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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, January 12, 2014

Riley is just fine...

I just checked my e-mail for the first time in months. I was really surprised to find so much mail in there. Since I’ve stepped back from doing so much “alcohol” related stuff, I haven’t been so diligent to check things like the e-mail. I just want to say that in the next week, I’ll be answering your mail and trying to answer some of your questions.

What seems to be asked a lot is “How is Riley doing?” Well, Riley is doing just fine physically. However, he isn’t doing so well mentally. The residual results of alcohol dementia are permanent and he will never be any better than he is right now. In fact, he is getting worse. The memory loss and the loss of logical, practical, common thinking create many other problems. Those problems may not seem to be problems for him, but I am the one left to find resolutions.

We continue our early morning talks over coffee, but I try to keep them as short as possible. If I don’t, I often forget that he is hampered in his thinking and then I try to talk to him as I would any other rational individual. I must always remember to be careful of the questions I ask and not to get upset with the statements he makes. It is difficult to remember that he looks like a regular guy, but he is really just the after effects of a lifetime of abusing his brain with alcohol. He is really just a 10 year old boy in the body of a 70 year old man.

According to Riley, I am the warden in the prison in which I have forced him to be incarcerated. I am to blame for every problem, inconvenience, issue, damage and anything else because I called the paramedics instead of letting him die. I have brought this on myself, in his opinion. I should not complain or try to get him to do anything because none of this is his fault. If I would have just let him die, I would not have to put up with him anymore.

He knows that his drinking is what caused the downward domino effect of his life. He knows the alcohol is what has damaged his brain. But, it doesn’t matter because if I had just ignored his cries for help… it would all be over.

An example of Riley’s off-kilter thinking is shown in our conversation from this morning. Last night I made a casserole from my Mom’s recipe box. I love it. When it’s baking, the aroma takes me back my childhood with memories of family dinners complete with laughter and rounds of talking. This casserole is one of my comfort foods.

I usually make a whole recipe and divide it into two casserole dishes. I bake one and freeze the other. Riley had a huge helping of casserole, baked potato and green salad. He finished and then asked for seconds of the casserole. No problem. I eat far less than Riley. I had about half the amount that he had. At the end of dinner there was less than ¾ cup of casserole left over. Before going to bed, I decided to have that one last little bit of comfort casserole.

This morning Riley complimented me on the casserole and asked if there was anything left. I told him I had finished it last night and that there was only a very small amount left. “Well! If I had known you were going to eat it, I would have eaten it last night with my dinner!” I asked him if he understood what he had just said and he responded in an indignant manner that of course he understood. He informed me that he would rather eat it even if he wasn’t hungry instead of me having the last bite.

It would do no good for me to explain that he was being selfish. I simply said that I was going to my office for a while. Inside I was seething angry. Why bother to ask him to explain himself further? I needed to not give him the opportunity to say anything more that would hurt me.

So when you ask how Riley is doing imagine this. He has excellent homemade dinners including homemade bread and desserts. He does only what he wants to do as far as cleaning is concerned. The majority of his day is spent watching TV and napping. He does not socialize. He is unable to drive so I do all the driving. I handle all the finances so he doesn’t have to worry about any of that. He ignores all house rules that he doesn’t like. For having spent most of his life soaked in alcoholic poison, I think he’s doing just fine.

I, on the other hand, am not doing so well. I’m exhausted and have caretaker burn-out. Frustration seems to be the highlight of my day. There is very little time for writing, sewing, cooking, shopping and even my laundry often has to wait for an opening on the calendar. Yes. I still do all those things, but I must always wait for an opportunity. And yet… I DO understand that the inconveniences are really my own fault for managing to keep him alive.

If I could afford it, I’d put him in an assisted living facility. But, unless I can personally live on about $400 per month – the facility is only a dream.

Tonight we are having beef fajitas. It’s not one of my favorites, but if there is just a little left over I think I might put it in a small container and hide it behind the fresh vegetables in the fridge. He’ll never find it there.


Bev said...

It's hard to ignore what is always there (alcoholic behavior : D ) but sometimes that's exactly what is needed just to stay sane. Even though I've stepped back (way, way back) from all things alcohol related, you and Riley.... and all my internet friends are often in my thoughts and prayers. Good to see another post here : D You just do what you have to do to keep going Linda : D

Syd said...

Wishing you some good days in 2014. Sad to say, but alcoholic selfish thinking occurs even in those who don't have severe brain damage. It seems to come with being alcoholic.

Syd said...

Wishing you some good days in 2014. Sad to say, but alcoholic selfish thinking occurs even in those who don't have severe brain damage. It seems to come with being an alcoholic.

sandyjames said...

Yes, the selfishness is mind boggling; I call it pathological. My husband is a "functioning" alcoholic and the depth and degree of his selfishness defies logic. I too had to stop thinking it was something I could get him to understand "from my point of view;" now, I am sorry to say, I just silently seethe inside.

Anonymous said...

I just don't talk to my husband unless it is necessary. We share the same house, different rooms. He is dry. The kids have a dry father. They adore him. I protect myself by not interacting with him except for the basic communication we need to deal with the children. He could leave if he really wants to, but he is too comfortable in our cozy house. His bills are paid. He is fed. And he loves our children. He can't function as a man because he destroyed his body, so I don't worry about another woman. If I were to leave him, or he were to leave me (not likely), we both know he would go right back to drinking and I would make sure he loses the children. He knows it. So here we are. Under the same roof. I hug my kids a lot and my cat.

Shauna E. said...

I don’t talk to my husband unless absolutely necessary. He is dry. My kids have a dry father. They adore him. I protect myself by discussing only what needs to be discussed. We live in the same house, different rooms. He destroyed his body so much he can’t function as a man anyway. He remains in our comfortable home. He is fed. His bills are paid. He loves the kids. If I were to leave him or he were to leave me (not likely), he would go straight back to drinking and I would make sure he lost the kids, and he knows it. So, here we are under the same roof. I hug my kids a lot and my cat.

ADDY said...

I don't know what's worse.... living with alcoholic dementia and having him with you, or him being dead. You are experiencing the former and I am living with the latter. I have so many questions and things I want to talk to him about and, almost four years on, it doesn't get any better. I would so like him with me right now, but can also understand the frustration you have living with a ten-year-old inside a 70-year old's body..

Christina Joiner said...

Thank you Linda for expressing the thoughts I have inside on a daily basis. Lately I have been feeling chastised and belittled for staying in this situation. I have my reasons for staying, and that you have and still find some sort of joy in your life, inspired me more than you will ever know.

Anonymous said...

What worked for me when I was married to the drunk and the aftermath of getting away was to not make an issue of ANYTHING.

I found that if I made an issue of something it helped them to violate the boundary even more. They violate boundaries as a way to interact with anyone. They are like psychopaths. There is no cure for something that is pathological. There is no communication that will change their behavior or thinking. And they really cannot read my mind. They only know if something bothers me if I react to it or if I tell them. Now I know what it means to never argue with an alcoholic!

I called it MENTAL NO CONTACT until I served him divorce papers and could physically remove myself from his presence. Story ends.

DNR- Do Not Respond. They are going to do and say what they are going to do and say anyway.

Sometimes it helps me to think of him as a dog with rabies. Or a dog with lice. NO CONTACT. No reason to feel any emotion about it.

Its a new day. Carry on.

Donnelle Hall said...

How did Riley manage to make his crappy life YOUR problem, Linda? Geez, they are clever. I really wonder when men stopped being men. I hope and pray that each and every one of us is freed from this slavery with bonds of "affection". Drop Riley off in a basket on the church steps, and be free, Linda! (I understand it is not that easy, but, crickey, you deserve a life too).
Lots of love to you

Gabriele Goldstone said...

My alcoholic is now dry (six months). He'd already had a brain injury from a car accident and the alcohol has continued to damage his left frontal lobe. I try to remind myself of this, but it's not easy. Reading this blog helps me cope. I have to stay detached for my sanity. It's been hard on the whole family-emotionally and financially. We've all become warped by this damaged man. Sadly, underneath all the brain damage, there is a good man. Peace to you. Peace to all of us, spouses of alcoholics. What a sad mess. If I could turn back the wheels of time...I would have left twenty years ago. To any young married person going through this...my advice is to leave. Leave!

Anonymous said...

As a daughter of an A, you should know all the work you do does protect your daughter. I don't have that but have a supportive family. There is a little place in paradise for you, I am sure.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you've come a long way and it's wonderful to see. So glad you have learned to walk away instead of engaging in the craziness. I sincerely hope that some day you'll be able to not get angry, because the anger hurts you, physically and emotionally. But it's so understandable!

Their logic is soooooo slippery. Of course you are the warden. Someone needs to maintain a safe environment with appropriate boundaries, and he's incapable. How that should translate to no expectations of him and no right to complain about your job is where it falls apart. But that's the thinking process of a narcissist.

It's so strange, when we look at them, they LOOK like us, and sometimes say a few words that make us think, "Maybe. . . " or make us start doubting our course. Fortunately, the illusion doesn't hold for long.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post.

"I DO understand that the inconveniences are really my own fault for managing to keep him alive."
"According to Riley, I am the........."

Dr. Phil says everything is about perception.

For me to regain my own "mental sobriety" when I lived with a blackout alkie who was drunk 24/7
I had to learn and practice not looking at myself through the lens of the drunk. I am not who he said I was. He's an alcoholic. Consider the source of the words. He's insane. Speaks complete nonsense. I refused to accept the false identity that he created telling me who I was. I had to learn to not personalize the pathology. No matter who was in my position would be the target of the behavior and words. I had to make a plan to get away, live like I was watching a movie unfold and I knew the ending...he dies. I live.

In my opinion any "inconveniences" experienced at this point in time exist because Riley has spent his life drinking, not because someone else managed to keep him alive. This horror movie started decades ago, and calling the medics was just one episode of the lifelong drama.

"He informed me that he would rather eat it even if he wasn't hungry instead of me having the last bite."

Who says stuff like that? I think a better word than selfish would be verbally abusive. Evil. Definitely a "What The ...." moment. Bizarre beyond belief.

There are no happy endings. Life is tough. I need to get a helmet. I found my limits. I am not an endless vessel of love and understanding. I despise all alcoholics. I hate them with every fiber of my being.

Marie frawley said...

I am so very sorry to hear that you are not doing well emotionally, but I certainly understand.

I used to be an active member of this community. My alcoholic father passed away November 14, 2013. I'm still in shock although I shouldn't be. I do feel some release/relief that his ( and ours) suffering is over not with his passing. Take care of yourself!

Anonymous said...

I have such anger issues anymore, how do I get passed this? I also have found out on a trip I took with the girls, that I also hate all alcoholics. I keep thinking each to there own, we are on vacation, but I have decided I need new friends, I can't stand drunk people anymore they are not funny like they think they are.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I am married to a functioning alcoholic. About 3 months ago he snuck a large quantity of beer and then had pizza. He went to bed and his hiatal hernia freaked causing his heart to short out. He fell unconcious, vomited and I found him and called the squad. He had aspirated pnemonia and then ARDS and was expected to die, but by some miracle he survived. I thought wow, this is his rock bottom! Two months in the hospital and he comes home. A month later, he can drive himself around. Now I find out he's sneaking smokeless tobacco and getting high. We all know what's next. I'm devastated. I nursed him back to health, he has a second chance for our family and he's walking down the path to hell again? I am still here because of my small children and finances. I appreciate hearing your stories. It's so sad but now I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't called the squad....and he had died. Pain for my kids but worse than our probable divorce? If I'm all that's keeping him from a drunk then what would he do on his own? Sorry to vent, just relieved to find a place where others understand. I had a month of the old him, tobacco and alcohol free. It was the best month Ive had in 10 years. Then he started driving....

CarrieAnn said...

Linda, thank you for doing this. thank you for opening up your life, with all the vulnerability and pain and the joys that you share with us.

It is a very difficult life. Addiction is a bastard. It's a horrible burden and drain on everyone sucked in.

Today, I was called in to the other room to find my children's father on the floor with a dumbbell bar over his windpipe. He is not end-stage, but he is very ill at 37 years of age from 20+ years of alcohol abuse. He was hospitalized for a month this past summer, in heart failure. Went back to alcohol about a week and a half after his release. I was shocked, after sitting with him in the hospital for 26 days. Not anymore, not sure I'm convinced he'll ever hit a bottom and stop.

You're voice, the voice of the caregiver and all the frustrations that come along with it, is needed. I didn't know where to turn. Traditional and familiar support, in the form of Al-Anon, is helpful to a point. Unfortunately, it's difficult to question and follow your own recovery path without judgment in some ways. Some Noners understand and others seem threatened when your path doesn't follow theirs.

I also needed a place to learn about health concerns and conditions related to the alcohol use. The path to hospitalization began with laryngitis, vomiting, nosebleeds, vomiting with blood, fatigue, difficulty breathing. I had no idea his heart was failing. He's overweight. It was the middle of summer. He had even been seeing a family practice doctor and an ENT specialist for months prior to the hospitalization. They didn't make the connection and start asking questions about his alcohol use until he coded and was admitted to ICU.

Praying for your peace, even if it has to come in fleeting moments here and there. Grab it when you can.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I stopped looking at “The Immortal Alcoholic” for about six months. It was reading my life and the nightmare again and again. I found in the beginning, I read every line, trying to glean as much information as possible, saying, “now I understand and I can do this, she is doing it”! Then it all changed…probably because of so many hospital visits..so many doctors saying to him…”if you drink again, you will die”. Well, he never dies…he will stop for a few days and then it starts all over again.
Then, I again looked at the site, not for information on “how to” but, on “how long”..just how long can this go on! I was in shock when I read…Riley is just fine! Oh my God, this is a never ending nightmare!
The best information I received from this site….DNR…Do Not Respond! I’m trying…of course I’ve spent the night listening to him throw up….but, oh, he makes sure he takes all of his meds so his heart will pump and he won’t have a seizure…and let’s not forget the meds for his stomach and bleeding esophagus and his pain meds for his numerous “It hurts so bad, I think I’m going to die” syndromes.
I’m tired..not sure who is going to come out of this alive…

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your candor. It is nice to know one is not alone in this ordeal.

Zowie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The alcoholic fog..it spreads like a wet soggy blanket over your life..It creeps into every part of your being, leaving you with no direction, you are exhausted from the weight and yet, on some days a little sunshine peeps through..and you feel light and warm, and almost full of hope..You know in your heart (you know the place where he once lived) this is not too be…the fog will soon strangle that ray of sun and that little place in your heart will again be shredded. Oh, but you want to feel that ray of sun…you yearn for it. You yearn for the good times, when you loved him more than anything, you laughed, you had dreams, and you rode over the bumps together. Now, the fog is here, you can’t see him because of the fog, his voice is not the same..Fog again…he is wandering around, tripping over all the rocks and soon becomes tangled up in all the seaweed…he heads toward the riptide, you try to pull him back (seems like he has strapped on lead boots) you try and try, but, you too are exhausted..you have seaweed wrapped around your feet….You say to yourself…”Should I just let go”?