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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.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Trials and tribulations...

Those of you who have read my book, “The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife”, know that Riley is facing some legal issues. Because there is a pending trial, I cannot go into details. However, I can tell you a few things that I've learned in this process.

When someone is arrested for a crime the person is usually tried and sentenced. But what happens when the person arrested doesn't really understand what he did was wrong or not even remembers what he did that has caused him to be arrested?

The process of determining that someone is not competent to stand trial is a long arduous task. Medical records must be gathered. Psychiatric exams must be completed. Many court appearances must be made and information must be gathered from witnesses of the incompetency. All the while the attorney fees and costs keep mounting up.

For Riley, just the task of appearing in court was difficult. When we first started going to court – almost two years ago – he was able to walk with a cane. Now he must use the walker and even with the support, he falls often. He has fallen both going into and out of the courthouse.

In the morning before leaving for court, he must not drink any coffee or eat any breakfast. Once inside the court room and the court becomes in session, no one is allowed to leave until the judge says it’s OK. Riley cannot hold his bladder or bowels and he cannot wait for the judge to deem it is OK to use the restroom. If he doesn't eat or drink, he can usually wait until there is a break in session. That’s a long time for him to go without food, coffee, or water. He does wear disposable underwear, but if he should have an “event” the underwear is not enough to contain the situation let alone the odor. The fear of this happening is just as uncomfortable as the lack of food.

When Riley was arrested, he was released into my custody and the bond was waived. There were certain criteria that I had to agree to abide and I did agree in order to keep him from being behind bars. I am not just his caretaker but the one who is completely legally responsible for him getting to court and that changes my to warden/caretaker.

The reality is that he is in a prison of his own making even without going to trial. He does not leave the house without my assistance. He doesn't even go into the yard. His days are spent watching TV and not much else. He lives in his room and emerges for coffee in the morning and dinner in the evening. He is incapable of doing much else. Simple trips into the real world (for haircuts, etc.) must be planned a day in advance. His world is his own creation from years of damaging his body with alcohol. He is just not physically or mentally capable of managing his own life.

For me there is very little support. The kids have demanding jobs and with the economy such as it is – they would be hard pressed financially to take any time off work. The VA told me there would be respite for me, but as it turns out I must show that I can afford to pay for the nursing home if something happens and he cannot return home. If I could afford that – I’d have already placed him in a home. I get nowhere by talking to social services or Area Agency for the Aging. I’ve resigned myself to just making do the way things are.

At this point, I can still leave him alone overnight so there is some relief. But, I would not leave him alone any longer than that. I fear he will attempt to cook rather than eat the food I’ve left already prepared for him.
The situation as far as court proceeding as concerned is complicated, confusing, and leaves one scratching their head for answers. Even though independent evaluations have been done, the court often wants a determination of competency made by their own doctors. The state evaluation is far more intensive than the independent ones, so I understand why the DA would want this information. Actually it is a good evaluation because it will cover days rather than hours of observation. This information is good to have, if the court releases it to the caretaker.

Personally, this evaluation would be a wonderful break providing me with some much needed time away from Riley. I have no idea how long the break would be but anything more than 24 hours would feel like a trip to Relaxation Land.

When I look at Riley, I don’t see a man who is a danger to anyone except himself. I see a lost little boy in the skin of a grown man who is confused about why I (and the family) think he is not capable of living by himself. He can’t see his breaks in the trains of his thought. He doesn't hear how irrational his rationality really is. And when he doesn't get his way, he doesn't understand that his passive aggressive attitude is simple the temper tantrum of a spoiled child.

Although I love Riley, I fell out of married love with him many years ago. I haven’t viewed him as a real husband in more than 15 years. And now… now… he has become my child – a 12 year old, insolent, demanding boy. I am 65 years old and am exhausted at the demands of being responsible for this pre-teen yet 70 year old. I would like to be able to protect him, but I believe it is too late for that.

I’m telling you all this because I want you caretakers of end-stage alcoholics to be aware of what may be your future. I suggest you be diligent in doing whatever you can to prevent him/her from breaking any laws – especially those that may lead to a criminal trial. I would like you to understand that with each year of continual drinking, the brain is regressing and you may end up with an adult with the capacity of a teenager. I remember back when my kids were teens – if alcohol had been added to that mass of raging hormones I think I would have not survived!

Who knows how long the court situation will go on? All I can do is comply with their requests, follow my lawyer’s advice, and see what happens.


Bev said...

Riley has no idea how blessed he is to have you Linda.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I would think that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Riley would be entitled to reasonable accommodations so that he COULD have his breakfast and coffee and be allowed to use the restroom when he needs to.
The other thought is that by modifying his breakfast/morning schedule to avoid the embarrassment of a toilet issue in court, this might weaken the case for how debilitated he really is.
I hope my comments are helpful to you. I intend no criticism. I am just expressing another "take" on the sad situation that end stage alcoholics present to the world. I feel for you. I lost my son to alcoholism and have another son drinking to excess who may also die prematurely of this disease.

Sandy said...

Reading this, my heart just breaks for you Linda. What is the "solution?" There is none really. We who have married alcoholics hear it all the time, "why don't you leave" but once you have married and alcoholic, and certainly if you have children with him, the die may have already been cast. Sure, if you get out early enough and he abandons you and your children for a "new and improved" model, you may be able to walk away but the truth is, once this comes in the door of your life, there is the very real threat it will be in your life forever.

Anonymous said...

My husband is currently awaiting a court date for terroristic threats he made at a woman at an AA meeting. He cant stay sober long enough to make it to court. Hes been detoxed four times since Christmas. He's 63. I am at my wit's end. THis post was so appropriate for me to read, although nothing makes this journey easier.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Linda. I'm watching the love of my life slowly dying of this disease. We have known each other our entire lives. He is only 34 and has been on a mission to die by alcohol for the past 6 years. As I type, he lies in a hotel room unconscious from Lord only knows how many bottles of rum. He is there after being kicked out of court ordered rehab. He is in some legal trouble as well. I read this and I wonder how much longer until the poison permanently destroys his memory of the sober wonderful man he used to be. I still hold onto those memories. I foolishly have hope that he will be the exception. He will be the one that conquers. I just hope....

Anonymous said...

In the early 80's I was married to an alcoholic for a short while. A few years ago I did a criminal back ground check on him. According to public online court records his latest drama was Burglary of a Building and felony Tamper/Fabricate Physical Evidence with Intent to Impair. Numerous court appointed attorneys, competency evaluations (I can't believe they found him competent!) and a lot of court appearances. Appears when he finally ran out of options and it was set for trial he made a plea deal. It took over 3 years of going to court. I really thought he might go to jail for 10 years. Instead he got 665 hours of community service and $4160 in fines. He had 6 months to pay and do his hours. He paid nothing so they extended his probation for another year. So far he has paid $70. And is out walking around. I guess he lives in a trailer house out on a plot of land next to a KOA campground in rural Texas. Wonder who he has supporting him now! Maybe one day he will just be found dead there. When that happens I will say good riddance. I despise alcoholics. I am so thankful I live on the other side of the country and have NO CONTACT with him in any way.

Lakesidelady said...

Thank you for writing about this. My husband is on the edge of end stage and even though he is sober for now, reading your blog has helped me face the reality of the serious damage that he has done to himself. I'm sure if he understood what he has done to his brain he would be devastated as I am.

You have inspired me to get help for myself so I thank you and will pray for some nice rest for you.

Anonymous said...

My alcoholic husband left me 3 years ago after 34 years if marriage. He moved halfway across the country with his girlfriend. The relationship quickly fell apart and his drinking escalated due to loneliness and isolation. Two weeks before Christmas he hit another car at 9:00 am with a BAC of .3. He paralyzed the other driver and suffered numerous broken bones and injuries himself. He now faces 6-8 years of prison time due to this felony plus a lawsuit from the other driver. I should feel relief that I no longer have to live with him- I do count it a blessing-and yet I am heartbroken over what his life has deteriated into. I feel the most sadness for my son who has had to see his dad's spiral down. He is pretty much disgusted with his dad. Period. What a waste of a life.

Anonymous said...

he paralyzed the other driver. my God i feel myself recoiling. disease or not, addicts always have a choice to get help. some do,some don't but that poor paralyzed person has had his life as he knew it torn away for ever.