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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.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crazy is as crazy does...

In light of the cancer craziness that is going on -- I thought it might be good to revisit a previous post about Riley's immortality and the craziness of it all. I wonder if I'll be faced with this again.

Just because the alcoholic in your life is sober for the moment, do not assume that everything is back to normal. Be aware. Sobriety doesn’t always equate to normality.

Riley has not had even a sip of anything alcoholic since May 4, 2012 when he had a near fatal heart attack. He’s not supposed to be alive right now. According to numerous doctors, nurses, social workers, etc. he was so close to death during his last hospital stay I was coerced into trying to “get on with my own life.” Believe me, I welcomed the suggestion. But, deep down inside I knew I had been here before and not to completely trust what they were telling me. I went forward, but with guarded trepidation.
I gave away some of his clothing and books. I melded his file folders into mine. I got rid of the old computer monitor that originated in the 80’s. I threw away the very old worn tennis shoes and saved the new ones. His mattress and most of his other bedding, along with his area rug, were sent to the dump because they were so covered in human excrement. It was a step in going forward as I had been advised.
On August 4th I was told the ones who advised me to assume and prepare for his imminent death had been wrong. The situation had changed and I was to take him home and care for him as best I could under the circumstances. I was given vague instructions as I loaded him into my van. This was to become another segment in my journey through this adventure in the world of insanity.
Almost four months later, Riley is walking without assistance from me, but rather with a walker and, sometimes, a cane. He is able to shower by himself and feed himself. He can wash dishes and clean out the refrigerator (well… sort of…). He takes great pride in going around and making sure all the clocks are set correctly in accordance with the time displayed on the cable network channel. The highlight of his day is making lists – grocery lists, to-do lists, phone call lists, etc. When outsiders are around he can communicate with them logically for about 30 minutes. Most of his stories are never real, but they don’t know that.
I know it doesn’t sound so bad does it – or is it? There is an aspect to all this that most people wouldn’t even notice if they did not live with him. Even his doctors are starting to say that he is competent. He knows the date, the president’s name and can remember a list of numbers for a short period of time. In fact, he may even be capable of living on his own. How I wish that were true.
My day starts every morning with a cup of coffee which is gratefully made by Riley. It is between 4 AM and 5:30 AM. Each day I try to only engage Riley in conversations that I think will not create any conflict. I try to suggest projects for the day within his means of ability. I ask what he wants for dinner. Simple little diatribes to start the day. But, things always seem to take a turn for the worst.
Riley will ask me why I have decided to paint the kitchen in certain colors when those colors were never even mentioned in the plans. He will ask me why I don’t do this or that and I will have to repeat everything concerning the subject over again every morning for numerous mornings in a row. He will ask me when he is getting his computer back and when I tell him he can’t have the computer back – he tells me he’s leaving as soon as he is done with his coffee. I try to reason with him that the computer is off limits because of his being visited by police officials concerning his illegal porn usage. He doesn’t remember it and so believes I’m lying about it ever happening.
A peaceful morning almost invariably turns into a frustrating round of trying to make sense of it all for Riley’s sake. He may be able to remember that string of numbers, but he can’t remember anything about yesterday. He does not believe he ever had a heart attack and thinks I just put him into a nursing home because I was tired of him. He wants me to tell him how many days until he can start drinking again. He wants to know when he can drive. And mostly, he wants to know when I’m going to get out of his life.
Riley has turned into a mean old man. He dislikes the grandchildren’s dog, kids, friends and anything else he relates to them. He becomes angry with me and the world at the drop of a hat. If I don’t share his interest in the latest news story, he claims I’m not concerned about political issues. He must recount to me every episode of every NCIS he has watched that day. If I mention that I’ve seen all of them more than once, he replies that can’t be true because he’d never seem that episode before. In Riley’s mind, I’m a lying, conniving, underhanded, prison warden who revels in making him miserable. He doesn’t hesitate to tell me so every chance he can.
I’ve heard that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Somehow I think that if I just keep explaining things to Riley that eventually he will see that I’m not the bad guy and grow to accept his circumstances. The only person I’m hurting is me. The only really crazy person in the room is me. I know better. But, my instincts are to try to answer his questions with honest answers. Try to give viable explanations without being cruel. I’m reaching the end of my ability to keep going in this manner.
Riley has new projects assigned to him now. I suggest he go for a walk around the block since we now live where there are blocks instead of pastures. I suggest he go with me to the grocery store. I’ve shown him how to use the washer and dryer, although each week we have to repeat the lesson. I don’t dial his brother’s phone number for him anymore. In short, I’m forcing him to try to be more self-reliant. Maybe by doing so, he will eventually REALLY be ready to live on his own with just an occasional visit by a family member to check up on him.
Of course, the minute he is in his own place, he will be drinking alcohol. If he has his car, he will drive drunk. His health will fail rapidly and his days of immortality may be over. This is where my moral compass kicks in. I must get rid of the car before he moves out. And I have to turn a blind eye to whatever he is doing during his downfall. It feels like I’m killing him.
There is no great love lost between us, yet I still feel a responsibility. And then, there is forever the issue of not wanting my daughter to pick him up, dust him off and destroy her life. The question is… by the time she scoops him up to take care of him, will he be so far gone that he will not be too destructive to her sanity. 


Anonymous said...

Thank you for confirming that by putting my 71 yr old alcoholic mom in an assisted living facility and spending all her money on her care, good by any inheritance!! BUT it is money well spent..she chased everyone else away and I cannot put my family thru her chaos again. She has not drank since Feb12. BUT we all know IF I took her home with me she WOULD drink within days NO DOUBTS what so ever. Good luck Linda its such a terrible wy to live but we all do what we must do.

Furtheron said...

I selfishly come here it reminds me why I can't drink safely why I have to stay sober so my efamily don't suffer. Indeed the feel is simple he I want to etiology again I drink but I never in home again it is a simplebargain

Anonymous said...

i look forward to the day you free yourself :)

ADDY said...

So sorry the merry-go-round is still spinning with you on it! I can confirm that when it does eventually stop, you will have peace.

Anonymous said...

My mother is ill and dying. She also has dementia-that is what he sounds like. Even my mother has become somewhat mean spirited and suspicious......I know how frustrating it can be!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled here by accident, after 5 years of searching. Scary to read the reality of your life being so much like my own. My father is now in assisted living after 40 years of drinking and narcotic abuse. He turned 60 in the ICU with 2 massive brain hemorrhages. He's had 3 strokes, multiple trips thru detox, physical rehab and behavioral health management in the last 2 years. No one understands how he is still alive. Thru it all I realized he is a borderline personality to boot. He tried to kill my mom and that was the last straw. After 38 years of marriage they are now divorced. I miss the few good times and sometimes regret walking away from him. He is toxic, but I miss him. It's an hourly struggle for me. There isn't much out there for my dad, he is too medically unstable to be in rehab and too much of an addict to be in assisted living. He's been evicted from two different places. I admire your ability to take care of your husband. I don't even know how strangers put up with my dad.....thank you for your blog.

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for you. It seems that even if he'd never touched a drop, Riley would still be a narcissistic twerp and a mean old man. I guess that he knew how to be charming back when he had more of a brain to work with--it's just now that he's somebody else's problem other than his own. I don't think that alcohol can really make you into someone you never were--it can make you less of who you were, whatever that was, but it can't make anything new. I have a friend who is drinking himself to death, and he is still angelically sweet, and treats nobody else in the world as badly as he treats himself. What little he has he will share, even the literal shirt off his increasingly thin, yellow back. I love him dearly and I so don't want him to go.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog posts and marvel at how much your situation mirrors my own. My wife has just completed a 16 day stay in ICU on a ventilator while going through detox. She is now in a long term acute care hospital being weened off the ventilator. The Drs and nurses claim that without this medical intervention, she would have died from respiratory failure. It looks like she'll now survive, but I've been told that if she returns to abusing alcohol, the next time will be fatal. Seems like that is a common theme, doesn't it? And yet the alcoholic does, in fact, survive only to repeat the pattern again and again.

I can tell that each round of detox fails to make her stronger, only weaker. Her mental state is slowly declining. She has trouble remembering details from the day before.

Like you describe, Linda, I'm often accused of being the "warden". I took away the car keys months ago, but she still claims that she is fit to drive. As if alcoholism, withdrawal seizures and poor vision aren't sufficient reasons to keep her off the road.

I've been advised to "take care of myself", which is good advice. Does that mean one stands by and watches the alcoholic slowly,but surely kill themselves with vodka?

This is truly insanity.

Thanks for the great blog. Keep up the fight.

Kim said...

Linda…I feel so much empathy when I read about your situation. I have no words of wisdom or advice…but I hope it helps to know that I understand.
I've been watching my husband's slow suicide for several months now. Any attempt at quitting drinking lasts only a day or so. He barely eats at all, looks like a skeleton with a loose skin covering, and a belly pregnant with fluid. He refuses to go in for a paracentesis procedure to alleviate the pressure from the ascites. He would rather continually complain about being miserable. I have no idea when he last showered. I think he is afraid he will fall. I don't know how to get him the medical attention he needs. I'm sure that part of the reason he won't go for the procedure...is that he is afraid they will admit him when they see what kind of condition he is in. And he can't smoke and drink in the hospital. It's hard to believe that he would trade his life for that drink...but he obviously is doing just that.
When I say, I can't believe he is trading his life for alcohol...I am not dismissing how difficult it is to give up the alcohol. I did it myself. I have been on both sides of this situation. We have been married for 32 years and when the kids were old enough to take care of themselves...I took the road named. "if you can't beat em, join em". Tired of sitting at home, waiting for him to stumble in, I began to go along. Eventually, I found myself in a self destructive situation. My health was in danger, and it took me some time to admit how much the alcohol had to do with it. One day, several months ago, I decided to see for myself, and I put the bottle down. My health has improved tremendously. All my "numbers" are back to normal, I have lost 60 pounds, my blood pressure is normal without meds, my appetite is healthy, etc., etc. We could debate all day about whether I was truly as “addicted” as my husband…but I can tell you that my life was centered around alcohol. I thought it would be much harder to quit than it was. I was feeling so sick all the time…and it only took a few days to start feeling better. I clung to the hope that each day would be better yet…and it was.
I have explained this to my husband again and again. Every single day…he says he is miserable and he’s “having a bad day”. He’s easily confused…and he’s negative and mean about everything. I tell him that if he would stop drinking and start eating, he would feel better very soon. He knows this. He knows what is happening to him…and he refuses to do anything about it.
I’m at a loss as to what more I can do. I have resigned myself and have begun preparing to be a widow...as it seems senseless to ignore the elephant in the room. But I still keep trying to think of what I could do…to ensure that I have done all I can to help him. I have even considered waiting for him to fall asleep and calling 911, telling him (and them) that I found him unresponsive and was not able to wake him. Who would know? When they get him to the hospital, they will see he is in dire need of nutrition, and who knows what else. Has anyone else found a way to “force” them into getting medical treatment? And I don’t mean seeking to have him found incompetent or anything of the like. I need something more immediate. I doubt he has many weeks left at the rate he is declining.

Anonymous said...

"Each day I try to only engage Riley in conversations that I think will not create any conflict."

After being married to an alcoholic for a short while I now know what it means when the ALONON literature said to never argue with an alcoholic. I look back at it all and realize there never was any real conversations with the alkie. It seems like the only way they interact with anyone is by arguing. They seem to "hold court" and everyone else is just the audience while they carry on their performance and rant and rave about nothing and whine and complain about everything. And talk about themselves. It always seems to be about THEM. Maybe a set of earplugs would help.

I doubt if it is even possible for Riley to ever get a driver's license. He can barely walk. What kind of shrink is taking your money for "counseling"and telling you he is competent? The man could never live by himself. Pure nonsense. HIs mind is gone forever. And he can't start a vehicle unless he has car keys.

Hope you find whatever it is you are looking for.

David said...

I stumbled on to this blog too, I am sober over twenty years and my brother has been living with my parents and in and out of rehabs for 17 years and is near the end one would think. I feel like I should have done more to help him or my parents (more importantly) but as I read your blog I know there is not much I could do. I'm surprised Riley is still alive. I'm surprised my brother is still alive. It does seem therapeutic (big word) to finally write about it. I don't know what I would do if he becomes my problem.

Anonymous said...

Dear Linda,
It is such a hard road. I am in the same boat as you taking care of my husband at home. He refused to go to a hospice and discharged himself from the hospital after five weeks in there. We were told three times to prepare ourselves for the worst. He went through detox and hadn't had a drink since late Sep. Amazing! But them again he can't get out, can barely walk. Thankyou so much for this blog. I anxiously await your posts. Noone really understands what we are going Through except another in the same boat.

Kim, MY husband was the same as yours, refused to go to the hospital but eventually the liquid in his abdomen was so much he asked to go and then collapsed outside the hospital. It sounds like your husband has liver disease too. Time will make him go to the hospital. Try not to worry, you can't do anything if he won't cooperate. He will ask you eventually to take him. I know it's hard. You can handle one day at a time, one crises at a time.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing on this blog. It is so helpful to hear others experience. I left my alcoholic husband two years ago, after years of nagging, begging and going down an extremely unhealthy road myself because of the stress. I felt such a sense of freedom and peace when I left (and still do). It is hard knowing that he is on his own, but if I had stayed nothing would have changed except I would still be receiving the verbal blows and cleaning up after the same person he is now. It is hardest on our daughter, who feels very responsible for him, although gratefully she lives over 2,000 miles away. He has alienated his family, so he truly is alone, on his own. Thanks for all that share.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,

Thank you so much for posting again. It had been awhile, and I was wondering how things were going for you.

Your blog has been very supportive and helpful to me as I ponder how life was with my alcoholic husband of over 40 years. He also seemed immortal and survived trips to the Emergency Department and stays in the ICU. In his case, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died less than 2 months later.

When he miraculously gained sobriety, he wasn't the happy man I had married decades before. I wondered about his irritability and his lack of interest in anything beyond AA and his own situation. He could be quite illogical, a strange departure for a man who once delighted in clear thinking.

I have come to some acceptance that the alcohol permanently changed his personality and his thought processes. I am glad that he some time in sobriety before his death, but mourn the relationship we had once shared, long before the alcohol did its damage.

My thoughts are with you and please know that your blogs have helped me immensely in my own challenges of living with an alcoholic husband.

Rita said...

I enjoy knowing that someone is going through this insanity, too!keep sane, sister.

Nat said...

My dad is dying. 40+ years of drinking. Since retiring he does it full time. Doc's did give life expectancy, but he's well past that deadline now. I don't know why or how he is still alive. He can barely walk. He could answer the 4 questions...then go back to talking of his childhood. The only thing he truly remembers and cruel of a life it may have been. I'm searching for sanity. I'm his youngest daughter. He's my strong dad...or was. "Tragic" in this death is not strong enough of a word. There is no word or words that can describe the torment. My mother is the caretaker. What can you do, but let it be. Hope is gone. We patiently wait, while under the torment of his foul mouth and failing body. He has all the symptoms, of which I keep re-reading hoping for something new. Maybe relief in that I'm not the only one and some kind of strange normalcy in the medical dictionary of symptoms "death by alcohol". One minute I hate him for this choice. The next I cry for my dad who literally saved my life twice (both accidents when I was a child). How can this be. Emotions are greatly taxed; but I'm reserved to be there for my mom. Thank you for putting "you" out there. It does help to know I'm not alone in dealing with this crazy disease on a loved one.

jo said...

when i read this, all i said was uh huh. same here.

however, i dont control mine like you do...he has his computer...he drives still (lovely dents in the truck now)...what happens is his problem. the fights if i tried would be far more than i am willing to allow. let them fall on their faces. cruel? whoever thinks that needs to try it awhile.

there is no help, not in my town. they wont even see him unless he is dying. the Er will just send him right back out. been there. the VA thinks he is fine and im lying. lol. he also passed the 3 question test...which is absolutely stupid as they come. he knows the date, most days, etc. he just doesnt know what he did 30 mins ago. or yesterday. and if told, he denies it. life is always brand new..along with ncis.

as always...blessings...

Anonymous said...

jo, if you allow him to drive drunk (and that means legally not doing what's necessary to stop him) and he kills someone while driving, you are guilty in some states of vehicular manslaughter just as he is. In most states you can be charged at least with aiding/abetting.

The law, fortunately, doesn't care how big a fight it would be, that there is no help in your town, or how hard it is for you. Trust me, having a dead sister, killed by a drunk driver, is harder.

Please, call the cops each and every time you think he is driving drunk. Even if you won't do it to prevent his death or someone else's, call the cops to spare yourself legal action when he kills an innocent person.

Letting him fall on his face is one thing, letting him kill someone else is another.

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Anonymous said...

I wish I had people around me that understood what I live with. I'm so drained and tired from all this.

Tina said...

Thanks for the helpful info. When I learned about getting a sober monitoring
it changed my life.

Kyra said...

Why do they like NCIS so much... my A Mom LOVES that show and Law & Order; I swear some of her anxiety is from watching that crap all day long! Crazy-ass alcoholics! :)

jo said...


i tried that. calling the cops,. they will do nothing unless they see him breaking the law and "he has a constitutional right" to not have cops follow him without a reason they can see.

our next door neighbor is a cop. lol.

yep...been there in person, no less, to the chief himself.

i agree with you. the law here doesnt.

i am so sorry about your sister.

Gerry said...

I am the daughter of an alcoholic, my two husbands were alcoholics, and my two companions in old age have been alcoholics and I have had BFs in between who were alcoholics. And each one called for a different kind of treatment especially at the end when I was no longer able to tolerate their behavior. I reached this point after 10 years with the first husband who I feared would kill me when drunk so had to divorce him so I would be around to raise our two boys. He sobered up soon when he married again immediately when he was on the verge of another marriage failing, and he went to church and stayed sober 20 years then something triggered off his drinking again and she divorced him. He drank for quite a long time and then our youngest son helped him sober up and he remained sober again for another 10 or 15 years until he left home, got his truck stuck and was never seen again. The second husband exhibited such violent behavior so soon after we started to go together I sent him on his way after our second son was born. I knew I would be raising my two children by him without any child support but I was going to be alive. He finally quit drinking with another wife and because he was going to lose his truck driving job if he didn't. I regard myself as one of the people who was forced to make him pay for his behavior by a separation. My first companion in old age continued to drink until he died of lung cancer at the age of 64 from smoking! But I balked when he wanted to buy a bottle of whiskey and stay drunk until he died with me as his caretaker. I said you have all the morphine you want, I am not going to be your caretaker if you are drunk, so he gave up that idea. I told my last companion today that I was going to start accepting invitations for lunch from other men because I could no longer enjoy him because of his perpetual state of inebriation. I am not his wife and don't live with him, and was barely spending an hour or so a day with him. Now it's going to be less. Like many drunks in this government subsidized housing he will be drinking and dying mostly alone. Any number of alcoholics have died in here. He does not own a car so will not be driving. If he has a medical problem he has access to medical care and medicaid. He is 75. He is set up to die as well as it is possible to die of alcoholism alone. I will only be made miserable by being with him more. He drinks and watches TV all day long and listens to music. In fact, I just irritate him by expecting him to discuss anything when he is no longer able to do so, probably from what he has already done to his brain. He is a college graduate, with a high I.Q., once owned pianos and played jazz for pleasure. He was in sales, but didn't like it, so he took to drinking more and more. He was a good looking man, well built. But did not catch himself slipping and sliding into alcoholism. But I figure it is his choice, so I need to accept his choice, and prepare to move on.

Anonymous said...

I too am or was I should say a caretaker of a alcoholic. My husband of almost 23 years- February 24,2013 would have been 23 years, am now divorced on December19, 2012. That day is what I call my freedom day. I could not take it anymore- he was not a nice drunk- he was mean and sacarstic to me and his two boys. I seen how the two boys struggled with this and how we always lived on being around him like walking on eggshells when he was drinking. He started out to be this nice sweet goodlooking man I married to a very mean and sarcastic person, that is what that DAM BOOZE did to him. I was the buffer between him and the boys and I got to a point this summer where I hit my rockbottom. One of our sons tried to commit suicide last year over a girl and going with him -(my son) who is only 17 at that time thru counciling, It was brought to my attention that it also had alot of stuff to do with his father being a drunk also. Of course he never went with me to Jake's counciling meetings, for I think he knew deep down that it was some of his problems also. Today I read all the differnt post from alot of you and find out that I am not alone. He is now living with his mother in FLorida and we live here in Minnesota trying to live a more peacefull life. It is very hard to deal with, but Ireally think I made the ight choice of divorcing him. I know his mother is not happy with me, but now she can see the side I hve been dealing with. I think he can quit drinking for a short time, he has proving that up here , at least one month, but then something happens , he has a bad day or he just can not take it, then starts to drink again, and it gets worse each time. He quit his job up here and they moved him down there just this January 1, 2013. Never said good bye to both of his boys, he only apologized to one of our sons, not the one that had the issued with him the most. He would not even talk to him. So sad that a person could do this to his own son. But again that is his anger and alcohol that is taking over him. To bad he will not be around to see his grandchildren some day. He will just be a orny mean old man, if he lives that long. I hope you have peace again, I plann on it and I will NOT date another man that even shows a sign of this.

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