Tuesday, October 15, 2013
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.
at 10:07 AM