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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, April 7, 2015

It's OK...

Everyone lives by their own set of criteria. That means that the decisions we make are ones that make sense only to us as individuals. Of course other people understand, accept, question and comment, but in the end we own our own decisions. When it comes to deciding to leave or stay, most people who are not involved with an alcoholic will question a person’s choice no matter what the decision is.

If the decision is that you are going to leave, but really want to stay, the real question is how to do it. Is there a way
to leave but stay close enough to observe and be there for emergencies? Does it always mean turning our back and leaving the person to sink or swim on his/her own?

From reading the stories about others who have faced this situation, I believe it is possible to leave the alcoholic and still help by being close. If this is the decision you make, then I have some suggestions for you:

  • Find a place to live that was close enough to get to -- within about ten minutes. But, do not give the address to the alcoholic.
  • Once moved out, go by the alcoholic’s house a few times a week just to check on the availability of food and necessities – but not booze. Do that for about a month and then decrease the number of visits until down to only visiting once a week.
  • Control the finances of the alcoholic by monitoring that the rent and utilities are paid. But leave only very small amounts of cash in the house – probably around $5 or so. Keep the refrigerator stocked with frozen dinners, and other basic foods.
  • Offer to provide transportation to meetings, medical appointments, etc., but not to the liquor store.
As I have stated before there is no place for children in a home that is managed by an alcoholic. Living close but separate is a good way to remove the children from the day to day stupidity of the alcoholic, while providing the alcoholic opportunities to visit with the children. It could work when you take the children with you to check on the alcoholic parent. Leave the children in the car while you go in the house and evaluate the condition of the alcoholic. If things are acceptable, let the children come in and visit for an hour or so. If the house is a ramshackle of a mess, leave with the children explaining that Daddy or Mommy is not up for a visit today. Then take the kids for ice cream or some other positive activity. Hopefully the positive activity will diminish the importance of the fact that they could not visit with the parent that day.

For me, if the alcoholic is not end-stage, the relationship is less than five years old, we are not married and there are no children, I would leave and start a new life without the alcoholic. I would not hesitate. Once you add children and marriage the decision becomes far more difficult. So leave now while the leaving is easier. There might be a need to make some sacrifices financially, but I’d rather live on a shoestring in a shoe box, than become a prisoner in an alcoholic palace.

As far as “love” is concerned – I’m reminded of the movie Moonstruck when the young man says “I love you!” Cher responds by slapping him and says “Snap out of it!” The next time you tell someone you stay because you love the alcoholic – think about Cher. Yes, you probably love the alcoholic, but you WILL come to a point when you realize that the alcoholic is not the person you fell in love with. The alcoholic WILL – without a doubt – become a stranger while the person you fell in love with WILL disappear from view. Take the love you feel for the alcoholic and put it into you by saving yourself from a future of being alone while being in a relationship. There is no other greater loneliness than being alone while being a couple.

There are days when I regret that I made the decision to take Riley back. The only thing that  made the decision clear to me was the realization that my daughter would destroy her own peace to provide for her father. I am first and foremost a mother and that motherly instinct to protect my child won over the little voice in my head that screamed out -- NO!

On the other hand, I truly believed that the choice I made would be only a short detour in my life. I believed I was providing him a soft place to die in a very short space of time. That was over six years ago and I’m still providing him with that soft place while he appears to be immortal. He gets sicker and sicker and even now, while being a hospice patient, I wonder if he will out-live me.

If I knew then what I know now – I would have declined giving him that soft place. I would have exercised my rights as his legal wife which would have prevented my daughter from stepping in and taking him to North Carolina. I would have had him committed as being a danger to himself and others. I would have taken direction from his roommate (a circuit court judge) and asked him to help me make the commitment happen. 20/20 hindsight is great.

No matter what the decision, there is no reason to feel guilty or ashamed of what you decide. It’s OK to leave. It’s OK to stay. It’s OK to leave but stay. The only wrong decision is the one that places children in a dangerous situation. I may have twinges of regret in making my own decision, but I know that my decision was OK for me.


Barb said...

Thank you for this LInda. It helps me to understand we ( the parents of an adult 45 year old alcoholic have done the right thing by breaking contact.

The pain is that as a stepmother I cannot get the children away. Their dad is an enabler/drinker himself and the biological grandmother who lives 20 min. away does her best…but no one with the legal right will save the children. Breaks my heart.

What to do? Suggestions. I fear the answer is we can do nothing but pray. That must be good enough.

Bev said...

I love your analogy of Cher's, "Snap out of it". If only it was that easy. Maybe love is what makes it so hard.

Anonymous said...

Thank you