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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, October 20, 2016

How can I help the caregiver?

This post is dedicated to a commenter named “Unknown”.

I understand how torn you are about what to do about your parents. Your father is wasting away from the booze and your mother is wasting away from the stress of taking care of him. That puts you in an uncomfortable position.

All of the things you describe of your father are typical of an alcoholic. As the alcohol continues to saturate his frontal lobe, he loses the ability to think logically about his actions. This part of the brain
controls common courtesy, values and the ability to “care” about what he is doing. Simply put, at this time he does not care because the alcohol is now controlling his brain.

Your Dad, the loving one, he is still in there. But it’s like he’s in a coma and some other personality is in his place. I always think of the old horror movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” where pods are put next to a sleeping person and when they wake up the human person one is gone and the pod person is left.

Unfortunately, there is really not much you can do about your father. Alcoholic’s drink. That’s what they do. Those who care for the alcoholic are left with the mess to clean up. It sounds like your mother has been in a “frog soup” type of situation for a long time.

In my opinion, your mother’s cries for help are not really about you trying to get your father to stop drinking. She’s asking you to help save her sanity. It may be easier than you realize.

If you live close enough, when she calls – go to her. Give her a strong and lasting hug.
Don’t let go until she does. Then send her to go do something for herself – mani/pedi, shopping or, maybe, just a visit with a friend. Look on Groupon for tickets to something entertaining that are reasonably affordable.

While she is gone, look around and see if there’s something that needs to be done that you can help with. Clean the kitchen or bathroom; put fresh sheets on her bed; make cookies; prepare dinner; do a load of laundry; write a note and put it with those fresh cookies and a pot of tea; or anything else you can think of to do.

Being a caregiver to an alcoholic is a thankless job. Any indication that you appreciate and love her is a big boost to the caregiver. You don’t love her because she’s taking care of your father. You love her because she is your mother.

When talking to people who have alcoholics that have passed, I’ve found that the pain and suffering the alcoholic caused seems to fade and the person grieves for the person before the pod was left at their bedside. You father is an alcoholic but he is still your father and that’s the person you mourn. There will undoubtedly be a roller coaster of emotion ranging for extreme hate to extreme love. Let it happen. Feel it all so that you can find a way thru the mess of emotion.

There is nothing for you to feel guilty about. This is not your disease, not your circus and not your monkeys. You father must own what is his and you would be doing him a dis-service by taking that off his shoulders. If/when he asks for your help, you can offer to help him find a rehab center or a way to detox in a medically safe environment. Tell him you will not help him drink because his drinking is none of your business.

After you’ve helped your Mom, the best thing you can do is continue to live your life. Make your own happiness, be productive, and be good to yourself. Don’t let the alcohol or the alcoholic define who you are. Seeing you happy will be a wonderful gift to your mother.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous:
I read your post and felt my life all over again 4 plus years ago. Each time I think I am healing, I read a story like yours and am reminded of my own father, and the pain he caused my mother and anyone else who loved him.

My dad died October 10, 2012 from a head injury he incurred after drinking vodka all day. My mom held him in her arms after he fell down a flight of stairs. No doubt after he berated her for pleading with him to stop drinking. We thought maybe he would bounce back. He was always so strong. Before the vodka, that is. But I think when he heard us talking with the social worker while he was in ICU that we were going to stage an intervention, that he decided on his own that a life without alcohol was a life not worth living. And so he gave up. And a few days later, he ceased to breathe, his heart stopped beating, and like that, my brother and I were left to heal my mom's broken heart.

But here's the thing, and it might sound selfish...I am so relieved he is gone. I don't have to pick up the pieces when my mom falls apart. I don't have to watch him crapping his pants, slurring his words, and vomiting up any food he tries to put in his stomach. I don't have to worry about inviting friends and family over during Holidays when I know he is going to be there, drunk and unable to carry on a conversation. I remember the last Thanksgiving he was here at my house, 5 years ago, when he shit all over the bathroom and walked out as if nothing happened. A friend of mine had to let me know about the mess. For the next hour I scrubbed crap from the toilet, the walls, the shower curtain. When I confronted him about it, he denied it was him. When I confronted my mom, she looked at me with sad eyes and said he had a "tummy ache." I remember looking at her with just as much disgust when I should have offered support. "For better or for worse," those were the vows my mom strictly adhered to.

Of course, I have wonderful memories of my dad. He was a wonderful man who loved us and worked hard. He retired and lost a sense of himself. Vodka became his true love. How I wish the good memories were at the forefront of my mind. Instead, I think of memories that repulse me. I think of watching him for 10 days in the hospital before he finally succumbed to his disease...and by the way, is it a disease, or was it his choice? I so struggle with this.

Since then, we have had to pick up the pieces. Fortunately for us, my dad was not always an alcoholic and he left my mom in a very financially secure situation. When people praise him for doing this, I still can't help but think about those final few years when he was just a monster in my eyes.

I had a daughter a little over a year after he died. I am thankful she never saw him like he was, but mourn the thought that she couldn't know him like I did. You would think that having my beautiful baby would help heal the pain, instead, it makes me angrier. She deserves to have 2 sets of grandparents in her life. Unfortunately a stroke took my MIL, and alcoholism took my dad. There are days I HATE him for this. I would give anything to be there for my daughter. She is the world to me. Were my mom, brother, and I not enough for my dad? This I will never understand.

So to you, anonymous, I can't offer much advice but to let you know you are not alone. I so wish I could take this away from you. I wouldn't wish this curse on anyone. I do agree with Linda--be there for your mom as much as possible. I was lucky that my mom didn't die from the stress before my dad. And so any relief, love, and support you can provide to her is so critical. While it might be frustrating to you if it appears she is be "enabling" him, please know that there just might not be a lot of choice on her end. Until you can walk in these shoes, we SHOULD NOT JUDGE. I hope any reader out there can respect this.

Good luck to you anonymous. Your post struck a chord with me and I will be thinking about you.