Saturday, September 15, 2012
Live til you die...
There is no way around it. No way to fight it or fend it off. Alcoholism destroys lives. It takes away free-will, rational thought and the ability to appreciate life in and of itself. Alcoholism is a slow form of suicide and it is painful for everyone around to watch as it progresses toward death.
Caretakers of end-stage alcoholics do everything and anything to keep the alcoholic from reaching death’s door. They plead, manipulate, threaten, and anything else they think will help at the time. Many live insane lives trying to find some reason in the chaos. Is the whole process futile? Does a caretaker ever manage to really reach the alcoholic’s sensibility to make a difference?
Maybe the process is futile. But, just maybe the one alcoholic that person is dealing with is the one that finally gets the fact that life is worth living. How are we to know if we don’t try? And so we try. We try over and over again.
When I hear about people trying to find ways to prevent their alcoholic from getting the alcohol or from drinking their coveted juice, I get this little chill up the backside of my neck. Because even though I think we must try to help the alcoholic find reason, I also think there is a line that must be drawn about how much trying we should do.
In my opinion, it is not productive to file law suits against drinking establishments who serve alcohol to drunken patrons. It is also not productive to force cab drivers to refuse to take inebriated persons to the liquor store. Forcing others to be accountable for the bad decisions made by others is just too much policing for my taste.
There are other things that can be done. Calling the police and reporting that your drunken loved one has just driven off, for example, is one way to make the alcoholic’s drinking life difficult. When they are in jail, don’t bail them out. Don’t call their employment and tell them the alcoholic is too sick to come into work. Don’t clean up their messes. In short, let these people be responsible for their own actions. Make them accountable and don’t back down on any consequences that have been established by either you or society. Of course that is just my opinion.
As most of us know, things change a lot as the alcoholic becomes end-stage. It becomes easier to just let them be the way they want rather than to try to initiate change in any manner. After several rehabs or detoxes, it becomes obvious nothing is going to stop them from making that journey to the morgue. It is inevitable. It may take days, weeks, months, years, but it will happen.
Once the reality hits that change in favor of the better life for the alcoholic is not going to happen, we must change our point of view and take a look at our own life. Of course, we should have been doing that all along – but – something happens and we get all tangled up in the drama. Some of us even begin to welcome the drama because it is an indicator that we are still alive. But, our lives are more important than that. Life is for the ones who truly want to live – I don’t see end-stage alcoholics as people who really desire even one more year of life. It is the caretakers who want to live. Unfortunately, if they don’t come to terms with that they will often die before the alcoholic from the sheer stress of the trying to preserve the alcoholic’s unwanted life.
My mother was really big on saying that today was a wonderful day and that we will never have it back again. She insisted on productivity in each and every day. She never wasted one day – not ever. I’m a bit like her. I don’t want to waste a day because I’ll never have this day to do over again. Once it’s gone – it’s gone forever. I don’t think I have to be productive work-wise every day, but I do have to produce something that is meaningful. I not only insist, but demand, that I find some joy in each day. I find humor in a simple word or action. I smile even when I want to frown. I find something to do that creates a good feeling inside me, even if no one else notices.
I’m lucky. I have found my passion. If it had not been for all the nonsense I’ve been through with being Riley’s caretaker, I may not ever have known that my passion was helping others survive similar ordeals. Other people have other passions. For one woman it was taking photographs of her pets. Another enjoyed reading stories to children at the local library. These two women were trying to find a way to escape all the insanity and when they ventured out past the alcoholic world, they found life in the other worlds they explored.
No one knows better about how difficult a task it may be to step aside and let the alcoholic do as they are going to do. After all, we must protect ourselves and our homes from the damage they can create. Sometimes we must find a person who will stay in the house with the alcoholic while we are gone. Sometimes we have to close the door to their area while occupying ourselves with other activities. I’ve heard of one man who observed his alcoholic daughter over a period of time and made notes and videos of her decline. He then put together a video document. He also put together a memory book of all the great memories he had and wanted to remember forever. After the daughter’s death, he put his alcoholic creation in her casket with the daughter. No one will ever see it. He keeps the memory book on a table within easy reach. Both creations (good and bad) occupied his time and thoughts and when it was over – he realized he had found a way for it to be truly over forever without losing all the good things his daughter represented. The time span for his creation was only about a year. It was a year well spent because he now has the rest of his life to be free.
As caretakers, we must not forget how to enjoy our own life. It is our responsibility to be as happy as we can possibly be. OK. So the alcoholic did something horrendous and we must now find a way around it or fix it or do SOMETHING about it. So do it and move on to the next challenge while finding a way to look forward to something that is pleasant for you. Do what you must that may be distasteful and immediately follow it with something that makes you smile. A few minutes ago I cleaned Riley’s poop from the bathroom floor, now I’m here writing in my blog, because it makes me happy. Tomorrow after doing all his ugly laundry, I’ll be taking a walk on the beach. This is how I survive.
Life as the caretaker of an end-stage alcoholic is never easy. Sometimes if feels downright impossible. But we must always remember that life is for those who WANT to live. It’s not an easy thing to remember, especially if your alcoholic is your child. If we give up our lives for theirs, who will take care of them? So in a round-about-way, helping ourselves is also helping them.
at 1:30 PM