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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.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

More normal...

I was honored to have participated in Perri Peltz’s Show on SiriusXM Stars yesterday. I was in excellent company with Peter Santoro of LESC, Dr. Mark Willenbring of Alltyr, and Dr. George Koob of the NIAAA. I want to send out a special thank you to Perri Peltz for inviting me to her show.

Over the next few posts I’m going to be expounding on the questions I was asked during the program. The answers as so much deeper than a few seconds response can cover. This particular post is also a bit of a continuation to my previous post “What’s normal anyway…”

I was asked why spouses/families stay or continue to try to help the alcoholic in their life. My simplified answer was that it was like the Frog Soup Syndrome. In case you are not familiar the theory is that if you put a frog in a pan of hot water it will jump out immediately. If you put the same frog in a pan of cold water and slowly bring the water to a boil the frog will stay in the pan and eventually become frog soup.

By the same theory if we think what we are doing is “normal” and continues to do what feels normal but add a few things here and there it will continue to be normal for us. After years of being on that particular level of normalcy, we may eventually discover that we are actually so far away from normal that we don’t even recognize the state we are really in. It could possibly be the state of frog soup. That’s when the spouse hits themselves on the forehead and screams “What was I thinking?”

Often times the hit on the forehead is accompanied with the realization that the alcoholic is now too sick to be on his/her own. Leaving him/her now would be like leaving a person dying of some incurable disease along the side of the road and driving off. It often feels immoral to just walk away.

There are a lot of reasons why people stay with in a relationship riddled with alcoholic insanity. Some stay because they love the alcoholic – or rather – the person the alcoholic was before the alcohol took over the brain. Others stay for practical reasons such as being unable to afford to live without a joint income. Many spouses say they took vows when they married and to leave would be in violation of those vows. And still others stay because they can’t find a way to climb out of that pan of frog soup.

I took my husband back into my home to protect my daughter from moving her nearly-dead alcoholic father into her home. I had stayed married to him and he was my responsibility – not hers.

The bottom line is that the answer is not cut and dry. There is no absolute correct path. There are as many reasons for a person staying in (or going from) a relationship with an alcoholic as there are reasons for doing anything we do in life. Sometimes we make choices about staying or going even when it may appear that we are doing nothing.  Doing nothing puts us in a position of choosing to be in that pan of hot water that’s getting hotter by the minute.


Anonymous said...

This is so interesting. I am an adult child of an alcoholic, but I was under the impression that my childhood was totally normal. It didn't seem that alcohol became a problem for my father until after we left home. It turns out that it was a problem the whole time, it was just my normal. Going to the bar after work for 2 vodkas and then home to drink beer the rest of the evening seemed like something that every dad did. Ahh what is normal anyway.

Anonymous said...

I have debated commenting because there are so many issues I would love to talk about. I decided I would post but would limit my comment only to a few issues. I found your blog on January 26, 2015. I wish I would have found it earlier - I sure needed it. I was in time to hear you on the radio. While I commend Perri Pelz for taking on this topic, I feel like she had too many people from too many perspectives for just one hour. Ms. Pelz should have limited it to you and the recovering alcoholic and saved the doctors for another show. I did not like the first doctor to speak as I felt he was dismissive of the problem. I really liked the Director of the NIAAA. And I REALLY liked you. I have not read through your entire blog, but from what I have read, my ex-husband (the alcoholic) is very much like Riley and my reaction to it is very much like you. And although we are no longer married and he doesn't live with us (me and our children) I still do a fair amount of caregiving. I don't know if or when I will stop, but as of today, I will continue to help. While I see why there is a comparison of alcoholism to other conditions like diabetes and cancer, I think the comparison ends with them being a chronic condition. What has made me angry about my ex's drinking is that drinking is a choice. He can stop drinking. And I am not minimizing what it takes to maintain sobriety or the very hard road that alcoholics take when they stop drinking. But the bottom line is, they can stop. A person does not choose and cannot stop diabetes or cancer. They are not in control of the manifestation of the disease in their body. In addition, people with cancer or diabetes don't refuse treatment (unless maybe there is "no hope" and that usually occurs after at least some treatment). Alcoholics frequently refuse treatment because after all they don't have a problem. Well, those are my topics for this post. Maybe other topics for another post. I do have 2 (ok 3) questions for you and would love an answer if you want to: 1) you say that Riley would never choose you. Why do you say that? Did you feel this way your entire marriage? 2) do you date other men? Well meaning friends are worried that my caregiving will interfere with me having a relationship with another man.

Linda -- The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife said...

Anonymous #2 -- To answer your questions: Riley would not choose me to be his caregiver because he cannot charm me or manipulate me. That's how he stays in control and with me he has no control. For details of my marriage and how I got here, please read the book "The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife" available on Amazon for paperback and on Smashwords for the e-book.

Do I date other men? I did date in the years when we were separated. Since I have taken him back, I don't date at all. I just don't have time to devote to trying to make a relationship work.

Like you -- my family and friends want me to find romance and are worried that my mind will be closed to the possibility. I'm not closed, but just not available right now.

Anonymous said...

If the person is suffering from dementia, I don't see how that person would be capable of making changes to his/her alcoholism.
How could one abandon someone in that condition? That question is what I am struggling with at this time.

Anonymous said...

I tried for years to get my boyfriend to stop drinking. The last time I took him to the hospital he was told he had a second chance at life if he didn't drink again. 1 year after that I had to leave him for my own safety, he was becoming so physically violent I thought he might kill me one day. That was just under 2 years ago and last night I got the call that he had died. He was 43 years old.