from hearing what we are saying. Alcohol shuts down the ability to be reasonable and objective. Those capabilities are housed in the front lobe of the brain which is the first part of the brain to be damaged or clouded by alcohol consumption.

When we see before us a person that we once shared reasonable, rationale, humorous, insightful, enjoyable conversations, we tend to forget that the current person before us is not using the same brain functions as they did in the past. It’s hard to remember that the alcoholic cannot reason out situations. They do not have the ability to use good judgment. It is extremely frustrating. We often get glimpses of the original person, but as the alcoholism progresses those glimpses are fewer and farther between.

As I’m writing this post the entire house is quiet. Everyone is still asleep. These quiet times when I can write don’t happen every day or, even, every week. I want to take advantage of the quietness while it lasts. Riley comes into the kitchen. He stands at the end of the counter and asks where his coffee is. I tell him I haven’t started it because I wanted to finish this post. I say those words as I stop typing and get up and start the coffee. I pour in the water and load the coffee basket and am just about to push start when Riley says – “You don’t have to do it right now. It can wait until you’re done.”

It takes all my strength to not tip that balance scale until it hits bottom. I want to scream at him – “Are you kidding me! You wait until I’m done making it to tell me NOT to make it??” Instead of screaming at him, I turn and look at him with that look. All the women reading this know the look I’m talking about. All you men reading this know that look from seeing it on your wife’s face. It’s the look that says it’s time to shut up and leave the room.

With the noise of the water running and shuffling of canisters, etc, the great-grandkids are now up and asking for chocolate milk, wanting their coloring things set up and needing attention. Oh well… my quiet time is at an end. The little ones are so loving in the morning, I am happy they are awake.

In a few weeks we will move into a larger house with Riley and I being in the downstairs and the rest of the family upstairs. It’s the perfect set up for us. Riley will be out of his room more and able to get his own coffee. I won’t worry about waking anyone up because they won’t be able to hear what’s going on downstairs. I will have a dedicated office where I can write my posts without interruption. I’m hoping it will be easier to keep my balance scale level in this new environment.

16 comments:

Syd said...

The selfish thinking of alcoholics not in recovery leads me to believe that there are other things at work such as narcissism or sociopathy. I have a friend who is classically selfish.

Anonymous said...

So insightful. I wonder if the narcissism comes before the alcoholism or after? Looking back, I think mine was always selfish. Running personality profiles on a bunch of them would make for a really interesting psych study

jo said...

mine too, anonymous. i would love to study a large group and actually make some science and make drs to learn it and pass it on. instead now we all are pretty much in this place without a map and it never fails to make me mad when drs could have told us what to expect, and wont. 3 yrs ago the gastro was positive mine would bleed out. not yet..for sure. the repetitiveness might make me bleed out! gawd, he repeats.

@ linda, welcome to the world of this!! :) narcissistic , selfish, 2 yr old emotionally, and yes to all you post. "i want, i WANT" omg...shut up already! (why doesnt alcohol cause them to be mute?) i try to keep mine happy cause he has hit the violent stage i was told about. it isnt pretty. did riley ever go thru it? ugly.

mine has gotten to the point of telling me to eat, then telling me not to eat and expect me to actually do something with that. lol! i was like...what in the %^&*(#$ are you wanting? he said he didnt know.

a good response to them is "what can i do for you?" mine typically says he doesnt know once asked. well, i sure dont with all his yelling!

i know you will enjoy the new living arrangements. mine just is not allowed around the grands but certain days and times he is more sane. my daughter refuses. i dont blame her. they look at him like he is nuts. so do we all. :)

good luck! anon, im ready whenever you want to do the study! the ones i talk to , we all say exactly the same thing. unreal, really, that they all use almost the exact same wording. weird no one has looked into this. ah, society and its denial. forget the livers. tell em they will lose their mind. that gets more attention.

Anonymous said...

I'd definitely vote for the narcissism preceding the boozing. Most of us have something inside us - don't know if it's pride, a sense of fairness or consideration for others - that stops us from taking advantage of other people, shirking responsibilities etc. Drunks just don't have it. Instead they build a world where they are the only person with rights: the rest of us are just there to serve.

Anonymous said...

Right with you, Jo, on the need to educate docs on what drunks are like when they get to this stage. Three years ago, I fell for the line that my drunk’s “alcoholism” was a disease, something he was “powerless” over, deserving of pity, not blame. He seemed committed to change: he fooled a whole team of specialist nurses and doctors into thinking he was a model patient, though he’d down a quarter bottle of vodka on the way to every counselling session. Each time he came back with more reasons why his drinking was someone else’s fault. I thought the first couple of “relapses” were just a sign of the terrible struggle he was going through. I nursed him like a baby while he lay around zonked out on detox drugs. We’d get a few weeks of peace, then he’d hit the bottle again.
Looking back, the moment he agreed to go for treatment, the point where I thought the nightmare was going to end, was really the moment he threw off all vestiges of restraint and consideration for others. It was almost like getting the “alcoholic” label gives him permission to do whatever he likes, the minute he feels like doing it, and to hell with the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Since the mind is not a physical organ, it cannot have a disease. A disease is something you have, behavior is something you do. They can all drink themselves to death and die and go to hell for eternity for all I care anymore. Just stay away from me and stay out of my life.

msterfun said...

Amen! I'd not walk across the street to pour water on my alcoholic father if he were on fire. But i did enroll him in the beer of the month club.

Of course he is tied with darth vader for father of the year.

Anonymous said...

As Father Terry has said many times, the script goes something like:
"I want to participate in family life, and go to the recitals, etc., but my higher priority is that I have this drinking project going on right now..."

Anonymous said...

Jo, I agree. I just want my A to SHUT UP! I know instantly when he has switched from beer to liquor because of the yelling and ugliness that comes out of his mouth. And it is always what HE wants when HE wants it.

Ellen

Anonymous said...

Jo I feel the same. I just want my A to shut up. I know instantly when he has switched from beer to liquor because of the yelling and ugliness coming out of his mouth.

Anonymous said...

Yes, my alcoholic husband would like me to wait on him hand and foot. The smallest thing sends him into panic mode. Of course, I am the reason he drinks. I am the reason the economy is down. I am the reason for global warming. I am the worst thing that happened to the world since Attila the Hun. YET - he wants to isolate me. I should have no friends. I should not have contact with my family. He hates all of them. I should sit and listen to his verbal attacks on me and then make him something to eat. HA!!! I went out and got a job so that I could take care of myself. I did not realize how low my self-esteem had sunk until it started to come back. I have friends. I have family. I have love and support. The hell with him. He can sit and rot for all I care. Sometimes when I am driving home I am afraid of what I will find ... a burned out house ... him dead on the floor, or bleeding. Then ... I come home and find him still alive and (sad to say) feel disappointed. Horrible of me. I know - but its the truth. I just wish this nightmare was over.

Jackie said...

Msterfun - I love your humor. I get a good chuckle when I read your comments. You use your humor instead of the tone of hatred and still show us your true feelings. : 0 )

Humor and laughter: good stress relievers. For those who have stressful situations at home: watch/read funny movies and books that will help you laugh. "Feel Life", "Feel Alive", "Feel Some Relief" whenever you can. Humor can help.

Anon your comment above: Good for you to seek a life away from your husband and the trapped home life he had you in. Hope you will be able to continue to work and grow more confidence and courage to find more solutions for your future. No one will sap a persons self-esteem faster than a controlling alcoholic partner. Their desire to keep you isolated is a priority at the top of their list. As long as it is safe to have a life away from the hellish home without any retaliation from your partner - go for it! Good for you and good luck in your future endeavors.

msterfun said...

Thanks Jackie. Often times i have to edit them to be funny because they don't start out that way : )

Anon, perhaps i can help. When he asks for a sandwitch, make it a blt with extra bacon and a side of salt. Make friends, love your family and insure your home. Like you, I'm disappointed every night i go to bed without getting the call letting me know he has gone. In my case, as the owner of my fathers house, I'd be best off if he did burn the house down while still inside it.

Cheers!
Msterfun

Anonymous said...

Wow---I have been struggling with alcoholic parents all my life and just recently told another family member that alcoholics are the most selfish, self-absorbed people around because it is all about them and their disasters, all of the time, it is always someone else's fault and no one else's problems matter. And to see that so many others are struggling with this is both comforting and horrifying at the same time. My father was diagnosed as bi-polar, which is notorious for "selfishness". Add drinking on top of it. I know that some day it WILL all end---that is the only thing that keeps me going.

jo said...

anon, i swear we are twins. lol. i so relate to you.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your Blog today as a result of a Google search. I wanted to jump in and say how much I appreciate reading the posts and how helpful they have been.

Seems that most of the posters are women who are commenting on their experience with an alcoholic husband. My case is the opposite in that my wife is the one suffering from alcohol abuse.

To the point made in this post, my wife is and has been very self-centered and controlling during our 40+ year marriage. She has a co-occuring problem in that she was diagnosed over 2 years ago with retinitis pigmentosa, which causes sever tunnel vision. She lost her ability to drive. During her 3 detoxs, the Drs say that the resulting depression has caused her to self-medicate with alcohol. She is now in the end stage as described throughout this blog.

In any event, great blog.