Monday, November 24, 2014

Escape from this medical desert

Quick UPDATE!!

Living in a Medical Desert means there is no staff at any of the local home health care agencies to assist me in providing care for Riley. We are considering a move to a more metropolitan area, such as Hampton Roads Virginia near the Hampton VA Medical Center. I have begun what I think will be a FUN fundraiser -- an auction. The items up for bid will be posted on the Facebook page "Escape from Medical Desert" with the payments made through Give Forward fund raising site.

Currently up for bid are some scarves that I made while waiting while Riley was getting treatment; a resume package (I'm told mine are real winners!); and -- the MOST FUN of ALL -- I'm accepting a challenge to SHAVE MY HEAD if the challenge reaches a certain dollar amount.

People can donate cash; participate in the auction; and/or donate items for the auction. Check us out and see how we are doing:

FACEBOOK PAGE (to see the goodies and place a bid):

Give Forward (to make a donation or pay for your purchase):

Help me stay sane while helping Riley get cancer treatment!

Thank you --

Linda (The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

He's in rehab! Now what?

You never thought this day would actually become a reality. It seems too good to be true and as you watch him walk into the rehab center, you pinch yourself to make sure you are not dreaming. Even though you know he is safely ensconced into a room and at that very moment he is in a group therapy session, you still think… What if he calls me to come get him? What if he doesn’t handle detox so well? What if… What if..?

It is a restless night for you at the onset of your alcoholic’s rehab journey. The joy is that you wake up in the morning and find that, in spite of the uneasiness, you feel a bit more refreshed than you did on previous nights. Then it hits you – you were more rested because you weren’t subconsciously worried about him burning the house down or falling and cracking his head open. You didn’t have to lock the bedroom door in fear of him going into a drunken rage. Last night you were able to sleep without trepidation and the rest was, OH, so sweet.

Everything is better this morning. The coffee is richer, the sunrise redder, the shower warmer, even the morning news seems to have more positive stories. If you have children, even getting them off to school seems to go without incident – like a well-oiled machine just humming along. So you’ve gotten your morning off to a good start – now what do you do?

There’s always a few days when the alcoholic is out of the house that everything feels fabulously normal. Enjoy it because you really don’t know how long it’s going to last. Besides, I hate to be the bearer of bad news – but you have work to do. It’s all well and good for the alcoholic to be in rehab, but no matter how “well” he gets, if he comes home to the same familiar scenario, he will go back to his old scenarios. So what can you do while he is gone to help the entire family?

Clean house. I know that sounds simple, but it is more complicated that just getting out the broom and mop. When you clean the house this time, you must be a detective. Look for bottles of booze and every imaginable as well as the not so likely places where a bottle can be hidden. With Riley I found bottles hidden the spare tires in the garage, inside the toilet tank, behind the drapery cornice, in the box of Christmas ornaments, in a hole under the sink that opened to the dishwasher space, in the storage shed with the gardening tools, and all the other usual places. I ended up with one entire garbage can of nothing but booze bottles – some empty and some not so much. There wasn’t much room for the regular garbage after my round-up.

I went through the house room by room, cleaning each and every inch of each and every room. It took me about a week to finish the entire house and about 3 days for the outside of the house. I had the cleanest house on the block. It felt so very, very good to know that I now had an alcohol-free environment.

Get support. If you have not tried Al-Anon, give it a go. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back. Don’t let support group options stop with Al-Anon. There’s the OARS Group through this blog and other on-line support groups. The idea is – find what works for you and then participate. TALK. Tell your story and how you feel. It will help you find strength.

Find a therapist. One-on-one counseling is immensely helpful for anyone who is living or has lived with an alcoholic. Through a professional counselor, you will learn what your boundaries are that you set for your life. You can learn who you really are and how to go forward in your life.

Family programs through the rehab center. If your alcoholic is in a rehab center that offers a family program, take advantage of it. Don’t worry what the format is, just go and take in everything they have to offer. If that rehab center doesn’t offer a family program (SHAME ON THEM), call around to other local rehab centers and see if they offer anything for family members who do not have a patient in their facility.

Find your passion. Take this time to try things that may interest you – oil painting; basket weaving; baking; writing; photography… anything that you have been curious about, but never had the time to try. Either do it on your own or find a buddy with the same interest. You may even consider taking a class at your local community college or recreation department. Once you find what you like, commit to it. Make a vow that you may not be able to do it as often as you like, but that you will continue as often as humanly possible.

Read blogs. Of course, read MY blog, but there are many others out there with a focus on the family of addicted persons. They all offer excellent information and encouragement. When you see how many blogs there actually are – you will truly know that you are not alone.

Make decisions. There is no guarantee that the alcoholic will be released from rehab and be a changed person. The likelihood that he will relapse is very high. What are you going to do when/if that happens? I know you believe you will keep a positive attitude, but the reality is you must prepare the negative while enjoying the positive. What will your limits be for alcohol in the home? If you should need to separate yourself from the alcoholic, how will you manage to do that? Will he leave or will you? Do you have money saved for that possibility? Prepare now and you won’t be scrambling around wondering what the hell happened when the future turns from bright to bleak.

Understand everything you can about alcoholism. Just because a person is sober doesn’t mean he will be easy to live with or be a loving partner. If the alcoholic stays in a program, the focus will not be on the family, but rather on maintaining the sobriety that has been attained. Where alcohol was the previous mistress, AA or whatever program he is in, will be his mistress now. It’s hard not to take as rejection or abandonment especially when you have done so much for him when he treated you poorly. It is up to you to decide what kind of relationship you want to have – what is acceptable and what is not. You can stay in your relationship, but you may have reconfigure it a bit to meet both parties requirements.

Life with an alcoholic is never easy. It is almost always disappointing when the discovery is made that life with a recovering alcoholic is also not easy. So take this time to clean your house and your mind. Fill those cleaned out spaces with knowledge of yourself, alcoholism and a clear definition of what your life should look whether alone or with the alcoholic. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Medical Desert

Everyday Riley and I get in the car and travel 100 miles round trip to get his radiation treatments. It takes an hour to get there and an hour to get home. Our appointments are at 7:30 p.m. every evening. We’ll be doing this for about six weeks. It’s a long trip for us and the evening appointments are problematic since I have difficulty seeing after dark. I avoid driving anywhere after sundown. But, it was the only time slot available and the only facility with the equipment needed for the radiation treatments.

It seems that all the medical facilities have become a part of the Vident health care system. Because of that we live in a medical desert. Confused? Well… so was I but I think I’ve figured it out. We had a hospital in our town of Belhaven which served a very large area in the county. But, it was bought by a big conglomerate – Vident – and they closed the hospital doors. Our nearest hospital is 30 miles way in Washington, NC. However, the hospital in Washington is not fully equipped for all situations. Certain medical tests and procedures must be done in the BIGGER hospital in Greenville, NC – 50 miles from our hometown of Belhaven.  OK – so that’s not outrageous for us – but the people who live farther out must travel 75 miles or more, just to get to the hospital in Washington! If you were having a heart attack you could be dead before reaching any kind of medical facility.
One of my readers has created a graphic, as part of a school assignment, which depicts the situation and explains the concept of the “medical desert.” I’ve decided to include it in a post because I REALLY like this graphic and it is an example of an increasing situation around our entire country and not just my little ole home town. Thank you Veronica Russell for making this graphic available for use on this blog. I hope you can read it, but if not, you can find it here: 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Addiction in Middle Age

I seldom allow rehab centers to have links from my blog to there site if they do not have a family program on their agenda. However, after exchanging many e-mails and lots of thought, I'm allowing Shadow Mountain Recovery to submit the below post which contains a link to their website. Although they do not have a family program yet, the rest of the program seems to fit my requirements for a rehab facility.

My theory is if they get enough requests for a family program, they will start one. An e-mail to their director may help that along a bit.

If you have been to this facility, please comment with a reveiw. Thanks.

Addiction in Middle Age
By Emma Wilson

Addiction isn’t just a problem for youth—at least, not anymore. The trend of drug-related overdoses and deaths is rising among adults even while it declines among adolescents. Today, middle-aged adults are more at risk than any other segment of the population. It’s time we recognize this problem and take action!

Who Is at Risk?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the baby boomer generation is especially affected by harder drug use. Why? Both cultural and economic reasons play a part: many of today’s middle-aged population were exposed to drugs at younger ages due to cultural shifts in the 1960s and 1970s (think Woodstock!).

As such, some adults have long-standing addictions that require substances of increasing potency to produce the same “high.”

In addition, the simple economic truth is that a greater number of drugs are more widely available today. And adults entering middle age often have more disposable income—more than their children or grandchildren—leaving them better able to afford an addiction. This includes everything from so-called “hard” street drugs to cigarettes at the local gas station.

Just as we care for young people, adults also need help to recognize symptoms of substance abuse to treat these harmful and potentially life-threatening addictions. The more aware we are of drug dependence and addiction, the more we can help.

Common Addictions

Alcohol. Although the highest percentage of heavy (or binge) alcohol use is among college-aged students, studies show that over 50% of those from 35–60 years of age still report current heavy and binge drinking within the past 30 days.

Why is this a problem? Even though alcohol is legal, heavy drinking leads to a host of undesirable personal and health related outcomes: increased levels of divorce, financial instability, and personal violence included. Of particular note, alcohol-related deaths are on the rise among this population segment—data from the U.S. government indicates that heavy drinking can shorten a life span by as much as 30 years.

Prescription pain medications. As stated here, prescription drug abuse is the leading type of drug abuse among middle aged Americans. Drugs commonly prescribed to relieve pain, such as morphine, Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, and a host of other opioids (opium-derived drugs), can become addicting. Speak openly with your doctor about the dangers of such medication. Be aware that the possibility for addiction is especially high if use continues for anxiety and stress relief beyond the prescribed medicinal use.

Avoid the temptation of drug abuse by throwing away medicines after their prescription has expired. If this is too difficult, have a trusted family member or friend do this for you. Abuse of prescription medication is dangerous especially because it can serve as a gateway drug to illegal substances and even petty theft.

Tobacco. We know that tobacco occurs in many forms and is used widely. Nicotine levels—the most addicting part—vary by product, but all are dangerous for health and are generally habit-forming. There are significant health risks, as tobacco use harms every organ in the body, leading to cancer, respiratory problems, and even decreased fertility in both men and women.

The good news: quitting is possible. Some studies suggest that there are more former smokers than current smokers living in the U.S. right now!

Hard Drugs. Those who develop dependence to “lesser” drugs (nicotine, alcohol, or prescription medication) often move on to even more harmful and addictive substances in order to get the same “high.” These include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, LSD, and a host of other street drugs—and they each have serious side effects.

The health risks of using drugs are obvious. But use of these drugs is also correlated with increased criminal activity and negatively affects many aspects of ordinary life, including jobs and relationships.

What Will Happen?

If society at large ignores the trend of addictions among adults, the proper steps towards prevention won’t be taken. Ultimately, crime rates and drug-related deaths will continue to increase in the older adult population, especially hitting the baby boomer generation hard. Lifespan expectations may decrease along with quality of life for the older generation.

But there is hope!

Full recovery is possible, even for those with long-standing drug habits. Studies have shown that older adults have higher long-term rates of recovery after treatment and are better able to remain drug and alcohol free. As Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the National Drug Control Policy, put it, “substance use disorders are diseases that can be prevented, [and] treated, and from which people can recover.”


There are many meaningful steps toward recovery from addiction, at any age.

• Choose someone to be accountable to. Unlike an adolescent, you aren’t likely to be living with or even near your parents, so find someone you trust and see regularly—spouse, child, co-worker, or other friend. Tell them about your history of addiction and work together towards transparency. If you relapse, report to them immediately.

• Seek professional help, including health professionals and rehabilitation programs at a treatment center when appropriate. Having this level of support can help you make hard choices and change the direction of your life, which is difficult to do alone.

• Understand the signals. Pay attention to proper dosing levels on all prescription drugs, and talk to your doctor if you feel uncomfortable with the side effects or begin to feel dependent on any medication.

• Make meaningful goals (both related to addiction and to other areas of your life—emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual) and progress towards them.

As real as drug dependence can be, so are the numerous success stories of those who have recovered from substance addiction. Even if substance abuse has been a part of your life for decades, you can do it too!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Before making judgments...

It’s so easy for people who have never experienced life with an alcoholic to make comments or judgments without all the facts. I founded a support group for caretakers of end-stage alcoholics and recently posed a question to all the members. The question is:

What is the ONE thing you would like other people to understand about living with an alcoholic?

The answers to that simple question are not at all as simple as the question. Some of the responders couldn’t answer with only ONE thing. Here are the results:
  1. good woman cannot sort him out. All the understanding, love and compassion in the world is not enough when one is in the grip of this horrible disease.
  2. When the question is “Didn’t you know he was an alcoholic when you married him?” The answer is NO!! I didn’t know he was an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a progressive disease.
  3. Alcoholics are incapable of giving back… they are takers.
  4. It IS possible to live with an alcoholic while detaching and protecting yourself. If there is no abuse, you CAN make it work. Please don’t judge me because I stay.
  5. You want me to WALK away?? Walking away from my 70 year old father is like putting a child on the freeway and walking away.
  6. When others see or interact with the alcoholic, the alcoholic is on his/her best behavior, at home they relax, drink and the crazy train gets rolling.
  7. Unless an outsider is living in it, they cannot really understand what it is like as alcoholic’s are good at putting on a show.
  8. They are master manipulators.
  9. The uncertainty of your future. You don’t know what will happen next, let alone a year, You cannot plan anything.
  10. Anyone involved with an alcoholic must light their own candle, feed their own soul, learn to meditate or the non-alcoholic will become sick as well.
  11. One great day has no guarantee on the next and vice versa. I love my alcoholic mother as I find her and I walk away when I have had enough.
  12. The hardest thing is the secrecy connected to alcoholism. Keeping the family secret of my father’s alcoholism was extremely stressful. When the secret is out, there is then the feeling of betrayal to those who wanted it to remain a secret. But, you don’t stop loving the alcoholic as a person.
  13. The alcoholic will say and do anything to get their fix. They are driven, but only toward booze and not toward anything that would take them away from the booze.
  14. In one person’s opinion, alcoholism is a form of mental illness. For many, a horrendous event may have happened to drive them to want to “not feel anything.”
  15. The almighty bottle is the most important thing in their life, even though they don’t really want to be in it. Many detrimental things can happen such as a loss of the marriage, jobs, children, friends; they may serve time in jail for DUI’s; suffer from injuries and illnesses; and they will still want to drink.
  16. It is mentally taxing on the caregiver.
  17. Even a happy drunk has an evil side that is abusive and destructive. Alcohol is a mistress who destroys everything in a slow, manipulative and steady manner. It’s a cancer. Early detection has higher percentages of recovery. But let the cancer grow and it will consume not only the alcoholic but everyone surrounding the alcoholic.
  18. One person said she wished someone had given her a clue that they had a hint of what she was dealing with in a supportive non-confrontational way. Knowing I wasn’t crazy or alone in dealing with the insanity would have been the best gift towards the healing journey.
  19. Leaving or staying is not a simple as it sounds. Before deciding for me what the outsider thinks I should do, they should know all the pros and cons of each direction.
I thought their answers were very open and honest. I also hope that anyone who wants to make a judgment about decisions made by caregivers of an alcoholic, think twice about the question that is about to be asked.

To join either of the two support groups, either the one on Facebook or the one on the independent site, please e-mail with your e-mail address to:

Please up "support group" in the subject line. Both these groups offer support and resources to family and friends of alcoholics without judgment or criticism. OARS F&F = Our Alcoholism Resource and Support (for) Families and Friends.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Just for the kids...

I get a lot of e-mail from parents who want to explain to their children about the other parent’s alcoholism or addiction. It’s a touchy subject and there is always the fear of creating more confusion in trying to explain an already confusing subject. I never sat down and talked to my kids about their father’s use of alcohol. There may have been some dialog – but they knew. There was no way they could NOT know. They overhead the arguments, they suffered their own disappointment in Riley’s lack of attention to their accomplishments, failures and just life in general. My kids didn’t need a book because they were part and parcel to it all.

It isn’t like that in all families. Sometimes the addiction is such a guarded secret from the kids that they just don’t know. Maybe they are too little to understand. Maybe they grew to just accept it as a part of normal life because they didn’t know it WASN’T normal.

Carolyn Hannan Bell is the author of an easily understood book “Daddy’s Disease” and “Mommy’s Disease” which offers an explanation to children with an alcoholic parent. She is a practicing licensed professional counselor specializing in substance abuse, codependency, depression and anxiety.
“Daddy’s Disease” features Tommy, a young boy who doesn’t understand why his father doesn’t want to be with him. Tommy and his dog Murphy are easily relatable characters that are fortunate enough to have a Mommy who explains that Daddy’s disease is called alcoholism. She helps Tommy understand that he is not to blame for his father’s behavior and that his father’s lack of attention is not because he is unloved or unworthy.

Mommy’s Disease follows the same concept with a young girl named Mila.

Both books are available on You can also order one or both of these books by going to Carolyn Hannan Bell’s website:

Be sure to leave a review in the blog comments and on if you should decide to buy these books for your children.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Paper version!

The Immortal Alcoholic's Wife is now out in a paperback version! It's a real old-fashioned, hold in your hands and pass on to your friends kinda book. You can find it on at the link below:

The e-book version is still available on Smashwords:

Riding the cancer highway...

I haven’t written much here about Riley’s cancer. I’ve been trying to wait until I had all the facts; all the tests were complete; and a treatment plan was in place. It seems to be a slow process for what I consider to be a disease that warrants urgency. I have only limited experience with cancer, so what the heck do I know?

Well I DO know that Riley’s suspicious growth was found on June 26th. I know that he underwent a series of tests. I know that it was a CT scan and a biopsy that finally gave him an “official” diagnosis of colo/rectal cancer on September 24th. I know his cancer includes aggressively growing tumors. Less than three weeks after the removal of his left groin lymph node, he had a new tumor show up and fill the space left by the missing lymph node. Even the oncologist was surprised at the speed that little pecker displayed.

I know that Riley has been poked, prodded, viewed, examined and invaded in ways that no one should have to endure. Through it all, he has persevered. He has not excessively complained about the medical invasions, but rather taken each step as just one more hoop to jump through. He has shown a determination that I wonder if I would have had if the roles were reversed. Of course, there are times when he has shown his dismay and confusion about the steps of the procedures but those moments are overshadowed by his agreeability. I know that I am thankful that he is not fighting the process.

I know I sometimes feel as though I am trying to walk through quicksand. It’s been what seems like an eternity since we first were told that Riley has colo/rectal cancer back in June. There hasn’t been much rest over the past four months. With all the testing, testing and then some more testing, in addition to the surgeries to get the biopsy and the placement of the port for administering the chemo treatments, it’s no wonder we are both exhausted. And now… we start another step in the journey through cancer-land.

It’s a one-hundred mile round trip drive for each visit to Greenville’s cancer center.  Starting on Monday, November 3rd, we will be making that trip every single day for the next six weeks. It could be longer – or NOT – depending on how things go. The schedule for Monday is to drive to the cancer center in Washington, NC, at 9:00 a.m. where Riley will have some lab tests to determine if he can actually have chemo that day. If all goes according to plan, he will receive the little infusion box that will pump the chemo medicine into his body at a designated rate. Then we will continue on our journey another 30 miles to the cancer center in Greenville, NC. Riley will receive a radiation treatment simulation test and if that works out, he’ll get his first official dose of radiation.

It strikes me that it's a bit ironic that Riley served onboard fast-attack submarines powered with radioactive material for more than 25 years. He wore a little badge that determined how much exposure he had and if he was getting to a danger level. The Navy was very careful to protect the sailors for the hazards of radiation. Now it is purposefully being shot into his body.

Anyway, after his treatments in Greenville, we will drive the 60 miles back home where we will rest as much as possible before returning to Greenville the very next day. We are fortunate, however, because originally the only time slot available was at 7:30 pm. Now we have been reassigned to 1 pm. Since driving at night is difficult since my eyesight gets dim after dark, I’m happy I won’t have to use the “braille driving method” to get him home.

It amazes me that so many people are able to fight cancer and succeed. I don’t know how they do it – not just emotionally, but financially and time-wise. Riley and I are well insured. We have Medicare plus TriCare for Life and between the two coverages; we will not be forever burdened with medical bills. For that I am so very grateful. It isn’t the medical bills that have me adjusting and re-adjusting the budget. It’s all the other stuff that isn’t covered by anything. The cause for concern is the price of gasoline, supplies, and the possibility of the need for a personal aide, as well as finding space on the calendar to meet the combined needs of both of us.

Getting a job sounded like a good idea to me for about ten minutes. Then it was lovingly pointed out to me that in this state, I cannot be a real estate title examiner because I’m not an attorney. Also I’m “over the hill” and the job pool may not extend much past being a Wal-Mart greeter. Oh! Not a pleasant thought. Then there is the time issue. Where on the calendar could I fit in 20 or so hours a week for working away from home? 

A few close friends have made donations of gas cards which help tremendously. Thank you to those of you who surprised me when I opened my mail box and found the cards. There was one very special contribution from a friend of many, many years. She sent some money to my PayPal account and then instructed me that the money was to be used ONLY for something that was NOT cancer or alcoholism related. She suggested I go to the crafts store or take myself to lunch. It just so happened I was on my way to Greenville that day to pick up a disc containing the results of Riley’s last CT scan. I would be going alone and have some time to myself if I wanted.

I walked into JoAnn Fabrics with my coupons in hand. I wanted to get some things to make a couple of Christmas wreaths for my girls. As I was walking in I noticed a bin of bags of yarn. Hmmm… I have been told that I would be spending a lot of time in waiting rooms during chemo and radiation. A bag of yarn might make that waiting a bit more productive. I was thinking… scarves for Christmas presents or afgans. That would take a big bite out of my present list. I picked up a two bags, went in and cautiously completed my shopping while keeping the budget in mind. What happened when I was checking out was the real surprise.

Jonathan, the store manager, was working the register. When he saw that I was buying two bags of yarn he said “If you buy two more bags, I’ll take $2 off per bag.” I thought about it and told him to set aside all the other cart items and we would see what the cost would be. I picked out a few more bags, with the image of scarves in my head, and went to the check-out stand. Jonathan was waiting patiently. We struck up a conversation about why he was trying so hard to get merchandise off the floor. He stopped scanning and said that he would give me a card for 30% off future purchases for three months if I spent at least $50 today.  

Then he asked what I was going to do with all the yarn. I told him that I was going to be spending a lot of time in the chemo/radiation waiting rooms and this would keep me busy without too much fuss. His mother had just received a “cancer-free” diagnosis and our conversation continued. I lost track of what Jonathan was doing, but came to my senses as he said – that will be $50.

WHAT!! He had put everything in bags that I had originally had in my cart – there had to have been at least $80 worth of goodies in those bags. I protested that there must be some mistake. OH NO!! He said – the bill was $50. I handed him my card and he gave me a discount card for 30% off. As I was gathering up the bags, Jonathan mentioned that I might think about the fact that some people get cold during treatments and could probably use one of my scarves.

I thought to myself – what a wonderful way to give back. There is enough yarn to make about 30 scarves. Now, I’m not really much of a crocheter or knitter, nothing I make is ever perfect, but I’m sure I can give some away to the other patients. I sure they won’t care if there are a few flaws.  So all that time waiting will not be non-productive after all.

My friend’s gift of something just for me brightened my day and my outlook. I don’t think I broke her rule of not doing anything cancer related… the cancer was an afterthought. How I wish all of Riley’s cancer issues could just be a simple, little, tiny, afterthought. Oh well…

Friday, October 17, 2014

Scrub, a dub, dub...

On the page “Leave or Stay” ( I write about the difficulties of caretaking an end-stage alcoholic. Many times potential caregivers don’t see the whole range of chores that come with the job. One of those chores is the cleaning up of bodily fluid messes. Alcoholics have a tendency to vomit blood as well as lose control of their bowels and bladder at any time and any place. Cleaning up can be dangerous for the caregiver if not done properly. Below are some suggestions and hints about cleaning up after the alcoholic in your home.

  1. Use latex gloves and protective masks when handling any of the articles of clothing or bedding whether or not they contain excrement.
  2. Put waterproof pads between the sheets and mattress.
  3. The alcoholic’s laundry must be done separate from the family laundry.
  4. Keep a very small trash can by his bed. Use a plastic can liner – doubled. He can use this if he needs to vomit and can’t get to the bathroom. Clean using the bleach mixture.
  5. Don’t allow him to handle any food. Prepare his meals. If he eats during the night, prepare food and snacks that he can eat while you’re sleeping. There’s no point in designating breakfast from dinner. He can’t make that leap – so just fix what you know he will like.

When Riley was drinking a handle of vodka a day, I was left with a lot of clean up. I used the bleach/water mixture, but I still had to do a lot of scrubbing. Below are some of the methods and products that worked best for me.

General cleaning: 1 part bleach, 2 parts hot water, 1 cup of Borax Laundry Soap, 1 cup Washing Baking Soda and a bit of Dawn dishwashing liquid. I used this for hard surfaces except hardwood floors. I used a scrub brush, paper towels and old face cloths.

Laundry:  Amway sells the best laundry products I have ever used.  The SA8 is awesome by itself, but for Riley’s clothes and bedding, I used the SA8, Tri-Zyme additive and bleach. The Tri-Zyme is great for getting out blood and feces. I separated colors from whites and then pre-washed the whites in very hot water, high water level, hot wash & hot rinse.  Then I sent them thru a regular wash cycle with fresh ingredients. I dried them in a very hot dryer.

For colored laundry, I used the same cleaning combo of SA8, Tri-Zyme, but omitted the bleach and added Borax and Baking Soda. I did a pre-wash and then a regular wash using warm water, warm rinse. If they clothes were still smelly, I put them thru a second wash – same as the first. They were then dried in a hot dryer.

Carpet: This was by far the most difficult to clean. Fortunately I had a Bissell Pro-Heat Pet Carpet Cleaner. I pre-treated the area with Oxi-Clean and got on my hands and knees with a scrub brush. I used a mask and double latex gloves to prevent inhalation and touching the gunk. If I wasn’t happy with the results, I added a bit of hydrogen-peroxide (be careful, it can lighten the carpet color), scrubbed it around and hoped it looked better. Then I used the regular carpet cleaner with the intended for pets and used the cleaning machine. After that I did a rinse with Borax and Baking Soda. I put it into the tank where I would normally put the cleaning liquid. It worked pretty well, but the stain does keep reappearing after a couple of weeks. The best thing I did for the carpets was to have a professional carpet cleaner come in every three or four months and do just the areas where Riley spent most of his time.

Bathroom: This room was the smelliest, sickening room of all. There were feces on the floor, toilet, walls, light switch, door handle, sink, faucets, etc. We had a tile floor so I made my bleach/water combo and literally poured it on the tile. Then I let it stand for about 30 minutes. I had a deck brush and used that to scrub up and loosen the stuff. Then I used the broom and swept it up into the dust pan, dumped it into the toilet and flushed. Then I used another lighter pour of the liquid onto the floor and mopped it up. After that, I used my steam mop to go over the floor which further sanitized it. Now I could actually walk into the bathroom to clean the rest.

For the outside of the toilet, I used a hand-held steam gun and then wiped it down with bleach. For the sink and countertops, I sprayed bleach directly onto the areas and wiped them down. Then I used the steam gun just to sanitize it even more. I used Comet inside the sink, rinse, and wipe with bleach.
I made a new batch of the bleach/water and added Borax and Baking Soda for wiping down the walls, door handles, anywhere else that need a cleaning. In the bathroom, bleach was my friend.

A lot has changed for me since those days. Riley is not drinking and is not making nearly the mess that he did when he was inebriated. However, his current physical condition means he makes a mess when he changes his underwear. It isn’t nearly as bad as having poop smeared on the walls. Do not doubt – he is messy – he’s just not so unsanitary.

There are lots of products on the market that I have not tried, but have discovered their uses since my heavy cleaning days. I’ve made a table of some of the things I used and my discoveries so you can see what may work in what capacity. From this you may end up making your own concoctions that work best for you.

Tile / Hard floors
Wood floors
Bath fixtures
Upholstery / Mattresses



Baking Soda




Murphy’s Oil Soap


White Vinegar


Pledge Liquid Wax


Mineral Spirits


Club Soda


Meat Tenderizer

Hydrogen Peroxide


To purchase any of the Amway products, use the below link:

Now that you have a list of possible products, here are some links to tell you exactly how to use them to get that fresh, clean home that hard to achieve with an alcoholic in the house.

That’s it for my housekeeping tips. Be sure to post in the comments what has worked for you and what has not. Give us your tips, we could all  use them.