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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, March 30, 2013

Shark bites...

Imagine this… you’re on a beautiful, white, sandy beach at the edge of a pristine blue water sea. You really want to go for a swim. Just as you reach the edge of the water you notice a sign saying that the water is “shark infested”. What would you do? You don’t see any visible signs of sharks. There’s no “Sharks” music playing in the background. The water is so inviting and calm and you just want to take a little dip.

This was the scenario I presented to Riley this morning while he was bragging that he had improved in his physical condition and was almost whole again. So I risked the question about going back to drinking. I said, “Do you understand that the reason you have improved so much is mostly because you are not drinking?” His answer was, “Yes.”
I was feeling way too confident or I would not have asked the next question. “Do you think you have learned that you cannot drink and stay healthy?”

“Well, you were wrong. Booze did not kill me and I believe it won’t ever kill me.” He was so matter-of-fact with that little smirky “I’ve proven that you were wrong” smile across his lips. “You don’t seem to understand that I’m addicted to alcohol and because of that you can never expect me to stop drinking.”
My response was that addicted people break the addiction every day and that I didn’t feel that it was impossible for him to stop drinking. After all, it has been almost a year since he had a drink. Why start back now and cause his health to go downhill?

He says he will go back to drinking because he’s an alcoholic. Personally, after everything that has happened over the past six years, it just seems ludicrous to go back to drinking when there is no longer any of the poison in his system.
At that time, I proposed the beach scenario to him. Would he go into the water?

He replied, he’d already been in the water and was still alive. The signs posted were probably more than a year old which meant they were no longer relevant.
Yes, he is still alive, but he has caused his body great stress and there are permanent life-long repercussions to his swim in shark-infested waters. The shark may not have eaten his entire body, he maybe have lost a toe on the first venture out into the water. Well, he lived through that, so let’s go just a bit further out there – and he loses his leg. He heals that then goes back in because, after all, he’s not dead yet. Back into the water and he loses everything up to his waist. And yet – he goes back into the water again and this time he becomes the shark’s dinner.

Riley sees that analogy and believes it just doesn’t apply to him. The sign must be lying, there are no sharks and even if there are sharks, they won’t get him. He was born and raised in Iowa, but I think it should have been Missouri because he has to see and experience those shark bites to believe it will happen. Even then – he really doesn’t think it will kill him.
A few people have asked me how Riley is doing. Why don’t I write so much about him anymore? There isn’t much to write. Riley can maneuverer around the house with the aid of a cane and furniture to give him balance. He can wash the dishes. He can do his own laundry. He can even cook soup in the microwave. He can find his favorite channels on his TV.

In Riley’s mind, that’s really all he needs. He seems to either accept the fact, or is oblivious it, that he can no longer drive, cannot fix a complete dinner, shower without assistance, figure out how to program his TV remote or record a program; play a game of bridge; or do grocery shopping. These used to be things he loved to do. But, he doesn’t seem to connect the dots that the alcohol has robbed him of those abilities.
He proudly announces that as soon as he has the chance he will be drinking again. So why don’t we just have a bottle of wine with dinner? Why don’t we have a cocktail while he watches me cook? Besides, I can keep him from getting drunk if he’s right there with me --- right?

WRONG. He wouldn’t share that bottle of wine with me. I’d have to have one of my own of which I would only drink maybe two glasses and he would finish my bottle too. It isn’t a cocktail while cooking – it would be a bottle which he would be the only one drinking. It would gradually increase to more than one bottle and, WHAM-O!  We are back in the hospital and he’s clinging to his last breath of life wondering where he is and how he got there.
I can’t control everything. Hell… I sometimes can’t even control my own diabetes. But, I will not subject myself to his insanity any sooner than absolutely necessary. I know the day is coming. I know he will find a way. Maybe it will start with my vanilla extract or mouthwash or the cough syrup. Maybe he’ll take a hit of my favorite perfume.

Riley is a smart guy, in spite of his stupidity, he knows that when I catch him drinking things not intended for consumption, I’ll probably give up and go get him a bottle. I truly hope it doesn’t come to that. And, it may not even be me who ends up buying it for him. He can be a very convincing man when he wants to be.
Right now, my waters are shark-free. But if I should see a sign posted, I will not question how long it has been there or if it is true. I’ll just lay on the beach and soak up the sunshine. That is, while I still have sunny days.

15 comments:

Beth said...

I love your blog. I think you offer enablers great insight into how our enabling minds work and how we end up as we do. Please read my comments knowing how much I respect your work. I must disagree with your blog. Your waters are not shark free at the moment. As long as you are asking Riley "why" and pretending that all he can use reason to stop drinking, you are in as much denial as he is. We enablers are not so different from our addicts/alcoholics. Just like Riley chooses to drink; you choose to continue to try to change his behavior--to reason with him. And round and round you both go, swimming in shark infested waters.

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

Beth -- I'm not so much asking him "Why?", but rather asking him if he has changed his mind. I ask Riley questions so that I might gain insight as to where he stands at that very moment. I don't try to change his behavior because that's not my responsibility.

However, I am both morally and legaly responsible for his care since he has so destroyed his body he can no longer function independently. That's where my responsibilty ends.

As a caregiver I must continue to try to communicate with him. Sometimes I think some people would like me to lock him in his room and slip his food plate under his door. How humane would that be?

I firmly believe that everyone has the ability to change. Most people do not take advantage of that opportunity. If I don't ask, how will I know if he has reached that point?

Anonymous said...

"But, I will not subject myself to his insanity any sooner than absolutely necessary. I know the day is coming.

I’ll probably give up and go get him a bottle. I truly hope it doesn’t come to that.

Right now, my waters are shark-free. "

Looks like someone has been treading water, truly believing the waters are shark free, getting no where, the shark needs to feed and has gone back to previous hunting grounds where in the past he found fresh meat, the blood is still flowing there from previous prey, the shark smells the blood and is circling, going in for the final kill. Who dies first? The shark or the prey?

I did not know sharks could communicate. I always thought they just swim around and kill things to eat.
Maybe it is just a piranha.







Anonymous said...

When I finally realized that the alcoholic spaceman was not a human and could not communicate with me I made a decision to give up my seat and exit the flying saucer club. There is something seriously wrong with you lady. Carry on.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous,

You don't know what you are talking about. Your comment is very strange and you have no idea who Linda is and what she contributes to the world. You are the one with something seriously wrong. Have you been drinking?

To Linda,

What a profound and very insightful post. You are a remarkable woman, a wonderful writer and a brave and caring human being. The only place you will be carried on to is heaven.

Carrie said...

NOOOOO! You should NEVER buy him alcohol, that would make you an enabler and that's what we don't want to be. It is our part in this life to do what's right. :)

Carrie said...

Also, on the part that humans can change....apart from God's saving power through Jesus, we are all stuck in our sins and bondages. Read the Bible to find out more about Jesus' saving power, giving us power to choose not to be in bandage. Read Ephesians. Praise the Lord, He is Risen, so we can be forgiven and raised from the human level of living, but with the loving awareness of our Father in Heaven and the living power of His Holy Spirit to reginerate the heart. :)

Anonymous said...

I am sad for you when I read that you are expecting that Riley will drink something not meant for drinking and in response you think you will probably go and get him a bottle. You have other choices, you can dispose of or lock up the non-drinkable alcohols. Yes, it’s annoying not having vanilla or perfume or mouthwash or cough syrup, but they make NA versions of all of those except perfume. You don’t have to get back on that crazy train, and I hope you don’t, but you seem to be heading that way by choice while pretending it's out of your hands.

It also makes me sad when I read about you trying to have any kind of logical or philosophical discussion with him. Even if he could participate intellectually, you’d be talking with the alcoholism. He proves that to you every time you talk. I guess maybe there is some value in proving to yourself once more that his condescending, crazy denial is still in place, but at what cost to your own self esteem?

Your statement that you need to keep having these discussions with him else how else will you know where he stands at any given moment doesn’t make sense. Sure, it would be inhumane not to communicate with him, but there are lots of choices of things to talk about other than whether he thinks it would be a good idea to start drinking again. It's a long way from declinging to have crazy conversations to pushing food under the door.

While it’s true that many people have made a decision to stop drinking and have done so, I dare say all of them wanted to while Riley most emphatically does not. I get that you are his caretaker, but what difference does it make if he has changed his mind and WANTS to not drink, as opposed to functionally not drinking? What would you do differently?

Sometimes I wonder if you aren’t addicted to the illusion of having control just as he is addicted to alcohol.

ADDY said...

Get him to read my blog particularly the bit around the time of Feb/ March 2010 and see what he has in store should he wish to return to drink again. If that doesn't frighten him, nothing will. Unfortunately alcoholics think it's never going to happen to them..... until it is too late.

Syd said...

Linda, I really hope that Riley won't be given alcohol. Because you are his caregiver, I am hoping that you will rid the house of liquids containing alcohol and won't get him a bottle. He seems to be doing well without drinking and returning to a terrible state that you described on here previously.

Anonymous said...


Cognitive Dissonance Theory defined the dissonance state as the mental turmoil produced when someone holds two beliefs that are incompatible. When people who voluntarily undergo an unpleasant experience and are in a state of dissonance the phenomenon manifests as the giving of
self-justifying rationalizations for the belief to reduce the dissonance by minimizing in their minds any negative aspect of the experience and maximizing its benefits..... or the discarding of the belief and the nonacceptance of the rationalization.

Interesting.... "voluntarily undergo an unpleasant experience"

Carry on.

Anonymous said...

"After all, it has been almost a year since he had a drink."

Environmental control.....

Riley has not had access to booze because of environmental controls in a facility and in your home. He may not have access to booze but he has not "stopped drinking". Someone has blocked his access to alcohol, thats all.

"I am both morally and legaly responsible for his care."

Buying booze for a vulnerable mentally disturbed and disabled elderly alcoholic who can't function independently.... and then drinking with him. Looks like "drinking partners" to me rather than performing the responsibilities of legal and moral caregiver.

Or maybe just a barmaid. Bottoms up.

Inez said...

At this point, it seems strange to talk of alcohol killing Riley. He'll die sometime in the next two decades, whether from drinking or a heart attack or cancer. Why not let him die happy? Of course, if you're trying to protect yourself and your family from the insanity, it makes perfect sense to try to keep him sober.

Julia Watwood said...

I dont think it's necessary to bash our caregivers but instead support them. It takes courage to unload our life unto others in hopes to help others.

Karen E. said...

Great post! Riley will drink again..no doubt. You can will it not to happen but how many years has he done it. Its all they want. Too many years drinking can not be erased by one year of sobriety. If the opportunity presents itself..he will find a way. My Mom the A is the same way..its been a year in an assisted living facility after another (5-6 ) hospital stays that she was not expected to live thru. She wants to come home now..I ask her what will you do at home? She has no answer..she has no hobbys, no friends, hates her neighbors (because they Know!)..she wants to drink!! Bottom line she wants to drink..she has dementia from the alcohol abuse and numerous falls on her head.. So she pays an ungodly amount of money to stay at 72 yrs old in a home that keeps her away from alcohol..so far anyway. If her mind was better she would find a way to get it..and then she would be kicked out of the home and my world of chaos would begin again, I LOVE your blog..it reminds me why I keep my mom in a home, reminds me of the roller coaster caring for her was and your blog keeps me string and tells me I am doing the best I can for her!!! THANK YOU LINDA.