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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, September 2, 2014

Six words that equal Survival

When I first started writing the blog, I had already done months’ worth of research in order to get answers that were written in a format that I could understand. It didn’t happen overnight. I recall how I came upon each subject for research in The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife.

However, there was a topic that I just couldn’t get my head around. The idea of recovery for the people who care about the alcoholic seemed to escape me. In my mind the only way for a spouse to recover from all that nonsense was to just get a divorce – leave him/her – kick ‘em to the curb! But there are also parents and children and friends and partners and co-works… the list goes on. What would be the answer to recovery for everyone?

As time went on, I discovered that the families and friends may need recovery just as much as the alcoholic. That’s why Al-Anon was created. It was to provide courage, strength and hope to the families and friends of alcoholics. There are 12 steps and 12 traditions that provide the handrails up the recovery ladder. Al-Anon provides a wonderful place for those just starting out in the realization and acceptance of being involved with an alcoholic.

But for me, the concept of recovery goes far deeper. There are so many of us that cannot or will not dump the alcoholic for some reason or another. Often when the alcoholic becomes end-stage separating from the alcoholic becomes just as problematic as the drinking itself. Everyone must make their own decision on leaving, staying, or whatever. For those people – the caretakers of end-stage alcoholics – recovery is most important. Maybe even not just the end-stagers, but all-stagers remaining in the situation.

Instead of the word “recovery” I like the word “survival”. How does the family or friend SURVIVE when in this impossible, nonsensical, frustrating situation? I sum it up with several words. KNOWLEDGE. SUPPORT. HEALTH. PASSION. LAUGHTER. SMILE.

KNOWLEDGE – As the alcoholic succumbs to different illnesses and conditions through the stages of the disease, do your research and learn everything you can about the physical biology that going on inside that alcoholic body. Also, learn about your legal standing, the workings of the hospital and hospice, know absolutely everything about your health insurance. Don’t just depend on an answer from a friend of a friend who once shook hands with someone who may have drank too much at a party… Find out for yourself through internet research, the library, speaking with a professional. Knowledge is the key to survival – I’ve said it a million times. Make all decisions based on knowledge that you know to be a fact.

SUPPORT – No matter how much research you do, there’s nothing like confirmation from someone who has been in your shoes. An exchange of ideas and experiences can be a life preserver in the midst of a super storm. Don’t just stick with only one support program because there are many out there. So if one doesn’t work, check it off your list and move on. Something will fit and you will be grateful to have found it. I offer OARS F&F Group on Facebook. You must e-mail me to be sent an invitation to the group.

HEALTH – While you may be consumed with the health issues of the alcoholic, don’t forget that you may have your own health issues that need attending. You can’t take care of anyone else if you are too run down to take care of yourself. Get your check-ups. Take your medication and stay as physically fit as you possibly can. You will need all your strength to survive the chaos.

PASSION – Find your passion in life. Do you like bird-watching? Are you a writer? Is cooking your thing? Whatever it is, find it and do it. Don’t let anything the alcoholic is currently messing with stop you from enjoying the satisfaction of doing something you really want to do. While being involved in the activity you will most likely meet other people who also enjoy your passion. Having friends who are uninvolved with alcoholism is often a breath of fresh air when you feel your head is surrounded by the smog of drunkenness. Don’t deny yourself some normalcy. Those who are really – I mean REALLY – lucky can turn their passion into a new money-making venture. I’ve heard that if you make money doing what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. How awesome would that be?

LAUGHTER – Laughter truly is often the very best medicine. So you’ve been crying for days and the depression hole is so deep that you can’t even see the light from the top. STOP whatever it is you are doing and just laugh. Laugh at a comedy on TV; the squirrels playing in the yard; the crazy thought you just had; something some uninformed know-it-all said to you yesterday; the outfit you threw on this morning. It doesn’t matter what you laugh at or even if it is funny or not, just laugh anyway. Laughing fills your lungs with oxygen which makes your brain function in a clearer manner. It makes you feel physically more refreshed. It’s not just about attitude – it’s an exercise for good health.

SMILE – I have found that I smile at everyone I possibly can and I feel a bit calmer inside. I like to believe that I’m helping someone else by sharing that smile. When I wake up in the morning, no matter how I feel about another day, I always say “Gooood Morning!” and I say it with a giant smile. Even though my day may go rapidly downhill, I have started out on a good note. My mother used to tell me that if you smile, people will either think you are a happy person or wonder what you have been up to. I like both of those reactions.

In this month of recovery, I think we can all benefit from surviving whatever it is that is causing stress. Survive from being a caretaker of an alcoholic. Survive from the stress of having an alcoholic boss. And when you are on the survival road… don’t forget to smile!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your support and sharing your story with Riley. I wrote to you a while ago and told you that I just wanted him to die. I felt extreme guilt for writing that email the day after I sent it. I do love my husband very much we have been together since teenagers but Oh the pain and suffering that one has to go through while living with an alcoholic husband can be unbearable.

The selfishness, the non caring about you or the children, they stop working, they stop being men who fix thing around the house. they shut down... all they care about is drinking. Your sex life becomes non existent and you no longer remember what going out on a date feels like, let alone feeling like a woman.

You find yourself doing everything.. the working, the cooking , shopping, cleaning, taking care of the children, the bill paying, the worrying about how to pay the bills because they are no longer contributing. It is a HUGE stress on a woman.

You try to get them help but they turn on you and say YOU are the problem not them. They may be nice to you from time to time, but the depression is large and dark.... The only thing at that time I wanted was freedom... But not really, what I really wanted my was old husband back who turned into a stranger.

I loved being married, I loved being a stay at home Mom, I loved having a man's man that could do anything, fix anything, work up a hard sweat, yet change the babies diaper and make my toes curl in bed. My husband used to be a MAN and a great man he was.

Until alcohol took charge of his life.

My husband passed away with myself and our daughter by his side on August 22 of this year. Did I feel relief? I am ashamed to admit that at the time, Yes, I did , I was no longer a slave to his alcoholism and hurtful behavior.

But yet, I still wanted to honor him at his funeral. As I was going through the photos for his video tribute, I avoided most photos taken within the past 5 years. His alcoholism changed his looks dramatically. My husband was only 49 when he died but he looked to be about 70. The photos I pulled up were lovely times in our lives, when we were young, when he was so darn good looking, when he was so tender with our children, the good times, the prosperous times, the healthy times. And then I started grieving and grieving bad! How did this lovely man turn into such a stinky, drunk who slept all day and drank all night and no longer cared to provide for his family?

So now I blame myself... could I have done anything different? Could I have been more loving instead of being so angry? Should I have just forced him to go to rehab? Should I have put on a sexy outfit and seduced him even though he had not taken a shower for over a month while still wearing the same dirty clothes? Could I have somehow prevented this?

I am grieving deeply for my husband the way he used to be. I miss him so much now.. It's crazy because all I can remember now is the good times... although we are losing our home because of him and I am stuck with a ton of debt that is not mine. I can't think about any of that. All I can think about is how he used to be and how I want that man so back into my life.

I am so sad by this loss. A very good man who drowned his troubles in alcohol and destroyed his life and so many others. It's a sad thing. So if your alcoholic is still alive, give him a kiss, try to encourage him and remind him of the good days and maybe??? You will have a chance to get that man back? I don't know, all I know is that I do not want any other woman to go through the pain that I am going through right now.

Linda, please keep me anonymous but please feel free to put this on any page you feel that will help others.

God Bless you for your commitment to Riley.

A grieving wife

afterthefire1964 said...

Anonymous - Gosh, your experience parallels mine so much. I just want to take this opportunity, however, to talk to you about the debt thing. When my alcoholic died, I was left with a mountain of bills, mainly medical. Here is what helped me to avoid having to pay almost all of it: 1. First of all, if you live in a "community property state" you are only responsible for 50 percent of unsecured debt (like credit card debt). Creditors legally cannot make you pay your husband's unsecured debt in full and actually, many banks will just write off the debt. This is only for credit cards that are solely in your husband's name - joint accounts are your responsibility. 2. Any medical facility becomes a creditor for your husband's estate. Get an estate attorney. He or she will take an inventory of your husband's estate. Since your husband stopped working, he probably doesn't have an estate. All my husband had left was $3000 in guns that he owned. That was his "estate". My estate attorney then writes to all the creditors telling them that this is the "estate" and this is how much they are going to get. Creditors can protest but it really doesn't doe them any good - med facilities will just write it off. Additionally - they cannot take your house from you if you live in a community property state! Sounds like you may need to get yourself a good attorney - and I know...those cost money...sigh. You are in my thoughts as are all other SURVIVORS out there.