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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.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Best left in friendship...

Recently I re-connected with an old friend. He was someone that I briefly was romantically involved with and then quickly realized that we were much better friends than lovers. We met about 20 years ago through a mutual friend. There have been long breaks between “getting together” and every time we talk it is as though no time has passed at all.

The last time we talked was right after my son died so it’s been quite a while. He had no idea the direction I took after consoling me after Brian’s memorial service. This friend never knew very much about my life before I met him. He knew that I was separated from my husband because of his alcoholism, but assumed there would be no divorce because I didn’t want to lose my military benefits.
When I told him that I had taken my husband back in, he was a bit surprised. He was not surprised when I told him why I had done it. It seemed like what he would have expected from me. There was no “OMG!” or “What were you thinking?” There was just acceptance and understanding. That felt good.
I was happy to hear that he had a woman in his life and was secure in that relationship. Believe me, he would be considered to be a “fine catch” in almost anyone’s opinion. When my mother was alive, she would always ask me “So what’s happening between you two? You know he’s the best one for you.” I would explain that sometimes things are just best left in friendship rather than push for something that could destroy everything. Mom didn’t buy my theory. If there had been another daughter in the family, I’m sure she would have been pushing her as well.
At this point in my life, the last thing I would ever consider is a relationship with anyone. I have my family, dog, and cat and to add a man would be simply insane. The fact that I have a husband is only a minor issue. Riley and I have not been a truly married couple for so many years, that sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like to be happy to be around him. I have to re-read chapters in my book to help me remember why I fell in love with him in the first place.
Each time I read those chapters, I re-live the meeting and early days of our courtship. Sometimes I think, “How na├»ve can a girl be?” and get irritated that I fell for all the hearts and flowers. But, there was such sweetness in Riley, a gentleness that most the men in my life (father, brothers, uncles, cousins) never displayed except on rare occasions. Besides, the fact that my adult relationship experience was non-existent, gave me no reference from which to draw. I was like a lamb to the slaughter lead by a pied piper.
I’ve taken an excerpt from my book which talks about meeting Riley.
The weather was perfect for an evening walk. It was cool but not cold and the stars lit up the sky with a silvery glow. Our apartment was only a block from the lake which had a walking path completely around it. Walking around the lake was a popular activity in this city.
We took a couple of detours which allowed us to walk by stores that had closed for the evening. The windows were lit and displayed their products vividly. We discussed the fashion and I was full of myself as I explained the history of the style of clothing. I was in my element.
At the very far end of the lake there is a pergola that juts right into the lake. Standing there you feel surrounded by the water and trees. It is truly a beautiful place. That evening the moon shone across the smooth water like a mirror. The stars got brighter as each hour took us deeper into the night.
That’s where it happened. Riley kissed me. It was a sweet gentle kiss, but it was filled with passion. I forgot about the divorce, kids, age difference, I forgot all those red flags and enjoyed every second of that kiss.
We walked home, holding hands and talking about things that didn’t really matter. I was surprised when he asked me to have dinner with him on Saturday evening. I wanted to say NO! Every fiber of my being screamed out STOP! He’s too old!! He’s divorced with kids!! But, it seemed I was outside myself listening as I heard the words flowing from my mouth… “I would love to have dinner with you.” So much for being cautious.
It’s too bad that I didn’t listen to that little voice that said NO. In the long run, it would have saved me from heartbreak and disappointment. On the other hand, I would have missed a lot. I would not be where I am today. I would not have had the experiences (good and bad) that I’ve had over the years. As disappointed as I may be, I do not regret any part of my life with Riley.
Whenever I re-read those chapters, it’s as though I’m re-connecting with Riley. If just for a few minutes, I can connect with that sweet-starry-eyed time and that makes me smile.  

10 comments:

Syd said...

I am glad that you remember how Riley was when you first net. It's good to remember the things that caused each of us to fall in love.

Anonymous said...

My wife passed away 6 weeks ago following a long decline from COPD and alcoholism. Since the memorial service, I've been recalling our courtship, marriage and relationship over the past 40 years. Our marriage created many good memories, which I treasure. The alcoholism was something that I wasn't prepared for, however. What clues did I miss early on that she was headed down that path of self destruction? Now that she is gone, I have resolved that it is not for me to judge what was right for her. Maybe under the same circumstances of incurable declining health, I'd self medicate with alcohol,too. I'd like to think that I would deal with a similar problem in a different way. But she did what she did, and now it's over. I'm not going to be judgmental. I'll take what remains and move forward.

Zowie said...

Lately, I have been thinking of past boyfriends and lovers and wondering how my life would have been if I had chosen a different mate. I don't want to forget the funloving, carefree girl and woman I used to be. Those thoughts are what keeps me going sometimes. Living with an alcoholic is like living with no companion at all.

Mike said...

Are you taking care of Riley only because you would lose his Military Pension and Social Security Benefits, if he was admitted to a Nursing Home? I wonder, as you never divorced him for fear of losing his "Military Benefits". You want us to feel sorry for you for having to take care of Riley but are you not really being paid to take care of him. You also don't seem to have suffered for love with him still around. Just wondering? I'm a recovering Alcoholic who is getting stronger everyday. My inspiration is my wife's belief in me. She makes me stronger, so I can be a better man for her.

Anonymous said...

I think my relationship with vodka accelerated when I separated from a past love. It was a tough break when she moved to the Caribbean to be with her family. Vodka comforted but then started getting out of control. Switched to beer since I didnt want to give up drinking. Still learning how to cope in life and communicate better through self inflection and education. Could not do the AA thing because I wasnt getting what I needed although I think its a good program for many. Depression sometimes hits me. Keeping my heart open to meet another sweetheart. It certainly isnt in the vodka and I am so glad to have given up the hard stuff.

Zowie said...

This reply is to Anonymous above whose lover moved to the Caribbean.
Are you kidding me? No, I think you are kidding yourself. Alcohol is alcohol. It doesn't matter what form or what strength - vodka or beer. And -- alcohol is also a depressant. So, if you are prone to depression, the more you drink, the more you will get depressed. But you probably already know that and are denying it, just like all alcoholics do. I feel sorry for your next sweetheart if she has to deal with your drinking. Get some help, please.

Linda (The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife) said...

Mike –
I'm happy you are in recovery and that your wife is supporting you. I hope you realize that you are a very lucky man and do NOT take her for granted. I hope you never relapse and your wife never has to experience the disappointment and sadness of watching you go downhill again and again and again. I’m sure you gain strength from her belief in you, but the real strength must come from within yourself. Be inspired in how far you have come because the only one who can keep you sober and strong is you.

As far as Riley and I are concerned -- NO! I do not take care of him for some kind of payment. Anyone who truly believes there is enough money in the world to pay a non-alcoholic spouse to take care of an end-stage alcoholic has never actually been witness to what end-stage really looks like. There are several posts in my blog that detail my reasons for taking Riley back in at end-stage. Riley is not rich. There is no monetary gain. Even if we divorced, I’d still have my military spouse benefits.

AFTER Riley and I SEPARATED, I had an active dating life. At least, unlike Riley, I waited until we were separated before dating. It was a courtesy he never gave me in our marriage. I didn’t give many details about my marriage to people I was meeting during that time. My friends simply assumed I was not getting a divorce due to the military benefits. It was their assumption without my confirmation. When Riley came back into my home, I gave up all hope of a personal romantic life because I knew I would not have time to focus on any other person.

I don't need for anyone to feel sorry for me and I have never in the whole time I've been writing this blog, have I ever asked for pity or feelings of sorrow. In fact, my life is NOT sad, but very full and rewarding. I have a unique opportunity to help bring some light to a very dark place.

What I write is about sharing how I feel and information I've gained. It's about helping others feel that they are not alone as they do the best they can in an awful situation.

jo said...

changing from vodka to beer ? seriously? its all alcohol. hello.

nice post, linda.

i pity whoever gets the beer drinker, tho. denial always amazes me.

jo said...

changing from vodka to beer ? seriously? its all alcohol. hello.

nice post, linda.

i pity whoever gets the beer drinker, tho. denial always amazes me.

Anonymous said...

Linda, I admire you greatly and I need to state that first but you are maybe too forthright. I don't know anybody who does not consider the financial implications of what they do but they would be circumspect about just coming straight out with it.

You did not divorce your husband because you would lose military benefits. Your honesty is laudable but it backfires because it makes you appear scheming and heartless. Which you are not.

All we need to know is how well you look after a man who does not deserve you. Don't open yourself up to judgement by owning something that most of us would explain away.