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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.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

One year's difference...

This was a post I made about a year ago. I wanted to re-post and show the difference a year can make -- OR that a year and sobriety can mean no change at all.

May 14th, 2011

One of my very first needlecraft projects was to embroider a set of kitchen towels. My mother bought seven blank “flour sack” towels and ironed a transfer onto each one (do they even make those anymore?). The lines were to be stitched using brightly colored embroidery thread in several different stitch styles.

There were seven towels – one for each day of the week and each day had a specific task: Monday-Sweep; Tuesday-Dust; Wednesday-Laundry; Thursday-Ironing; Friday-Mend; Saturday-Shop; Sunday-Rest. It took me a while to get them completed, but I was sooooooo proud of them when they were all done and neatly hung on the handle of the oven. For months I changed them daily so they matched the appropriate day of the week.

My little girl mind would often drift into believing that maybe this is how life was supposed to be lived. Was there a time for each chore and was always to be done consistently each and every week? I wondered if this was the way life was suppose to be lived and the fact that my family didn’t operate in that manner meant that we were somehow not living the “right” way.

After a few months, I forgot about putting the right towel out for the day and just grabbed one when needed for drying the dishes without concern for what day of the week it was. But, I did, however, carry over a bit of “neatish” behavior through my teen years. While other teens had rooms resembling the city dump, mine was neat and clean. My closet was divided by dresses, skirts, tops and pants and in each section the clothes were organized by color. For a teenager – I was definitely not normal.

As I have gotten older, I have digressed… Fast forward 40+ years… left to my own devices, I would have a house that was livably clean but not spotless. You might find yesterdays coffee cup still on my desk and the newspaper might be thrown about the sofa. In my room there is a stack of clothes that needs to be hung up or put away. If I lie down during the day, I do not re-make the bed. My toothbrush doesn’t always make it back into the holder. My bedroom slippers never make it into the closet.

I know I have a point here somewhere in the clutter of my mind… In Riley World there would be a kitchen towel for every day of the week and each would have a list of tasks. He would adhere to those tasks as though they were the holy grail itself. The towels would be changed at 12:01 A.M. every single day. They would be clearly hung on some special hanger in view for all to see. There would be no deviation.

Imagine the frustration he must feel when comforted with the fact that the pile of things… *#!% ...as he calls it… accumulates on my desk and my attitude is “I’ll get a round to it this week.” It must cause extreme stress for him when he gives me a grocery list and I come home with only seven of the ten items. Riley lives in an absolute black and white world. I live with approximations and shades of gray with an occasional absolute thrown in.

Riley says he has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – I’m not so sure. The absolute routine of Riley’s world has a purpose. He has told me that if he gets everything done that needs to be done, his time then becomes his own do to with as he pleases. And what he pleases is alcohol related. In his mind, it’s OK to be drunk to the point of peeing your pants, if the kitchen counter is spotless. It is OK to be oblivious to the end table having rings from his beer cans if he vacuumed the floor this morning. That doesn’t sound like OCD to me. It sounds more like alcoholic behavior.

There is a jagged sort of logic in his thinking. It’s not one I agree with – but it belongs to him and I have no right to try to take away his thought process. As he – again – progresses towards end-stage, he needs those daily reminder towels to keep him on task because he sometimes confuses Monday with Wednesday. He has difficulty remembering his self-assigned tasks and when he is to do them or even if he has already done them.

I know that part of it is the memory loss from the stroke. But I am also acutely aware that most of it is that his frontal lobe is saturated with ammonia and therefore not truly able to agree to anything for a long period of time. I also know that he finds some kind of “pay back” in creating minor difficulties for me. If he is not happy in the living arrangement, he will not let me be happy either. Or, if he makes me miserable enough, I’ll send him away.

Whatever… I just want to give fair warning… if I see that Tuesday Towel around here, I will promptly burn it and then claim no knowledge.

March 10, 2013

Now that Riley has been sober for almost a year it would be easy to assume that the Tuesday Towel scenario would be in the past. But, that is far from reality. I still don't like living in a sterile environment and Riley is even more determined to drive me crazy with his little cleanliness endeavors.

When I have my morning coffee, the spoon I use to stir in the cream and sugar is washed, dried and put away before I finish my first cup. And evidently I have a two cup requirment because Riley asks me every morning "Have you had your second cup yet?" The question is really "Can I clean up the coffeemaker now?" It has nothing to do with me getting my fill of caffiene. So not only is my spoon no longer on the counter, the coffee pot is no longer holding coffee. That's all before I finish my first cup.

I like to lay on the sofa and watch my soaps. During this wintertime season, I cover with a fluffy throw. If I go to the bathroom during a commercial, when I return, my throw is neatly folded and returned to the back of the sofa. He must fold up that throw a dozen times a day.

The cleanliness level feels rather false to me. He goes crazy over sweeping the floor, but refuses to use the vacuum cleaner on the carpet. He pesters me to clean out the fridge, but will leave his chicken out on the counter for several days -- telling me not to put it away. And get this -- he eats it and never gets sick. He keeps his beard neatly trimed and reminds me he needs to get a hair cut, but never takes a shower or washes his hair.

Not all things are resolved with the advent of sobriety. Sometimes the little things that we find exasperating during alcoholic drunkenness become overwhelmingly intolerable in sobriety.
I have to stop writing now because Riley wants to clean out my "to be filed" bin.


Bev said...

Oh my gosh. I'd love to hear a doctor's or psychologist's take on that. Linda,do you remember when they used to have panties for days of the week as well ?

etheltest1 said...

Oh my gosh. I'd love to hear a doctor's or psychologist's take on that. Linda,do you remember when they used to have panties for days of the week as well ?

Gabriele Goldstone said...

I can so relate to this. I try not to let it drive me nuts.

Anonymous said...

I completely understand too. As the only person in our household working I am frequently told how lazy I am and how I am responsible for everything. If I was good at sorting finances we wouldn't be in the state we're in. Nothing to do with the fact he hasn't brought any money in for two years and what little amounts he has earnt has all gone on tobacco and booze. Selfish, paranoid, arrogant bastard!!

hyperCRYPTICal said...

'Controlling' behaviours well observed Linda.

If Riley has to continually point out (what he sees) as your 'faults' - he does not need to deal with his own...

Anna :o]

Anonymous said...

Mine tells me I twist pepper grinders left handed & I present home made sandwiches upside down??? I have to stop myself analysing what he comments on or I really would end up mad. Even more mad than what I am to stay with him ;-)
Stay strong everyone & don't let the pyschos drag you down x

Anonymous said...

Apologies to Linda & all for using this comment box in the blog to air my business. It is an outlet to try and rant without any comeback. The reason for tonights entry (it is now 21:55 in the UK) is that mine has been drinking more and more this week, his mood and attitude has been horrendous to live with but tonight his behaviour has gone into madness. He has just snipped away at his hair so now he looks like he has had a bad case of alopecia. He also has been using his drill to undo & then redo screws in doors.... His eyes are like he isn't there. Now he is banging around upstairs. He is so wired I don't know what he'll do next. This is such hard work. Please give me the strength to leave this madness :-(

Anonymous said...

Never try to educate pigs, it wastes your time and upsets the hog.....

Zowie said...

To the lady from the U.K. that is living with the wild alcoholic. I feel so for you. I used to be like you. Just about to lose my mind when my husband had his binges.
But, instead of leaving him, and losing a lot of benefits (monetary and property), I found a little camper, had a lot of fun fixing it to my liking, and now that is where I go to get away from the madness. Sometimes my little dog and I spend the night out there (camping out). It's my little place to get away from it all. It's what I need for my sanity. If I go in the house the next morning and he's passed out or worse, there was nothing I could have done about it anyway. Just saying, please do something for yourself.

Anonymous said...

.......his behaviour has gone into madness.

The alkie exhusband I was married to for 7 months went absolutely psycho at times. It was like he was possessed by some evil force and going off the edge. Totally unreal. And then he would enter into what I call his "Joe Spy" mode. He would tell me that he was a secret agent for the United States government or else he was a DEA agent and sometimes his story was that he was an assassin hired by various foreign governments. And he really believed his own stories. He would get drunk and then scream at me to get a passport to go abroad with him on his imaginary missions. His rampage would only stop when he got so drunk he passed out. And the next day he would be up and about like nothing happened. And tell me that I was crazy. He also had another personality I call the "Ninja" mode. True insanity. I have no contact with him ever. It helps me to think of him as a Special Education child with cognitive disabilities. It's easier that flat out hating the man with every fiber of my being. He's a goner forever.

Stay safe no matter what.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your kind words of support Ladies x Sunday morning, after the "drunken sissor hands" incident, he had forgotten what he'd done & the fact he tested all the pens to see if they worked. Sadly we are in a serious financial mess and there is no spare money for me for interests & the controlling side of him doesn't let me do much anyway. Text book type addict, jealous of my relationship with my family, work colleagues etc, basically threatened by normal life. I am detaching myself more and more, I have a great support network & finding this blog certainly came at a good time for me. Thanks again to Linda for this blog & I wish you all well xx

Zowie said...

To Anonymous above. Like I said before, I feel so for you.

Life is too short and too precious to have to live like you do. I know I don't know your exact circumstances, but please be careful, and do something for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Zowie, I'm working on it xx

Carrie said...

Hi! Well, I lived with alcoholic parents and evern took my mother to a counselor when I was 15 years old and tried to get help; we left with the counselor telling us 2 drinks a night is fine and I had a problem???