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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, March 25, 2014

Who will win?...

I’ve been trying to write a post for some time now. Each time I add one to the blog I vow to myself not to go so long between postings, but time gets away from me and I find I’m always playing “catch-up.” Things were always bad when Riley was drinking constantly, consistently and predictably. Now that his body is not-so-functional from all the years of abuse, I find my life to be even more complicated than ever.

One of the medical professionals has told me that Riley’s dementia level is rated at 50% and another tells me he is more than that. I’m not sure what all the percentages mean, but I do know that living with him sober yet not rational is tiring.

He looks like a normal guy. He talks like a normal guy for short conversations. He can remember yesterday’s world news. He can even offer pros and cons when trying to make decisions. BUT… and there’s a big BUT… He often forgets entire days and within a couple hours will lose track of things I told him at breakfast. He talks about TV characters as though they are real people and respects the characters viewpoint often using it to make his own point about some situation or idea.

He falls often and each fall is immediately followed with “I’m OK.” He is stubborn refusing to use the cane or walker any more often than absolutely necessary and instead uses the furniture to maintain an upright stance. It’s probably why he falls so often. We have both tile and hardwood floors which mean falling can lead to a broken hip or injury to his head. He’s always OK and then a couple hours later he complains that his side hurts or his leg or his arm. I should not say the word “complain” because according to Riley he NEVER complains -- like it’s a sign of weakness or a lack of control. Instead he says he just states the facts.

He also never gets angry. At least he says he doesn’t get angry because anger is a waste of time and he is stronger than anyone who ever gets angry. Instead of coming out and staying that I infuriate him, he will be passive aggressive and do things like throw something of mine away.

I believe he is extremely angry with me and the entire world. He is angry because he is no longer in control of Riley World. He doesn’t get alcohol because I will not buy it. He can’t go to bars and clubs because I will not allow him to drive the car. He has no intimate contact with a female because I won’t find him a girlfriend. His drinking has caused any female relationships he has had to run far away from him. He still has faithful friends even though he does not want to communicate with them. Most of them are people he met when he was active in the AA program. They are still concerned and caring. But they are not the friends he wants. He wants his old friends – Aristocrat and Budweiser.  He has no computer access. His days are spent watching reruns of programs like Castle, Bones, NCIS, etc. Those are his friends now.

I do not feel sorry for him. He was warned so many times that he was destroying his body.  He always seemed to think it would never happen to him. He always claimed that he would live to 100 and be shot by a jealous husband. And he was so very proud that he would die in that manner. Now his dreams of that jealous husband are long gone. He is reaping what he has sowed. It didn’t have to be this way, but his choices have led him to be forced to live with a woman he does not like; in a place he does not like; and in a manner he does not like.

And yet – there are people who remark that it’s such a shame that this has happened to him. I agree. It is a shame that he never cared enough about his life to truly have a desire to save it. I want to scream that this didn’t just “happen” to him. Riley decided to take the risk and play that roulette wheel. He played and he lost. Of course, he didn’t want to lose in this manner. He wanted to lose with more finality. He wanted to die from drinking. He did not want to be crippled from it.

 And, according to Riley, his being alive is clearly my fault. This is the one thing he openly states causes him to be angry. Any chaos or problems he causes are things that I deserve because I didn’t let him die. Well… I’d love to say that I won’t make that mistake again but I’m not sure I can stand by those words. Instead I’ll just say that I hope he goes quietly and peacefully so I won’t notice and thus not feel obligated to call for help.

A reader asked how I was doing. Hmmm… I don’t think about that too much anymore. Outwardly, I’m OK. Inside I’m angry, tired, frustrated, and just want all this to be over. I try to be a good caretaker, but keeping someone alive is not an easy thing when life is not what is wanted if it doesn’t include alcohol. I’m surviving every day sometimes just hour by hour. The only way to I can make sense of all this is to make sure I stay healthy and outlive Riley. It would be a shame for my end to come simply from the exhaustion of being his caretaker. I actually WANT my life and have many things planned for my Riley-free days.

I have considered letting Riley have small amounts of alcohol at specific times. It was even suggested by a therapist that I give it to him much the same as a medication. It might solve some of the anger issues and give him enough of a buzz to keep him more complacent. It is a thought, but I’m not going there just yet. I’m already his warden and not sure if I want to take on the role of bartender. It would be one more thing added to my “to do” list for each day. My list is full right now and I don’t see room for one more thing.

How I am doing seems to not be so relevant to Riley’s medical personnel. Most people are more concerned for him than they are for me. So I want to thank you for asking. I appreciate the concern and hope that your situation is a bit easier than mine at this time. I also hope that if you can find help and support in your journey through this alcoholism hell. If you have the opportunity, try to get hospice involved to relieve you from having to make the hard decisions. If you qualify, get in touch with the Veterans Administration, especially if there is a disability compensation connection. Protect yourself – always be aware and compliant to your own needs.

Above all else, remember that if you die before the alcoholic  – alcoholism wins.


JansSushiBar said...

I'm very fortunate that my alcoholic has become worried about the affect his drinking has his health, particularly mentally and sexually. These things are very important to him and he doesn't want to experience any loss of function in either area, although I'm unsure if he'll ever recover either fully - especially his short-term memory, which is just shot to hell. He's been much better about the alcohol lately and, consequently, much happier.

In a way it's sad, though; our marriage has come very close to ending because of his drinking, but that isn't why he's trying so hard to quit. I guess I should take what I can get, yes?

Please take care of yourself. I don't know if, in your situation, I could have hung on for so long. I'd probably have given him booze long before this point and hoped for the worst. I know how terrible that sounds...

ADDY said...

I shall begin by saying I DO understand what you are going through and feeling, because I was there four to eight years ago, although my alcoholic was never sober, like Riley is now, but otherwise my life was exactly like yours and I felt just like you. Like you, I could not wait for a time to come when I would be at peace without that crazy merry-go-round of alcoholism, detox and (brief)sobriety followed by more alcoholism.

When the day finally came and the inevitable happened, I was relived but angry/frustrated and ploughed my energies and vented my anger into decorating the entire house myself.

Four years on, I miss him. Yes, I miss him and I finally see that he had no control over it. It controlled him. He was depressed and I was too wrapped up in dealing with the alcoholism on a daily basis (throwing out pails of water from a sinking boat)to talk to him kindly and get him to see what he was doing.

Yes, I miss him and I feel sorry for him and I wish I could have some of that time back again to discuss the whole thing with him.

Now you are angry and frustrated, but once he is gone it will be too late to have those conversations. For me, the alcohol always did have the upper hand and still does, even though I was the one to survive.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there Linda - you are so strong and I admire that in you.

Niecey said...

What about YOUR quality of life? You are in your prime. You have places to go, people to see and more fun to have. This should be YOUR time. With all of that being said, I've known you long enough to know why you do what you do. (Take care of Riley) I know what I have said I would do if in that situation but NOBODY can honestly say what they would do if and until he/she were in your situation. The fact is, I would probably do the exact same thing you are and my reason would probably be exactly the same. (I love all three of my (now) adult children and would do anything to keep them from going through Hell.

I think I already know the answer to this question but have you ever asked Riley if he feels better now that he's sober? I'm betting that even if he DOES feel tons better, Hell would have to freeze over before he would admit it? That is actually one of the things that I am so grateful for on a daily basis! Its been quite some time since I was living in an alcoholic haze but I still vividly remember how horrible I felt...even when I was completely soused to the gills. My worst day sober is still TONS better than my best day drunk. That's cliche but true. I have my aches and pains from time to time but then I stop and think, "Man, I feel so much better right now than I did back in the day." Then I shudder and get chills. LOL Sometimes I really do not know how I could stand it and myself. Luckily I never got to the point of needing someone to take care of me...but I was getting close.

On a side note, it took me a good couple of years for my mental status to return to something resembling "normal." Which I later found out is completely normal. For the first year or so after sobering up, I would constantly forget things. So much so that I constantly carried around a little pocket notebook to write things down. My mood swings were so all over the place that I thought (and was told) that I was bipolar. Like I said, luckily things have improved. Although, I suspect that I still have some permanent damage. I have to accept that this is my new "normal." I'm not angry at anyone over this and if I were to be, it would be at myself. I'm the one who did it.

afterthefire1964 said...

Thank you, Linda, for expressing such thoughts and being blunt and open about your plans for "life after Riley" and not letting alcoholism win. I think that all of us who have gone through what you have with our alcoholic family members have felt the same way. Me - I always felt so guilty about such dark thoughts and it took some therapy to realize that I was not an evil person for thinking such things. It is a normal response.

Folks like you and me need to continue to admit what has been in our hearts and minds so that others who feel the same way realize that this is normal and not something to feel guilty or evil about.

My family and I have been blessed with freedom and release. The tragedy is over and my poor husband is at peace and we are as well. Like Addy, (and inspired by her - I read her blog voraciously!) I am busy cleaning house and life and redecorating both literally and figuratively. You have my prayers that you "beat alcoholism at its own game as well" .

Kathryn said...

Hi, Linda
I lost your email address, so I am replying here. I'm glad I happened by the blog today. I hope you don't take what I am saying badly, it's offered with love and concern.
I hope if you decide to give Riley small amounts of alcohol (and I make NO value judgment on that), you quickly move to give him as much as he wants. I think you know on some level that once you start giving him any at all it will be a constant fight until you offer open bar. If you let him escalate his use quickly, the end will come sooner. My reasoning is that if you're going to start the ball rolling, I'm not sure (and this is just me) that it matters how fast it goes.
Again, without condescending I want to suggest before you start giving him alcohol you think back to how bad the near to the end got, with the incontinence, the falls, the clueless health care system, etc. Not that I think you don't remember! But ask yourself if you are reasonably ready for that.
Once he starts getting real bad, have his labs done as often as the docs will do them so that you can get hospice in (and I know they were a big disappointment last time). That way, when the end does come, you can have them to call so you don't have to worry about whether to call 911 or not.
It's great to see you active and engaged.
I wish you the best,