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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 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.


Anonymous said...

Linda, thankyou so much for your blog. It is a lifeline for me. Your words bring me back to sanity sometimes. I am in the same boat with a very sick husband who has end stage liver disease due to alcoholism. Noone truly understands what we go through unless they are going through the same thing. It is so hard to understand how the alcoholic thinks. It makes no sense. I am so impressed by you. I pray for you often. Thankyou again from a sister in the struggle ....

Anonymous said...

Lucky for myself & other that writing this blog is your passion. It is a gift for all of us who live with alcoholism, that we are not alone and that someone out there understands. One of my biggest challenges is to feel that I have a " witness " to the insanity that walks hand in hand with the alcoholic life. No-one could possibility understand what it feels like unless you have lived it yourself. How does one explain to a normal person with normal problems & issues what it is like to turn your back for a minute & find your loved one head first in the empty bath tub, legs wiggling in the air , surrounded by broken glass from the jar that shattered on his descent?? And yes sometimes despite how frightening it all becomes, you have to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation...thank you Linda

Syd said...

What you write here is so true about finding some passion in life besides trying to control what another person does. I am glad to have found things that I enjoy doing. I am glad that my wife is not drinking and seems happy. We are mending our lives in ways that I didn't think could occur before.

If Riley would like a letter, let me know.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Linda, you have made me realise that the decision to divorce my alcoholic husband was the right thing for me and my 11 year old daughter. My ex-husband is now living on his own with his alcoholism and although has tried suicide often, I believe he is now leaving it to the fate of alcohol. It does make me sad because he can´t find a way out and he cannot be a father for his daughter which she deserves. He also seems to be immortal because although his brain has been very much affected, his organs seem to carry on forever. I wish you all the strength and the happiness that you can get to get through the trying times.

Anonymous said...

I left a comment on an entry a few months ago stating how I didn't know how to get out of my 7 year relationship with my alcoholic boyfriend. My biggest fear is that I would leave and he would die alone. But, somewhere along the way while reading these blogs, I found the strength to leave him. Although its only been 4 days, I feel such freedom. I am not responsible for him or his happiness, and I get to think about me for the first time in a very long time. He is making choices that he is responsible for...I am allowing him to do so. While I am very sad that we broke up, I have a strange sense of peace.... Thank you Linda for helping me find my strength.

Bev said...

Linda you are so right that those who live under difficult circumstances need to somehow separate themselves even if only for a short time so that they can have some normalcy in their lives. I have definitely learned a lot from this blog and from those who comment here. And for that I am very grateful.

But- I feel that in some situations it would make a difference to speak out about bars that serve to intoxicated patrons.

While a lawsuit might not be possible because of the financial costs of doing so, reporting a bar could actually be in the bar's best interest. After all what good is it for a bar's employees to have to deal with a person passing out or starting a fight. To me it would make more sense for the bar to take preventive measures and not serve someone who is past their limit than continue to serve.

And if a bar does turn a blind eye and serves someone who is drunk then they should be held accountable.

Maybe the bar if their lucky won't suffer the consequences but what about those who encounter the drunk on his way home? What about the driver who doesn't see the drunk passed out in the road and runs him over or swerves and hits someone else?

Shouldn't the bar be held liable then? A drunk may be making 'a bad decision' in continuing to drink but for a business owner to make the decision to serve the drunk is not only making a bad decision but is breaking the law.

I don't mean to dump on you, Linda. You are entitled to your opinion and I know you have been through hell and back. So honestly I'm saying this because there's a lot of people out there who feel the same way. And I think if my son was at the point of no return with his alcoholism I might think the same way as you -but I'm still at the point where I feel that society needs to be responsible for their actions.

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

Bev -- I agree with you, actually. And I don't think you are dumping on me. You are expressing your concern and I welcome that.

I think what I was trying to get across is that if you spend all your time trying to keep the alcoholic from drinking, you are spending time that you could use having a life of your own.

We sometimes find our passion in unexpected places. I hear that you are passionate about making people accountable for their actions. For you it is not just about keeping YOUR alcoholic from drinking. It is about what is right for everyone in general. I think you may have found something you are passionate about. Bravo!

There is a difference between passion and obsession. I've done some pretty crazy things to keep Riley from getting ahold of a bottle. I was obsessed with trying to keep him less drunk. When our focus is on just one person and controling them -- that's obsession. When we see an opportunity to change something that is wrong -- that's passion.

I agree that society's point of view and actions need to change. We have laws not being enforced. I hope you can go forward and make people more aware and more accountable. I'm in your corner.


Anonymous said...

I have a new life.

I left my alcoholic husband in a hospital bed, 4 stone lighter and bright yellow. It was a very hard decision mainly because this was the first time i had seen him sober in 7 years, but i was helped by your blog mainly because i knew my crazy life would only end when he finally died and i didnt want a part in his death and i most certainly didnt want my children to see anymore distruction. He is under the care of social services now, i hear snippits from people who check up on him occasionally, i know after 5 weeks in hospital he went straight back on the booze, i know he has severe dementia, i know he has been back in hospital. I left him there in Feb on my daughters 18th Birthday. since then we have been living, holidaying, days out, concerts, socializing. There is life beyond and best of all my blood pressure is back to normal from 225/115 !!!!

Bev said...

Thanks Linda for your comment : D I did some pretty crazy things myself for more than just the first few years of my son's addiction. He started when he was 17 so it was hard not to try and 'control' what was happening. In my eyes he still isn't an adult even though he's almost 32 now. He's never actually been a responsible adult.

I admire you for all of what you have done with this blog and with OARS. There needs to be more blogs out there like yours. When I first started looking for help on the interent I found very little but now ...years later there is so much out there and the conversation is changing. There's more talk about medication to help control addiction and dual diagnosis. Even 'hitting bottom' is being debated.

I'm excited about your plans to bring OARS into the 'real world'...who knows where it will lead : D

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your last two posts, Linda. I have recently been struggling with accepting that after multiple failed attempts at rehab over the last two years, suicide threats, and multiple hospital stays due to alcohol use and not managing his diabetes my alcoholic husband is not/can not give up the poison that is killing him. My logical brain knows the alcohol is going to kill him sooner rather than later, but every time I get a glimpse of the sober man that I married I trick myself into believing that everything is going to be ok - but it is not. I am trying to gather the strength to tell him that I won't watch him kill himself any longer. Just when I think I have mustered the strength he lightens up on the drinking just enough for me to convince myself this isn't too bad. But the reality is he is not going to quit drinking and my resentment is only growing and hurting me. I want so bad to feel the relief that several other bloggers have described after finding the strength to free themselves from the chaos of the choices the alcoholics in our lives make.

jo said...

i applaud anon who left!

tried the cop bit here. they wont do anything, as its against the law to single out anyone to follow around. okkkk then. mark that off my list.

i think some of us, the ones who have a tendency to co dependent..and all of us are taught to what? take care of our baby dolls. our little siblings. to not walk off from someone who is hurt. but whyever, we cant make the line between this and enabling. we arent taught it. if you are a ACOA, you are taught from day one to tend to your alcoholic parent. its not surprising we cant learn it when we are grown.

i have learned a lot about detaching, tho. if you dont, you will die long before they do.

Anonymous said...

I like the part about the man who documented the downhill slide of his daughter while also documenting all the good times...... Makes me sad but it is a very productive way to deal with the insanity of watching someone you love die.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,

I found your blog 2 months ago and read everything you've written here. Your posts helped me a lot. You really know what we go through.
I am here to ask you a question. If you have no answer or no time, I will understand it completely.
My father was and is an alcoholic. He is my "immortal alcoholic". My siblings and I had grew up in family that had vodka party 3-4 days of every week. My father and anybody he can invite and bring to our house (strangers included). My father is someone who likes to drink with others. Few years ago, he was the only alcoholic in my life and I used to pray to God asking for a help for my dad.
Today, my older brother is an alcoholic as well. In someways, I think he is a "student" of my dad.
I don't care about my dad anymore, I just wish my brother can stop drinking. Because of the drinking he lost his job, his 1st wife left him. Just recently, his new wife gave birth to his 1st child. Because of his drinking his wife was stressed out so much and had her child prematurely 2 months earlier. Thankfully, their child is surviving and thriving as much as he could.
..... My heart breaks to see what his newborn child is going through and his wife as well. I feel sad thinking about my brother. ....
My mother had passed away last year. She had cancer, I would not be surprised if her cancer was because of what she went through with my dad and my brother during her last few years.

My question is .... should I leave it all behind and not to look back? Should I *try* stopping his drinking. My brother is 35 years old. He is been drinking heavily for the last 5 years. My dad has been drinking at least 30 years. You know he drinks with my brother :(. Now he lives only on alcohol. I don't worry about my dad anymore, only think about my brother.
I have read Melody Beattie's books and believe that I am not a codependent. I have my own family and children. I also have one younger sister. She and I go through all these together.
I don't ask the question "Why?" anymore. I guess this is how life is.

Thank you very much.


jo said...

i love melodie beattie!

the sad truth is you cant stop anyone. its their choices and that is the heartbreak of it all. you can offer and then you have to step back and let them hit bottom, or die. all we can do is choose to not them take us down with it. never stop any consequence they end up with.

support his wife if she accepts it. she needs it. offer al anon or oars or any support there is.

pray a lot. but its his choice to do this. i wish i had more to offer. tend to you. hopefully his wife will tend to her and the baby.

bless you all. big hugs.

Anonymous said...

Linda, is it possible to detach from my immortal alcholic husband when there is a child involved? I struggle with that when he wants to do things with our son but I feel he needs to be supervised with him. This leads to so much resentment having to care for everyone's safety, keep a household, a full time job etc etc. Is it possible???

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the response! What you said is very true. It's just so easy for me to go back to my "care taker" mode. I need to read your advice daily, maybe every morning. I am going to write it down and read it everyday.
I am tired of being "tired of alcoholics'. It's been a long 15 years.
I choose to live my own life.


Ella said...

Thanks so much for your blog. You make me feel that I am not alone! This afternoon I broke in to my father´s house after seeing him thru a window, lifeless on the floor. He´d been laying on the floor naked, in his own piss, for almost 48 hours, without being able to move due to fall injuries. He´s more than 80 years old. He´ll pull through this one too, I have no doubt.

Rachel Powers said...
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