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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, October 15, 2013

The aftermath...

I never thought anything could be worse that looking after Riley while he seemed to be drinking himself into oblivion. The constant cleaning up after him was tiring and never-ending. Trying to talk him into eating a meal or taking a shower seemed to be futile. But now I’m beginning to think those difficulties were just a minor inconvenience. With Riley no longer drinking it would seem that my problems have left the building. I was wrong in thinking that leaving the drunk building would be better than entering the sobriety building.

Sobriety is a good thing even if Riley doesn’t agree. It has been more than a year and he still prefers death to sobriety. The word by itself conjures up ideas of rational conversations and being able to go out and enjoy a social life with him. It makes me feel as though I don’t have to goad him into showering or washing his hands after visiting the bathroom. Oh!!! Blessed be sobriety!!

Today, I can tell you that this sobriety is no walk in the park. All of the long term, near fatal detoxes and rehabs and bouncing back to the bottle which led to strokes and heart attacks, have left Riley with progressive dementia. So you may be saying “Well, that’s better than drunk.” In some cases I guess it might be, but in Riley’s case, not so much.

A day as Riley’s caretaker means getting up at 5:30 a.m. and chatting with him over coffee. His conversations are often disjointed and follow no line of logic. He doesn’t seem to have opinions of his own anymore because most of what he says is just repeating of what he has heard on the news which he watches just before we have coffee. Sometimes he doesn’t know what day it really is and most of the time he has no recollection of anything more recent than 20 years prior. When he does remember, the memories may be of a certain place with certain people, but they may be the wrong people associated with the wrong place. He will insist that he absolutely knows what he is talking about and often times tries to drag me into an argument over facts and times.

In Riley World, everything must be done in a certain order and time. He is mentally bound to his routine and any change to the routine causes him distress. The fall-out from that is that I’m also bound to his routine. I’m not a routine kinda gal – I get things done in my own time and way. The contradiction is difficult for Riley and trying to stick to his routine makes me miserable. I live in a state of constant re-adjustment and accommodation to the now sober Riley.

I recently had a doctor tell me that Riley is like a 12-year-old boy in a man’s body. I’m no longer a counterpart in his life, but instead I’m the mother of a disobedient pre-teen boy who believes he can still do all the things he did as an adult. He sees nothing wrong with eating a whole box of Oreos in one day and talking about the body parts of female newscasters. Still he will not shower and manages to get his hands covered in his own excrement.  I find hand prints on the bathroom walls and wiped onto hand towels. If I specifically remind him to wash his hands, he will do it but only with grumbling about how mean I am.
I’ve had so many people tell me how wonderful it is that Riley is not drinking. Their praise is genuine, but their understanding of the why and how is way off. I just smile and nod as though I know a secret that I’m sure they would not comprehend. No point in trying to make a point.  The truth is that the drunken Riley is very much the same as the sober Riley. He just isn’t drunk.

Riley does not express his anger. He is passive-aggressive and still is able to act on that whenever he sees fit. And – he sees fit a lot. Although, now it feels that he doesn’t even know he is doing it. He is not calculating and doesn’t make a plan to get back at me. Now, it just seems to come with the territory of living with a dementia patient. My anger is far more vocal and immediate, but I’ve learned that I must keep that anger in check because nothing I say will be remembered the next day. I can explain to him why, where, how, etc., but the same explanation will be required the very next day or hour.

I think what makes me the angriest is that if Riley had stopped drinking way back when – this would not be an issue now. Everything that is wrong with his health has been a direct result of alcoholism. I always dreamed that one day he would get a firm hold on sobriety and we could go back to being happily separated. That will never happen now. Riley has become a pre-teen boy who is fighting battles that would be normal if I were his mother rather than his wife. Who am I kidding – none of this is normal by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes I wonder if he isn’t really Benjamin Button.

The anger I feel towards myself is something I work to control every day. I’ve been asked “When will it be over?” by readers who are dealing with a seemingly immortal alcoholic. What I want to say to them is probably not acceptable to society and would come across as me being a selfish, cold bitch. I would tell them that it will go on as long as the non-alcoholic makes that 911 call just in the nick of time; rations the alcohol; makes sure the alcoholic gets food; and, generally takes care of things. Those things keep the alcoholic alive and if your alcoholic is truly end-stage, it is the only thing keeping them alive.

Personally, I’m angry with myself for doing what I feel was the “right” thing. I believe most people would have done exactly what I have done. I could not find it in myself to let Riley die in the bedroom across the hall from me while he cried out for me to please get him help.  I believe there is an inherent part of us as human beings that makes us uncomfortable to just allow another person to die and not get assistance.

That’s why hospice is so valuable – the hospice workers relieve us of the responsibility. If Riley had his heart attack just a few hours sooner – the decision to call 911 would have been out of my hands because I would have called hospice instead. Riley would probably not be alive today. At 4 p.m. his hospice services were terminated because of a half-point reading on his lab results. At 9 p.m. he had a heart attack that lead to where we are now.

My decision to retire from all things “alcoholism” was a good decision. I find that most of my time is now spent in dealing with the aftermath of alcoholism. I’ve turned the OARS support groups over to very capable managers who are doing an awesome job. I’m thankful for them. The group is growing and providing much help and strength to many who have a loved one in the middle of alcohol insanity. You may join the group by using the invitation link provided here:

I’m still here – lurking – reading your comments and being proud that you are all supporting each other through my blog. However, I am concerned about those who have posted links to that are not relative to the real subject matter. I will go back to moderating the comments and try to weed out the ones who seem to abuse the commenting privilege.


I have another post on the burner – something a little more of a humorous nature. Watch for it. I think you will enjoy it.

12 comments:

Gerry said...

I am glad to catch up with what is going on with Riley now and am not surprised that his brain shows his history of heavy alcohol abuse even though he is now sober. I am in a place where I have to adjust myself every day to on going alcoholic dementia with the alcoholic still drinking, but I still believe that when we find ourselves in such a spot, we may very often need to go on being somewhat of a caretaker. Doc has never been my lover or my husband. We have never been sexually involved since he had had erectile dysfunction for several years probably due to his alcoholism. But he had still retained some of the remarkable intelligence and personality that undoubtedly distinguished him when he was young. It was and still is still in evidence testifying to his sipping his way to deepening dementia rather than gulping his way to it earlier. I know this period of time is going to seem like an eternity not only to me but to you, but I am 82 and have lived long enough to know that all difficult trials end in time, we just have to conduct ourselves according to our convictions as to how we should treat these badly addicted human beings. Doc knows the clock is ticking probably even faster for him than for me despite the fact he is nearly 8 years younger. You can see by my birthday present video to him my patience has grown shorter, I am barking more, but I am still on the job as you are. Because you can't see another honorable way out. Gerry

Van Goggins said...

I'm a first time visitor to your blog. As I read your words, I cried. My childhood was veiled in silence and shame from the alcoholism that surrounded me. I vowed I would never make the same mistakes my mother made. They say never say never! I, too married an alcoholic but decided to protect myself and my children by leaving before alcoholism scarred us too badly. Each day was a virtual hell that I knew wouldn't get any better. Each day I begged and pleaded, but my requests fell on deaf ears. Then one day I woke up being scared. I realized I had become my mother. I realized that I was the only one who could change my life, so I did. Yes, I do have pangs of guilt but for the most part I know I did the right thing. My ex is referred to as "the sperm donor" by his children. It's a title he earned all on his own. All my pushing and being the one who I thought was holding everything together, wasn't really so. All I was doing by hanging on was hurting the people who meant most to me.

Anonymous said...

This blog felt like coming home. I'd read here a couple of years earlier and came back on whim. I can so relate with this post. My alcoholic is what they call a functional alcoholic, which may not mean excrement on hands, but has a load of its own challenges. The passive aggression, bouts of temper, unreliable memory, need for conversation that basically wants to bait an argument.... and that feeling of wondering whether there is any relief if he doesn't drink (which also means doesn't pass out)... on days he doesn't drink.

He was really bad till last year, now drinks "controlled" and still refuses to see that there is a problem at all.

This post as as good as an Al Anon meeting for me.

Vidyut said...

This blog felt like coming home. I'd read here a couple of years earlier and came back on whim. I can so relate with this post. My alcoholic is what they call a functional alcoholic, which may not mean excrement on hands, but has a load of its own challenges. The passive aggression, bouts of temper, unreliable memory, need for conversation that basically wants to bait an argument.... and that feeling of wondering whether there is any relief if he doesn't drink (which also means doesn't pass out)... on days he doesn't drink.

He was really bad till last year, now drinks "controlled" and still refuses to see that there is a problem at all.

This post as as good as an Al Anon meeting for me. That sense of feeling I'm not the only one going through this shit.

Anonymous said...

This blog has come at just the right time. I am DESPERATELY trying to get a friend to see the realities of her situation (everyone else has seen it coming for years). She is losing her children and grand children trying to 'keep the family together' and CAN'T SEE IT.Thanks for the help

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this blog. I found so many of my questions answered that I could not find answers to before. This is so very helpful while I am living with an alcoholic husband.

Misssunshinedolly said...

This post sends waves of fear over me. I have recently had a baby with a man who is an alcoholic. Our baby is 8 months old and after several failed attempts to stop drinking I asked my partner to leave 3 months ago..thinking it would give him the motivation to stop drinking-it didn't. I've been a single mum for 3 months whilst he carries on drinking lying stealing. Every couple of weeks he says it's going to be different and he's going to get better but the same old pattern of drinking keeps happening.

Radka said...

Hi, my son is an alkoholic. He started drinking when he was about 18. Now he lives in an other city and I don't have any contact with him. I was single parent and it was difficult for me to connect work and taking care of him all the time. Still I'm sad and I blame myself for everything... thanks for this blog it some kind of therapy for me...

Anonymous said...

i am looking at this post after randomly google searching for help with alcoholism.. im 28 and if I'm not an alcoholic then i definatly have a serious drink problem, although i suspect i am alcoholic. is there any hope for me? i have a baby due in may and i have been trying and trying to work things out with the mother (i split up with her over my drinking a month before we found out she was pregnant) although every time she knocks me back i make things worse by going out drinking again. am i going to be stuck in this situation forever? will my kid think his dad is a useless drunk? a a says if i dont go to meetings i will end up dead but i really hate the meetings i think the people who go there are tossers mostly anyway sorry to go on but if you could direct me smewhere that might help id appreciate it. just to clarify there i have been sober for 2 months although i drank one night but i was out of town, nothing bad happened and no one knows, not even my a a group.

Anonymous said...

Well I discovered your site just this afternoon after Googling "what do you say to someone who almost died from alcoholism". I thought I had consumed everything the Internet had to offer on different aspects of the severely alcoholic, but your hard won wisdom just flattens me. My sister unknowingly married a severe alcoholic just over a year ago. They spent their honeymoon in an ICU with him in an induced coma. His chances were 50/50, multiple organ failure and other complications, that was two months ago, and now he is getting ready to go to a sub-acute care facility where he can get dialysis. Not alcohol rehab yet, first this physical sub acute rehab. I haven't visited yet, but am trying to prepare for visiting him after transfer. I am so sad for my sister. She really loves him, and yet, she didn't think she was signing on for this kind of life. I can't see her doing anything but going through the cycles with him, and the whole idea that he might be one of the "immortals" sends chills up my spine. I will love both of them no matter what but I don't have a real sense of optimism for their future. Well, it is an illness. When he was in a coma I did't know whether to pray for his recovery or a peaceful end (I was angry at him for deceiving my sister) I didn't want to create a stain on my own soul wishing ill on anyone so my only prayer was "Thy Will Be Done." Well, best wishes to all of you. None of this can be easy and I hope that everyone is able to find some joy in every day.

Anonymous said...

I should say, my sister and her guy had a happy honeymoon-- she spent her first anniversary at the ICU. Things went downhill at the 6 month point with unexplained medical symptoms, postponement of goals (house, baby), discovery of stashed bottles and eventual hospitalization. Well, the devil is in the details.

Anonymous said...

I came across this last night and am back to it tonight. Very profound and sad. I am a sober alcoholic dating a active alcoholic who had five years of aa sobriety when we first started dating. Never, ever did I think I would be in such a situation. Pray I find the solution. Luckily we are not married or bound but I do have love for him.