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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, November 10, 2012

In the dark...

I had a moment of peace and quiet and was enjoying just sitting in my big wing-back chair sipping on a cup of tea. I looked around the room and saw my antique iron bed and the big boxy television. Across the room was my dining room table which had been turned into a makeshift desk. I thought to myself that it was going to take some work but this room had great potential. Just as my mind was finishing the word “potential” the lights went out – literally.

At first I thought somehow a breaker had blown and I groused at having to find the breaker box in an unfamiliar house by groping around blindly. It was so very, very dark. Something didn’t seem right. If I had blown a breaker, there would be some light from the street. I peeked out the door and realized that the lights were out on, what seemed to be, all over our block. There wasn’t even any light from the street lamps on the main road which is about two blocks away.
Riley came from his room and was panicking. He had a candle and we used that to find our two flashlights. He started barking orders to unplug all the electrical appliances and not to open the refrigerator. He told me this power outage would last indefinitely. There was fear in his voice. He suggested some sort of government plot or terrorist activity.
I hadn’t prepared dinner before the lights went out and Riley was asking me what we were going to eat and how were we going to cook it. He was concerned that he might not have any coffee in the morning. I told him I would fix him a salad, but if he were really that hungry, I’d fire up the barbeque and grill him a steak. I made a large salad and served a plate to Riley. That seemed to stop his pacing for a while.
He asked if my cell phone worked. I checked it and received a message that it could only be used for emergency calls. Riley informed me that this was a BIG emergency and I should be calling someone in authority. I tried to calm him by telling him to listen and he would hear the sirens just a couple of blocks away. There was no one to call.
Even though images of the new television series “Revolution” kept playing in my head, I stayed calm. Eventually, Riley went to bed and fell asleep. I, on the other hand, waited for the lights to shine again. It was almost three hours later when the entire neighborhood lit up and life returned.
While sitting in the dark, I had a chance to reflect on the previous weeks activities. Riley had appointments with a medical doctor and a psychologist. We were gradually moving which involved cleaning, sorting and manual labor. It had been a tough week and there was something comforting about being in a cocoon of darkness.
Riley’s appointment with the MD went about the way I had expected it to go. He seemed to be improving and things were going just ducky until… Riley expressed that he wanted me to let him go and find a place on his own. The conversation seemed to veer off in the direction of making the appointment more about me than about Riley. While no one REALLY believes Riley would fare well on his own, however, the question was once again brought up about why I don’t just kick him out the door.
It becomes irritating because this question comes up often during Riley’s appointments. Someone must have written that answer down somewhere in his record. Repeating the question never changes the answer.  Once again I give my definition of my personal moral obligation to prevent him from harming himself or others – especially my daughter. Everyone agrees the only reason he wants to be on his own is so he can resume drinking. If/when he goes back to drinking he will quickly become blight on society’s butt. It is morally repugnant to me to put him in a position of becoming so unable to care for his personal well-being that he interjects his insanity on my daughter as she tries to rush in and save him from himself.
I know what you are thinking… If my daughter wants to take him in, it is her choice. It may be her choice, but it is my choice to prevent her from living with Riley as he stops showering and wallows in his unsanitary clothes. It is my choice to prevent her from having to deal with vomit, urine and feces soaked bedding. It is my choice to not have her career ruined by having to take time off to clean up his messes. I am his wife and I stayed his wife knowing full well that someday I would have to be responsible for this grown man who is really just a child. I have and will continue to live up to that responsibility.
I tire from having to repeat my reasoning over and over again. When asked the questions, I always have to work diligently at keeping my anger in check because I know they know the answers. It always feels like some kind of Al-Anon intervention. My eyes are wide open. I know what is ahead for Riley and for me. I don’t live in a fantasy land and don’t feel I need someone to force me to see what I’m doing to ruin my own life. My life is NOT ruined if I can make my daughter’s life better. OK. Maybe I’m just a stubborn old lady – I’ll own that as well.
As distasteful as it was to see the medical doctor, it was almost equally as pleasant to see the psychologist. We discussed how he could help Riley right now in the current timeframe. Since Riley has not been drinking since May he wanted to focus on that. He only wanted to discuss the very early stages of his alcoholism and where he is right now. He answered my questions with straight direct answers. He has objectives and I came away feeling that they were reasonable. The Dr. knows that he can’t stop Riley from wanting to drink, but maybe he can make this sober period more enjoyable for Riley. He believes he might be able to help Riley accept his physical limitations and learn to live more harmoniously with me as a result. Maybe, just maybe, Riley will stop seeing me as the enemy.

Just before the lights returned, I had made a resolution that I would give Riley more “things” to do. He can set up the coffee pot the night before. He can fold the clean laundry. He can keep the bathroom tidy (I’ll do the heavy cleaning). There are things I can do to make him feel more useful and that might make him feel better about his life in general.
In the brightness of the incandescent lighting, I felt a little dismayed. Reality seemed harsher in the brightness of the room. I set my teacup in the sink and crawled into my bed. Even with the lights turned out, the darkness was not the same. That’s OK because at least I know the ending isn’t just like the television show. Riley’s paranoia was for nothing and for that I am grateful.


Syd said...

I get your point , but interventions aren't done in Al-Anon. If people want to live with the disease, then they do it. I've found that misery is optional. But each person has a choice. You seem comfortable with yours and that's good.

jo said...

i relate...as usual. im also tired of the question ....and tend to give a smart aleck answer by now if it hits me wrong.

riley seems to have more memory than mine does. i answered the same question 20 times yesterday. but mine is asleep and drunk right now..thank God.

once our insurance is out next yr..im scared. that liver is gonna crash soon enough and im paying off 9,000$ now worth of hosp bills i have from oct 12. yep. i ended up in the hosp for 4 days. who woulda thought? or the bill was about 50,000$?

i am curious , linda, if you would either post or email me on what your MD says about riley? more details than you may want in public. mine wont be seen again till he falls in the floor, but at least i have proof of his liver stuff now. stick that in the VAs face. haha. im sure theirs would show another miraculous recovery.

i have no answers, of course. only nods and best wishes to you both. i understand why you have him. it doesnt make it easier. or less trying .

i dunno if mines dementia will be good or bad...easier or worse. i have a feeling worse but who knows. altho i dontknow what i will choose when he cant drive anymore and im faced with supplying his alcohol..or not. another issue for another day.

Anonymous said...

I completely understand every word you wrote and all the experiences that led you there. I have had them as well. I too, choose to take care of my alcoholic. I think the reasons may be as varied as there are relationships. We had a great love and life before he discovered alcohol. I promised God to take care of him until death parted us. Though I don't buy into the alcoholism is a disease bit - I do believe that he is powerless. He does try very hard but it is stronger than he is. I see him start each day ready for battle - only to succumb by dusk. I do love him still. I would hope that if I had a problem gthat he would care for me too. My children are also a concern. I don't want them to spend their lives looking for him on the streets or caring for him. They love him, too.They need to live their lives without that kind of grief. I will protect them from that. They can come and visit and go home feeling satisfied that all is well. Not perfect - but well.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog and I'm more scare than ever. I have been married for 20 years to an alcoholic who I believe us now at his end stage of alcoholism. Today he is in the hospital, he has been there 4 times in the last month...came home from work to find him in a pool of blood, I thought I'd lost him. For a moment I felt relieved but it was only a messy fractured nose. He will be in the hospital for a few days as he binge drinks and this last episode lasted 4 weeks straight! I'm scared of what's in store for me, I thought I've seen or had enought, but I've realized that I can't leave him to his fate; I owe that to my kids (specially my 12 yr old...I've always thought my kids to see their Dad as an ill person and to have compassion for him, and now they have more compassion for him than they have for me :( In any event i thought that the end is near, but my husband has so much resistance that he always pulls through till stays sober for 3 months or so and then back to drinking. Im scared to know that I may still have so much to go through and I don't think I can endure it!

Gerry said...

I don't live with my alcoholic companion but just go have coffee with him in the morning and maybe come back for lunch if all goes well, and he does not say something to tick me off. I still feel chained to an alcoholic at times, since we have been that kind of companions for 6 years now. He was of course not able to go anywhere on Thanksgiving. I brought him home a generous and delicious plate fixed by my daughter, but I am so grateful none of her family drinks or smokes. Their household was so peaceful. Her wonderful husband was right there by her side helping her cook, and afterwards it was he who cleaned up the kitchen, and he is now the CEO of a company and the manager of a plant. He was out hiking with his best friend early in the morning. Somehow those in the family who have controlled substance abuse made up for my companion's life of self indulgence. He said the other day all he wanted to be was wealthy and decadent! I said well, you accomplished the latter part! My companion was gifted with a high I.Q, talent, is a graduate from college, and a lover of jazz. Was a tall good looking man now obviously going to seed from neglect of self and drinking. He is still able to intrigue with remnants of intelligence that was extraordinary, but I will never understand why a man so favored by nature would respond with years of drinking!!

Anonymous said...

I have no excuses for remaining with my alcoholic husband. He is 70 years old and retired military and has drank his entire life. I can't help him and only seem to nag and this is making us both miserable. I have prayed so often and my husband does struggle every single day with his addiction. I had a heart just 7 months ago. It probably would be best if his suffering would end.