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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.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Because I can...

When a husband dies, people express their condolences in an attempt to comfort the grieving widow. In turn, the widow gets through one day at a time and mourns for the part of her that no longer exists. In some cases, it takes years for the widow to come to terms with her loss and get back to the business of living a full and productive life.

Alcoholics remain on this earth, but die in the mind and heart of the spouse far before they take their last breath. When the death occurs, the grieving process has already started and/or often times it has been completed. It may seem that the spouse is cold-hearted or unfeeling that her/his partner is now gone, but the truth is that the process can sometimes be reaching its end before the actual death occurs.

That seems to be the case in my adjustment from being a wife to a widow. Years ago I accepted the fact that my husband had left me in favor of his mistress – Ms Aristocrat Vodka – or Ms Vodie as I call her. His alliance to her left me without a real husband and left my kids without a real father.

While Ms Vodie held Riley’s heart, he was never monogamous and seemed to take pride in the fact that he could bed down almost any woman in sight. My husband left me and the family way back in the late 1980s although his date of death was September 27, 2017.

Riley and I separated, but did not divorce, early in 1989. I grieved for the marriage that could have been. I cried from the loneliness of Sunday mornings without sharing the newspaper. I longed desperately for the intimate moments we had once shared. I treated every man with hostility because I somehow imagined them to be in some kind of elite womanizing cult. Every man who showed an interest in me was met with the presumption of them being liars, cheaters and jingaloes.  I went through every stage of the grieving process. It was hell.

I came out of it just in time to be able to forgive Riley so that I could take him back into my home, which I had created without the assistance of a man, and take care of him as he withered away with Ms Vodie by his side. The last seven years have been another form of hell.

Riley is gone. I’m truly a widow. And I’m not grieving over the loss. Some of you may think of me as a cold-hearted, ruthless, witch and you may be right. Every night I listened to him tell me, “Linny, I love you” and sometimes “Linny, I care very much about you.” I never responded because those words meant nothing to me. I couldn’t bring myself to hold his hand, but could only manage to rub his shoulders. When he begged me to climb into the bed and hold him, I refused. This man in that bed was not my husband. My husband died years prior to Riley’s requests of affection.

Even though I felt I was attending to a man who was not my husband, I was not free. My entire life was centered on his nurses, aides, physical therapist, doctors, and other visitors schedules. When my daughter was able to come to sit with him, I was able to go to town for groceries and possibly run a few errands. Riley was a prisoner in his bed and I was a prisoner in the house.

September 27th, 2017, was the day I was released from my responsibilities dictated by our society, legal system, and my moral consciousness. I stood in the middle of the living room and I felt stunned. I was looked around as though I was trying to figure out what it was I was to do next. I honestly did not know what to do. So I did nothing except wander through the house. I couldn’t go into his room. It was too empty. Maybe I was missing him a little. Maybe the absence of him treating me like a servant left a hole in my day. I had become so accustomed to his demanding calls that when there was silence, it frightened me.

Riley disliked having me play music as I cleaned house or cooked his dinner. But Riley is not here, so I turned up the music and danced around the room. I sang at the top of my lungs even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I didn’t care. I wanted noise and I made a lot of it. It was glorious!
I made plans, just because I could. I went for drives in the country, because I could. I ate out at the restaurants that I had only heard about but never experienced because… because I COULD! And I DID!

My life has re-started and I’m enjoying it very much. I’m regaining my health, having my nails done, getting plenty of rest and I’m laughing. Do you know why? Because I can, that’s why.

If you are concerned about your what your drinking is doing to your loved ones, read this post again. This is what it means when your alcoholic husband dies and you are finally free again.

17 comments:

Lakelady said...

Well said Linda, I was my AH caretaker for the last 6 months of his life after his previous caretaker and maid robbed him blind. I could only imagine what 7 years must have been like.....a living hell to say the least.....You have definitely earned your peace and happiness....enjoy every minute....carpe diem GF.......:)

Jeanette said...

So glad you are living life and loving it! You certainly deserve it!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Linda, Your life is new and I envy you. My journey is far from over, I am afraid, but really God only knows. Know that your words ease the pain in this front row seat viewing of the self-destructive life style of a once loved forever partner. God Bless You and I now have hope.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post!! You deserve to do anything you want. You've done your 'time'. The only way for someone to understand is to have walked in your shoes. God bless you!

Anonymous said...

Good for you! Now it's your time so enjoy the rest if your life x

joy morrison said...

I'm so happy for you to finally have your own life! Letting Riley come back into your home and have you put your life on hold was more than enough. So what if you didn't hold his hand and let what he had to say go in one ear and out the other. You did more for him than anyone else would. You've served your time.

Rosemary King said...

Linda, a few years ago you welcomed me to OARS,
It has been a Godsend for me and others.
Well now I say...”Welcome to the Freedom Club!”
I am loving my solitude. Me and my cats.
Yes, I miss my husband but I do not miss the abuse.
No one will ever call me a “stupid idiot” ever again.
My life was a living hell for 10 yrs!
It took one whole year of grief therapy for me to
Use the tools my counselor gave me.
Do you find that life is too short to be unhappy?
I have been realeased from my prison...

ADDY said...

I wholeheartedly agree. As you say, the person died years before in terms of the end of your relationship. The actual death is a relief and freedom. Seven and a half years on, I have found it impossible to cry. I do miss him - the old non-alcoholic version not the alcoholic one he became - but I would not want to go through that all again. Enjoy this next chapter of your life. You so deserve it.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has experienced watching someone die over time can identify with you. We undergo grieving in advance and when death actually occurs it is like a burden is lifted off of our shoulders. He was lucky, you stood beside him where many (me included) would have given up. It is now time for you. Hugs.

Daydream Queen said...

How wonderful for you!! Reading your blog has been inspirational to me. I don’t want to wait around while my husband wastes away, so I’m planning for a future on my own now. Thank you for your honesty!

afterthefire1964 said...

Hear! Hear! This is exactly how I felt when my husband died after six years of alcoholism. Though he biologically died in 2012, I actually grieved his death in 2006. I believe that this has earned me a few "Tut, tuts..." from disapproving individuals who maybe thought I should be mourning in some particular way but too bad for them! As I have written in earlier comments, I took my sons to Disney! Enjoy - you have earned every minute of the enjoyment!

Anonymous said...

I'm 34 years old and I have alcoholic husband. I'm really scared. I don't want to wait until he died to be happy. He is trying but is not enough, he's killing me. Happy for you, that you finally done with that situation.

Anonymous said...

My husband passed away 10/17 and had been following you before that. Down to the end he had beer and brandy and smoked two packs of cigs a day (and his lungs were clear) Peace out! Kee the faith and enjoy, I know I will be soon, Arlene

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you're getting your life back.
My alcoholic mother drained me for most of my adult life.

When she died, I cried but most of my feelings since that time have been relief.

I am no longer angry or upset at her, and I accept the fact I chose to stay involved,
but freedom is a wonderful thing.

Wishing you all the joys of life Linda

Unknown said...

Oh thank you so much for this post. There is life after this, really?

I've been with an alcoholic for 10 years, married 4 almost and he is in end-stage. I'm 40 years old and love him dearly, but I'm tired of watching him slowly die and lose his mind.

I'm so happy to have found your blog!

Anonymous said...

Our alcoholic...my MIL...has reached stage 6 for the umpteenth time. She's raving and cussing about her past, swelling up, and drinking drinking drinking. She looks far older than her years. Her memory is shot. But like Riley, she seems immortal. Most of the deaths in my family happened suddenly, of a heart attack, embolism, or aneurysm...so it's very odd for me to watch someone decline.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with not feeling grief. When I was little my grandfather was my favorite relative. He was loving, always took time to play with me, and would even mail Cartoon Network recordings because we couldn't afford cable.

Once I turned 6 or 7 I was able to start picking up on his alcoholism. He never hurt or endangered me, but I struggled with seeing him like that. We lived 5 hours away, and he would repeatedly promise to visit. I was always so excited, and he could hear it over the phone. He cancelled at the last minute every single time. It was around that time that my Dad began explaining alcoholism to me, how it ran in our family, and our family of origin issues.

I started connecting the dots of how he had been emotionally and physically abusive, among other issues. So I began refusing to say anything to him when he would call, and began to hate him. I could see it hurt him. He knew why, but his refusal to accept responsibility made me hate him even more. Eventually it simmered down to an indifference when he died, and the only thing I regret is passively ghosting him instead of telling him to his face.

He wasn't an evil person, just like how your husband probably wasn't. But he hurt a lot of people, and after a certain point I was just done with spending any more energy and emotion on him.

I'm sorry for the novel, but it's rare to find people who get this.