About Me

My photo

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.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dead? Alive?

This was written by an OARS member who is the daughter of an alcoholic. She has chosen to take a step back from her father as he walks down his alcoholic path. The invisible umbilical cord binding child to parent still remains as she tries to minimize her involvement in his insane behavior. In my opinion, she has mastered the art of detaching with love.

Ms Forland writes:
I don’t go to my alcoholic father’s house as much as I used to… but do pass it on the way to work. I phone him often to “check in” but when I don’t get an answer a knot forms in my stomach and won’t go away until I hear from or see him. This week it was about two or three days and since he had received his check for his pension recently, I figured he was on a bender.

Dead or Alive? Dead or Alive? Those thoughts keep going through my head as I drove to his house a few days ago.
I shoveled his driveway and steps and was comforted to see footprints in the snow leading to his door. I could not bring myself to actually go into the house. I figured he was plastered or dead, or in bed asleep since he sleeps all day and drinks all night.

The next day, I couldn’t handle the stomach pains from the anxiety of not knowing if he was dead or alive, so I went to his house again. As I walked up to the door, I threw salt on the steps and waited to see if the front door would open on its own. It did not.
I walked in, paused and listened for sounds of life. Both the TVs were on full blast. Dead or Alive? I slowly walked through the kitchen. The counters and table were cluttered with empty bottles of rum and vodka among the food and dirty dishes. Dead or Alive? I entered the living room, some papers were scattered everywhere along with plates of food on the floor. There was no sign of him on the main floor. No blood or vomit. Good sign, right?

Dead or Alive? Dead or Alive?
Upstairs, I pause and listen. Quiet. Dead or Alive? I took a deep breath and slowly walked to his bedroom. Dead or Alive? I turn the corner and can see into his room. TADA! There he is. I see his body move slightly and I know he is still alive. I sneak backwards out of the room, turn and go down the stairs and, quietly but quickly, out the door.

As I drove home, I could feel my stomach knots unravel and relax. I’m good. That is until the next time. 
Detaching is one of the hardest things ever needed when someone we love is addicted to alcohol or drugs. The problem seems to be more complicated when detachment is needed between children and parents or vice versa. I always have the option of leaving and forgetting about my husband, but it never feels like an option for a parent to leave a child or a child to leave a parent. Those ties cannot be cut by a bunch of legal words on a court-recorded document. The ties are binding for life.

I admire Ms Forland for finding a way to satisfy her need to protect him and, at the same time, protect herself. I know that what she wanted to do was wake him up and shake some sense into him. I know I would have had a hard time resisting that urge. I admire her for not cleaning up his house, stocking his refrigerator with healthy food and thereby letting him believe she will take care of his messes. She was able to recognize HER need to know if he was still alive and once that need was met she did nothing more. Nothing more would have done anyone any good or made her feel any better.
If the person had been her child, I think it would have been even harder for her to walk out the door. It’s so extremely hard to keep those maternal protection instincts from kicking in and trying to save the child from imminent danger. Sometimes trying to save the child in that moment only teaches them they can depend on the parent to always come to their rescue. That in turn prevents them from actually taking responsibility for themselves and saving their own lives.
I think it’s normal for each of us to think we would know what we would do if we were placed into a certain situation. The fact is that we never really know how we will react or what we would do. There are so many scenarios to life, it’s impossible to imagine every which way we would turn in the real event. Sometimes we just react instinctively and other times we think things through to a rational end.  The main thing to remember is that no matter what we do, we will always do what we feel is the right thing in whatever the circumstance and in that instant. It may not seem right to others, or in my own hindsight, but there is no need to feel guilty or accept others criticism. Pushing down those feelings of guilt are sometimes harder than doing what you felt was right at the time.
As for me, I fight the “guilt-monster” every single day. But, I am confident I’ve always done what I felt was the best thing to do at any given time and in any given circumstance based on the information at hand and from my previous experiences. To do any less would be like trying to revive the Pansies I planted last spring.

26 comments:

Bev said...

Detachment is the hardest thing to do. Anyone who is going through this process should read this post because it explains it so well. Well done : D

poet said...

Very well written. Take special care~ *gentle hugs*

Anonymous said...

These situations are just awful aren't they? Such a negative life/existence for the "caretakers" and the sheer level of arrogance and selfishness from the addict is astounding. I am reaching the stage where I will have to detatch myself from mine, emotionally and financially it is impossible to remain in this sub-existence. Who knows why I have left it this long?? Hope everyone keeps well, well maybe not "everyone"....

seeking sanity said...

I am new to this so pleae bare with me. I have been on here looking for answers when i discovered they right in front of me. I haven't had the courage to take the first step, but I have learned that i can't go on like this. I live with a alcoholic she is disabled , but don't let that fool yo,u it had me for years. I am still learning how to detach myself from this horror. Thx for posting some insight to this madness.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, Ms Forland has not mastered the art of detaching with love. She has distanced geographically, but just as there is seldom a geographic cure for addiction, putting the addict out doesn’t necessarily reduce the level of emotional involvement. I hope Ms. Forland gets help and is able to truly disengage. At this point, the knots in her stomach and the need to go herself to check on him as opposed to asking authorities for a welfare check suggest a painful enmeshment. Kudos to Ms. Forland for having made the decision that Dad must not live with her, but she’s only half way to detachment.
Linda, please be careful about advancing your assumption that the umbilical cord is a tie that universally binds for life. People can and often do successfully sever those ties both practical and emotional when they become too painful. Perhaps it’s true that for you and those in your circles “it never feels like an option for a parent to leave a child or a child to leave a parent”, but emotionally healthier choices are available. With help, someone like Ms Forland can learn to continue to love and care, but without the daily wrenching anxiety. They can truly detach with love.
Lest what I write be written off as criticism from someone who doesn’t understand, I need to say that I’m not saying anybody is wrong, just that there are choices outside the box you’ve drawn.

The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife said...

Sometimes I find that I have to post my disclaimer so that people will remember it. I'm not a professional counselor, lawyer, medical personnel or anything else that requires a college degree. I'm just a woman who is expressing and communicating what I have found to be true from my own life experiences. I do not claim to speak for everyone who reads my blog. Most I just use generalities.

I believe that for the most people, breaking the ties that bind is a difficult thing to do.

I also want to remind my readers that not everyone agrees with everything I say. Everyone has their own opinion and while I may not agree, I will defend to my death the right for that opposing opinion to be said.

Anonymous said...

"....the sheer level of arrogance and selfishness from the addict is astounding."

Oh so true. Twenty eight years ago I divorced an alkie after a 3 year year on and off toxic violent alcoholic "captivity" with 7 months of it as man and wife. If anyone can even call him a man. More like a snake.
He stalked me for all these years. Thank God he lives a thousand miles away from me. The only way he tries to contact me now is by phone. Fifteen months ago I got caller ID and paid the money to block his calls. Finally had peace in my home. At the beginning of this month I thought enough time had passed and I dropped the service. BIG MISTAKE. It was costing me an extra $30 a month and every month I would pay the bill and just get mad that I had to spend the money because of him. I use an answering machine and have been screening all my calls. Have a recorded message from the phone company so he cannot hear my voice if he is still calling. Been getting calls with no messages almost daily since I dropped the service. Been wondering if I am crazy to think that it might be him. Maybe I am just overreacting. Sure enough.... last night he left a recorded message, talking like we are the best of friends and said he would talk to me later. It is the bait to engage. I am absolutely amazed. Have not seen him for over six years. He is on his fifth wife and under indictment for a burglary about a year ago. I figure that his latest wife has left him and he will have to face a jury soon and is getting ready to run somewhere. Looking for someone to take him in. Unbelievable. He's a criminal. I did not talk to him and have to just stick with the plan. NO CONTACT NO MATTER WHAT. And maybe sign up for caller ID again and pay the extra fees. Will this ever end? I wish he would die.

msterfun said...

It's not so hard for me to wear those shoes. I've worn them for 40 years. It was also not difficult for me to detatch. I gave my father an ultimatum and when he got his 4th OWI 11 days after getting his license back from his 3rd offense, i stopped all contact with him.

Thank God for my brother, wife and 2 year old son. When i got the news about my father i was enroute (2 hours) to find him and beat him senseless and they calmed me down and talked some sense in to me. So i pulled the car over and called my father. I told him what i thought of him and what the famil's actual opinion of him was. I told him to say anything for himself that he wanted to because after that call i would not have anything to do with him. When we hung up i immediately blocked his number and haven't thought of him since.

This was easily enough done because before my severing ties with him i would do as Ms. Forland would and check up on him. But unlike Ms. Forland everytime he was not dead i was a little disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Never roll in the mud with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig enjoys it.

Anonymous said...

what a great post-i learn something everytime i viit-or at the lest have my actions(which,thanks to human nature,i sometimes question.
i hadnt realised that i was slowly but surely 'emotionally detaching'from my drunken partner.
last time i visited this site i realised i was condoning the drinking,when he was (supposedly)too drunk to go to the shop,i went for him-it saved hours of protracted arguing as to why i wouldnt go-of course i eventually 'gave in' as ,and you will kow where i'm coming from with this-just a bit more booze and he'd be unconcious within a few more drinks-and the knot in my stomach would go and i could ...i dunno...clean up...or paint...or anything i wanted without the repetetive questions and explanations of the most basic kind...like i said-i learned from here,it is not my job to enable him to drink...so i screwed up my courage to say a flat NO...rather than trying to reason with him(impossible)then finally giving in....it works-he knows i wont buy booze-and funnily enough,no matter how drunk he is-he can always stagger to the shop(about 200 yards away)-partly i went because i was embarrased that the neighbourhood would see the state he was in...but-hey-thats him not me-once or twice people have said-o,i saw 'j' yesterday...what they really mean is,i saw 'j' and he was dead drunk'and i smile and say o yes?did you...and dont engage in the conversation.
i do still,however,clear up the human waste...i have to live here too1ansd clear the kitchen when at the start of the binge he thinks he can cook something special 'for us'-always inedible and using EVERYTHING in the fridge...but-i keep my food seperate-and its his money hes wasting.it was also another thing i tried to curb-wasting £50($100) a time per disaster...but...
anyway-just come back from visiting my month old grandson-'j' still know nothing about him-and as i crept into the house ...realised i didnt need to creep as he was unconcious,again,...so visit with you,get myself a snack and then a couple of hours painting...
thanks for yet another informative post!
hang in there partners of drunks-we will survive!
best wishes
lea(u.k.)

Allison said...

I wonder if there is something inherent in the alcoholic high that makes it so irresistible... or is it simply cheap, readably available, legal and socially acceptable? That is, if bars served paint-thinner instead of alcohol, would all these people dying from alcohol then be dying from paint thinner?

I had a young friend who hid the symptoms of liver failure for as long as he could. He would show up at doctor's office and come home with valium and other such drugs. He was giving the doctors the symptoms of liver failure while denying he drinks.

At age 31, Phil suddenly had uncontrollable bright red blood running from his anus. The emergency room told him he had hemroids. The following day, Phil was checked into a hospice. Phil needed a liver transplant to survive but didn't qualify because he hadn't been sober for 6 months. Forget about 6 months. Phil didn't have 6 days. He checked into the hospice on a Friday and, for the first 3 days, he was mentally lucid. By Monday, Phil could barely talk and, although awake, his eyeballs rolled in his head. His stomach was bloated and his skin turned darkly jaundiced. He died that Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Lea, we WILL survive but while everyone else around us is living life we are "surviving". After over 20 years I have had enough and I am seriously considering leaving but sadly not only is he an alcoholic he is an arrogant bastard who is still in denial and will make wrapping this whole mess up unbelievably complex and hell-like. Selfish alcoholics!!

Anonymous said...

ah-anonymous!how i wish i were as brave as you.i have had to face a good few home truths in the past few years....the major one being i was 'duped'into this relationship with the drunk-no,i am not a naive young slip of a girl-i am 56 with a load of baggage,as we all have-for four years i looked after this man(a foreigner to my country with little english and nothing apart from a job-he DOES still work,god knows how,and when his employers catch him drunk he wont have that either!i realise i am one of lifes 'givers',and have gone from one relationship with a parasite who didnt work(took me 25 years to realise what an idiot i was)to THIS relationship with another parasite-as soon as i managed to get us secure social housing two years ,the drinking started after 20 years sober(apparently)...yes,the house is in my name-but i cannot face the ramifications of either leaving(no savings to speak of)or kicking him out-boy!!would he kick up a HUGE stink-i know,then,that yes i am a coward,and must make the best of my life-i make a modest income from my art,am very self sufficient-we both pay 50/50 for all the bills and i can justabout afford to pay 100% WHEN he looses his job....not sure what he'll do for booze money tho'!
i have to face the fact that i am a coward and live with the consequences of this life than risk the mayhem of leaving.
i'm cool with that,for now...but i wish the partners who take their decision by the scruff of the neck,the VERY best of luck-whichever way we choose it takes great courage to deal with-yes-those selfish self deluded egomaniacs...'j' assures me he is NOT an alcoholic...even when he's laying in his own human waste and i am yet again shampooing vomit from the carpet...2 bottles of vodka and 20 bottles of strong beer later...i ask you-is watching him bark like a dog for half an houtr and talking without pause for 9 hours at a time the mark of a sober person???
i 'get' what linda says about the 'comedy' of some situations....watching him trying to put underpants on his head instead of a hat to go to work in,when he was blind drunk,has its funny side...not sure how funny it will be to watch a man die of liver failure...we all,if we're honest,LONG for the moment when we are free....but as someone said earlier,either way we are sadlled with the guilt-thnk god for linda and this site-a still small voice of sanity in this sea of madness!
est wishesto all
lea(u.k.)

Anonymous said...

i was seeing this man who had been interested in me for years. 6 years after being friends i allowed us to have a relationship. I questioned his behavior, he told me he had a drinking problem. I continued to see him. A yr later he called me in a drunken stupor and didn't disconnect the line, he went to a woman's apt. I heard him say "mmm sweetheart you look sexy in that" then he said he was going to bed, he didn't say I'm going home. I asked him about it and he said he blacked out and just went to do her a favor. I tried ending it but he would find ways to find me. I continued to see him but was a bit on guard. A year after that a woman calls me telling me she is his wife. Next day he sees me and tells me he married her to giver her the papers, he said she was lying. In the past i had given him hickies on his neck and body had slept over his place bout 4 times and a few things that didn't add up. I insisted on ending it but he wold show up at my office and convince me other wise. I continued to see him until one day the wife sees us together. I asked her if it was for the papers she sad no. that they were married and lived at his place. I asked to see her engagement ring she said it was at home then she went into her bag and took out her wedding ring. Why did she not have both rings on? She said they had been trying to have a baby for 2 years. I was extremely hurt, because he had been after me to have a baby with him. She said that he had told her that i was sick in the head and I was the one chasing him and I had slept with everyone at work. So I went ahead and sent her txts that he had sent me telling me how he loved me and how he had been wanting to be with me for years. I feel deceived, hurt and bad for her at the same time. At times I feel guilty for sending her the texts but as a wife to a drinker and cheater I would like to know who i'm involved with. Even though I feel bad, part of me feels good cuz i planted a seed in her head to be cautious with him, there are STDs that he could give her. I know he drinks a lot and is very manipulative. He caught up to me 2 days after that incident and he said "what makes you think she believes you" I felt so bad for her but more bad for me cuz I look like the homewrecker. Needless to say I have blocked him on all my phones.

I never dated an alcoholic, and I've learned to not date one again. I feel bad.

Anonymous said...

I have an alcoholic dad who I believe is at the end stage. I just found this blog today and I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write about your experiences and share others. I felt like Ms.Forland was writing my story. It's amazing how you feel so alone and come to find out there are other people ou there that have such similar horrible experiences...

Allison said...

Anon-2:55PM
I don't think cheating behavior is necessarily alcoholic behavior. If your man is narcissistic, the drinking may have little to do with it.

Anonymous said...

I have come to the conclusion that alcoholics know exactly what they are doing. And the reasons for his bizarre and abusive behavior does not matter to me any more. I used to come up with every reason and excuse under the sun for his cheating. Then I had to ask myself why does he do it in secret if he is so out of control? He knew exactly what he was doing even if he was drunk and did it in secret. He did it because he can get away with it. They seem to be masters at deception. They lie. Sometimes I even think that they believe their own lies and stories and excuses. Their mindset is delusional. I had to take myself to battered woman's shelter to get away and look at the patterns of the "relationship". Now I know that it was all a con and I was just another victim that got caught in the net of alcoholism and the cycle of abuse. Remember that a woman is most in danger when she finally leaves.... like Nicole Brown-Simpson. Drunk or not most batterers don't change. They know exactly what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

I eventually had to stay away from 12-Step quackery. Once I truly broke free of the mental hold that had on me, that's when I truly learned self-reliance and have been so much more happier and productive. Being told that I am powerless, can't trust my own thinking and need to share all of my innermost thoughts and wrongdoings with people I probably can't trust only reinforced my negative perception of myself and further caused blaming things on myself that were clearly not my fault. I didn't pour alcohol in his mouth nor did I stick his Johnson in other women...nor did I drive him to do these things...he wants me to think that but it isn't so. Watch, his girlfriend is going to go through the same thing, and you'll see it quite clearly as an outsider. Since the mind is not a physical organ it cannot have a disease. A disease is something you have, behavior is something you do. I am not powerless and I used my power to leave. I hope the exhusband alkie from the past dies a horrible painful death alone in the sewer.

msterfun said...

" I hope the exhusband alkie from the past dies a horrible painful death alone in the sewer." Was said anonymously.

Ahmen!

fmu said...

I am NEVER going to let my son be in that position. My ex - his father - is an alcoholic, but I am trying to "detach" my son as far as I can. It's not easy, it was hard enough to "detach" myself from the role of enabler and caregiver, but I will persevere - my son does not need to be caught in this hideous trap.

Bev said...

Life is complicated and so is addiction. My 32 year old son suffers from addiction and one thing I have learned over the past 15 years is that not only am I still learning about this horrible disease but so is most of the medical and rehab communities as well. One thing I do know is that my son 'suffers' from addiction. No one knows if they themselves has the genetics or predisposition to become an addict until they are an addict. My son is a loving, giving person but when in a blackout or drunk he can be a totally different person. I'm learning to detach from the 'disease' and still love my son. Just to be clear I'm am not judging anyone here. We all have to come to terms with this disease in our own way. This is my way.

Anonymous said...

Whatever addiction or alcoholism really is.....I think for sure it is a fact that something is wrong with them. They are not even close to normal. Abnormal Psychology 101. Complete madness.

Anonymous said...

I really feel detachment is different for everyone so many degrees of it...... I am a recovering alcoholic myself 28 yrs old and trying to prepare myself to confront my chronic alcoholic father! After 7 rehab stints he is trying to kill himself with drink ,the demon. I have never before broached it with him,why?I don't know. The pain of seeing a parent who made sure you saved yourself fail in wanting to save themselves is unbearable.

Anonymous said...

I am going through this right now and find this blog very helpful. I am 46, my parents 71 and 74. Both are alcoholics. I live down the street from them and pass their house every day. We had a great relationship and were always "friends". It's been hard, but over the past six months I have come to accept that I cannot be their "friend" anymore. They have gotten my hopes up so many times, only to dash them, and seem to have no regard for others. Now, I watch out for them and have taken on some basic chores around their house that they refuse to do (but could until very recently). I have finally accepted where things are heading. I just take life day-by-day and try to take care of myself. That's all you can do! It was hard to accept it, but here I am, much like the author of Dead? Alive?...

Carrie said...

Yes, yes, yes....I checked my mother's breathing everynight to see if she was alive, since I was 9 years old when I learned smoking and driking kills, in school. I can relate to the "immortal Alcoholic" title, it is true for my parents, too. That is a horrible way to live. BUT, my parents are still living, so I lived in this torment as a child. I have majorly let go of my fears in many sobbing sessions with an older lady who cared and prayed for me. My heart has healed, but alcoholism is still very sad to me.

Nance said...

The new electronic cigarette is already a very popular item. Because of this, many different types have been created. This can be great because it offers many different options for all different types of people.
Electronic cigarettes
e-cigarettes
e-cigarette talk
reviews of electric cigarettes